Monday, May 14, 2012

OIC/Refugees: International Conference on Refugees in Muslim World Opens in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

JEDDAH, 21 Jumada Al-Thani/12 May (Agencies/IINA)-The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said at the opening of the First International Ministerial Conference on Refugees in the Muslim World on Friday that it is a landmark event in the search for solutions to problems of true humanitarian nature.

To this end, he reiterated OIC commitment to a strategic partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and its continued and effective cooperation.

The two-day Conference is organized by the OIC in coordination with the UNHCR in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan under the auspices of the President of Turkmenistan, H.E. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and the participation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.

With over 17 million refugees and displaced persons within the countries members of the OIC, including some protracted refugee situations, the OIC Secretary General said that efforts should tirelessly continue to address these refugee and displacement situations, with provision of assistance and protection, as the case may be, in a purely humanitarian effort. “We should also engage, with the will of all concerned governments, in durable and lasting solutions to these refugee situations, in order to end the suffering of these human beings and enhance social harmony, peace, stability and development.”

Meanwhile, Ihsanoglu referred to providing asylum, protecting refugees and assisting them in compassion and conviction are fundamental pillars in our Islamic faith. Therefore, assisting and protecting refugees, irrespective of their faith, color or ethnic origin is not only a legal obligation, but also a moral and a religious duty as stipulated in these teachings and embodied in deeds throughout history within the Muslim World. The idea of protecting “Almustamin” or asylum seeker was never compromised in these teachings and practices.
“There is total compatibility between refugee principles in Islam and those of our modern day international refugee law. This doctrinal base has been a strong driving force in our efforts to play an effective role in the humanitarian arena, not only within the domain of our member states, but also, whenever possible, beyond that and in the world at large,” said Ihsanoglu.

The Secretary General stressed that refugees is an international problem that goes beyond state or even continental borders and its solutions require solidarity of the international community while cooperating with all sovereign governments concerned. In this light, he said that the objective of this Ministerial Conference, as a historic opportunity to shed ample light on the refugee problem in the Muslim World, mobilize efforts to address this humanitarian problem and find ways and means of enhancing these efforts.

Ihsanoglu pointed out that the refugee situations continue to be products of intolerance, xenophobia, injustice, denial of basic rights, conflict over resources domestically or across state borders and instances of foreign intervention. Accordingly, he stressed that root causes need to be addressed consciously, objectively and systematically. “Standards should therefore be set without subjective variations, while addressing these problems, and I can assure you that the OIC member states have been exerting strenuous efforts to assist in refugee and displacement situations without any shadow of subjective factors. And we will continue these efforts within the OIC and we will maintain coordination and collaboration, whenever possible, with UNHCR and all other humanitarian organizations dedicated to this humanitarian cause.”

Speaking of refugees in the Muslim world it was necessary to underscore the plight and injustice to which the Palestinian refugees continue to be subjected. “Their situation, being the most protracted situation of refugees in the world since the late 1940s, remained unresolved and their rights continue to be usurped unless a political settlement is concluded within the UN resolutions and the Arab League Initiative, guaranteeing their legitimate rights,” said Ihsanoglu. Thus, theirs is not just a refugee humanitarian issue, but it is a political cause that should be dealt with accordingly.

The Secretary General concluded by reiterating that the OIC Charter and our guiding principles enable us to remain an effective force of wisdom, peace and fruitful dialogue, in a world faced by constant economic, political and social challenges. “No one would dispute the fact that refugees are amongst the most vulnerable populations and they deserve our serious attention. It is not only an attention of the moment, but it is an attention of our political resolve, an attention of provision of lasting solutions, in a spirit of international burden sharing. In sum, let us turn the refugee challenges into opportunities for action,” he urged.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that in 2011, OIC states hosted 50% of the persons who are of concern to UNHCR.

The main themes of the conference are – the role of UNHCR in enhancing refugee protection in OIC Member States; multilateral cooperation including burden and responsibility sharing to protect and assist refugees; and voluntary repatriation as the most preferred durable solution for any refugee situation.

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