OIC FMs' Conference in Dhaka: Focus on Rohingya
12:00 AM, May 04, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:33 AM, May 04, 2018

OIC Foreign Ministers' Conference

Dhaka expects move on refugee crisis

Dhaka expects the upcoming 45th Session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers to mount pressure on Myanmar for a quick and sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis.

“Rohingya crisis will get greater focus at the two-day conference beginning on Saturday [tomorrow] and there will be a special session on the issue,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said, adding that a delegation of ministers and representatives of the OIC countries would visit refugee camps in Cox's Bazar today.

Officials said a delegation of foreign ministers, foreign secretaries and other high officials from 38 countries is expected to visit the refugee camps where over 700,000 Myanmar's Muslim Rohingyas are sheltered after a military crackdown in Rakhine State. Foreign Minister Ali and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam would accompany the delegation.

They will go to Cox's Bazar in the morning and return in the afternoon to attend a dinner hosted by Ali at the Sonargaon Hotel.

Ali addressing a pre-council press briefing yesterday said there would be a brainstorming session on humanitarian challenges with a special focus on the Rohingyas. "We'll discuss the possible ways to resolve the Rohingya crisis and intensify the efforts of the intentional community and the OIC member countries."

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka said they believe the back-to-back visits of the UN Security Council delegation and OIC foreign ministers would have a positive impact towards a sustainable solution to the crisis.

The OIC is considered the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations, with the membership of 57 states, covering four continents, with a collective population of over 1.6 billion.

Ali said Dhaka was set to host the council, in which foreign ministers and high officials of 57 countries would discuss issues like connectivity, use of media in achieving sustainable development, poverty alleviation, trade, commerce and investment.

Bangladesh would get an opportunity to present its initiatives, experience and achievements before the international community, he said.

"We hope all the decisions to be made at the conference and the Dhaka declaration will be considered as the outcome document ... the successful holding of the conference will add a new dimension regarding the cooperation between the OIC and Bangladesh," the minister added.

The theme of this year's Council of Foreign Ministers is “Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development.”

Ali said over 550 representatives of the OIC and different international organisations, including around 40 ministers and state ministers, are expected to join the event. 

In addition, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland arrived yesterday to visit the Rohingya camps and attend the council as a special guest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Special Envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae, and Canada's Special Envoy to the OIC Masud Husain would be accompanying her.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to formally inaugurate the two-day meet at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) tomorrow.

Bangladesh is to receive the chairmanship of the council from Cote d'Ivoire. Bangladesh would remain chairman for one year.

The issue of Palestine, challenges facing the Muslim Ummah like conflicts, divisions, tension and instability will receive focus at the Dhaka meeting, Ali said, adding that terrorism, extremism, sectarian violence, hatred, prejudice, and Islamophobia, would also be discussed.

According to OIC's 11th Islamophobia Observatory Report, which covers from July 2017 to April 2018, the number of reported incidents related to Islamophobia was much lower compared to those at the last trimester of 2016, or the first trimester of 2017.

The full report, to be presented during the meeting on May 5-6, highlights "the failure of racist policy in the United States and the break-apart of Trump's far-right inner circle" as among the four factors that influenced the decline of Islamophobia in the US and Europe, according to a report of Malaysian Digest.

This is the second time Bangladesh is hosting the council. Its last was in 1983.

Ali said the council was being held for the first time in Bangladesh under a democratic government. He said the previous one was held during an illegal government's reign.

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