IWEP Director on the results of the OIC Summit in Astana

Reclaiming the given ground

The Islamic community needs peace, modernization, scientific and technological development and education. This idea can be called the leitmotif of the 1st OIC Summit on Science and Technology, held in the Kazakhstan capital.

It all started in the East

The results and outcomes of this large-scale event, which is undoubtedly urgent for the Muslim ummah, will be discussed for a long time. It is symbolic that it became the final chord of EXPO-2017 "Future Energy." This phrase brings forth the message of the lack of alternative other than that of technical progress in the coming years and has become a kind of a basis for the mental reset in today's development of the Muslim world. The adoption of the primary political document of the summit – the Astana Declaration – proved the correctness of the thesis that the paradigm of interaction between OIC countries needs change. By signing it, the leaders of the Islamic world have demonstrated their consolidated position in the desire to make science and technology a cherished goal in this century.

The Islamic world is going through difficult times nowadays. And it is no coincidence that the summit participants at the plenary session and in the working groups focused not on exchange of high technologies, but on the need to develop the sphere of education and make it more accessible. It's no secret that there is no balanced position regarding this issue among the countries of the OIC. The reason for this is the military conflicts that tear apart many states of the Islamic Ummah, and as a result – the low standard of living as the people are doomed to survive rather than think about the contribution to world technical progress. Meanwhile,  in the Middle Ages, it was Islam that gave the world the greatest discoveries in mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, architecture, philosophy and poetry.

Such cities as Baghdad, Cordoba, Toledo, Alexandria were the intellectual centers of the world. They were the focus of the largest communities of scholars, writers, and book publishers. The Muslims created a powerful intellectual civilization, causing admiration of neighboring countries. It is the birthplace of the philosopher and doctor Avicenna, the mathematician Khorezmi, who wrote the first book on algebra, the scientist Bettany, who in fact laid the foundations of trigonometry. Historically, it was the East that played the leading role in the propaganda of achievements in science, economics, and social policy. Why have Islamic countries, with such abundant natural, human, financial resources, lost these positions, and in the last 20 years there have been no world-wide discoveries in the field of natural and technical sciences to originate within their territories? These questions are rhetorical. However, the solutions to today's urgent problems lie in a very practical plane.

– Relying on such a powerful historical foundation, we are obliged to jointly revive the intellectual role of Islamic civilization. It is necessary to understand why the intellectual greatness and creative dynamism of the Muslim world were lost, – said President Nursultan Nazarbayev back in 2011 addressing the 38th Meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers.

This thesis has become a fundamental one for the countries of the Muslim world who, having arrived in Astana to participate in the First Summit on Science and Technology, thereby declared their readiness to re-engage in a global competitive race in the field of innovation development.

A new agenda

The OIC, founded on September 25, 1969, is the largest and most influential official Muslim international governmental organization. Currently, it unites 57 countries with a population of about 1.5 billion people. Kazakhstan became a full member of this community in 1995. And on June 28-30, 2011, the historic 38th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was held in Astana. From that day, our country began to chair this international organization.

In order to understand the importance of Kazakhstan's initiatives in the history of the OIC and its priorities, it is worth mentioning that among them are the proposals to develop an integrated strategy for the economic development of the member states of the organization, create a dialogue platform for the group of the top ten Muslim economies. Six years ago, President Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke about the need to form an intellectual environment and socio-political climate that would keep pace with advanced technical thinking. It was proposed to develop and adopt within the OIC a joint Action Plan for investment and technological cooperation in the energy sector, create an International Innovation Center, and organize a special Fund for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

– The total economic potential of the Ummah is inexhaustible, and we need to join efforts to develop effective mechanisms for cooperation, mutual assistance, and development. It is in the implementation of efficient trade, investment, technological, social and educational programs that Islamic solidarity should be manifested as the central principle of our organization, – said Head of State in the address to the leaders of the Muslim world. – Our goal should be to educate the intellectual elite capable of generating new ideas that will serve as a renaissance of Islamic civilization.

In 2016, in Istanbul, Nursultan Nazarbayev put forward the idea of ​​convening the OIC Summit on Science and Technology. The president expressed his confidence that the Islamic world needed to switch from the raw material vector of development to an industrial-innovative one. Time has proven the correctness of this thesis. According to Yerzhan Saltybaev, Director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, it was the initiative of Kazakhstan that set in motion the formation of the new general agenda aimed at scientific and innovative development within the framework of OIC.

– In fact, during the Astana summit, Kazakhstan acted as a moderator on the reset of the entire global Muslim community. All the proposals set forward by Head of State fit exactly into this paradigm, the expert says. – Today, there is a clear understanding that if the processes of modernization and scientific and technological development are not boosted, then 1.5 billion people that unite OIC may miss out on the global transformations. And the level of the technological gap may become insurmountable.

Statistics confirm this. On average, Muslim countries spend about 0.5% of their GDP on research and development. Compared to the world average of 1.78% of GDP and the average of OECD countries which is over 2%, it becomes clear that education and science funding remains extremely inadequate.

In this regard, as Yerzhan Saltybaev points out, the establishment of the club 15 advanced OIC states that could work in the format of the G20 would be an effective solution. This understanding is also the result of the first Astana summit.

– The creation of the OIS-15 is fully justified. It is assumed that an elite club of the leading economies of the Islamic world would account for 86% of the total GDP of this organization. Kazakhstan currently occupies the 14th place regarding GDP among the OIC member countries, and is also the largest economy of such a critical region as Central Asia, – comments Yerzhan Saltybaev. – Probably, in the future, similarly to G-20, OIS-15 format would be able to determine the most pressing issues on the agenda of the Islamic world and work out consensus solutions.

Another important topic is the unification of transport corridors between Muslim states. The Islamic Food Security Organization, which now unites 34 states, became the embodiment of the President’s idea. This global structure will monitor, analyze and make proposals for ensuring food security in the territory of 56 OIC member states. Kazakhstan is ready to share its experience, coordinate projects in agricultural development.

Implementation of these and other initiatives of our country will give a new impetus to Islamic integration and restore to it the once lost positions of technological leadership. All these endeavors may be accomplished only in the conditions of world stability, according to Kazakhstan.