The U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) advances U.S. foreign policy interests through engagement with the OIC, OIC Member States, and civil society, including religious leaders. In addition to regional and multilateral political priorities, key areas of engagement include countering violent extremism and promoting human rights, humanitarian affairs, women’s issues, global health, and conflict resolution.
The position of the U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC was created in 2008 under President George W. Bush. Several other non-OIC member or observer countries have also appointed Special Envoys to the OIC, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Italy.
Areas of Engagement
The United States engages with the OIC on key regional and multilateral priority areas and seeks to build partnerships in areas of mutual interest, including in the areas detailed below.
The United States coordinates with the OIC on conflict resolution activities in various regions, seeking to identify peaceful solutions to disputes. In the Central African Republic, for example, collaboration with the OIC helped facilitate a civil society-led intra-faith mediation effort that is supportive of national reconciliation efforts.
Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)
The United States works with the OIC to build international support for action on CVE, including multilateral support for initiatives such as the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, the UN Leaders’ Summit on CVE in 2015, and collaboration with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).
The U.S. worked to forge a partnership between the GCTF and the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), an OIC-affiliated organization, to examine the role of religious education in promoting peace and countering violence. High level meetings on the nexus of education and CVE produced a number of concrete recommendations and a new collaborative platform for education initiatives.
The U.S. is collaborating with the OIC and ISESCO on a project to build the capacity of grassroots religious and community leaders to develop and implement locally-relevant CVE initiatives. The U.S. also engages with the OIC on CVE messaging initiatives, including the OIC’s newly launched Center for Dialogue, Peace, and Understanding.
The United States engages with the OIC on human rights issues both within OIC Member States and beyond, including on religious freedom, freedom of expression, protection of rights of religious minority groups, and human rights-related issues at the UN. This engagement includes advocacy against blasphemy laws and similarly restrictive laws, and raising awareness of positive efforts to protect the rights of members of religious minority groups, such as the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities which was authored by Islamic scholars and endorsed by the OIC.
The U.S. government’s relationship with the OIC helped bring an end to the “Defamation of Religions” resolution in the UN, which called for restrictions on speech critical of religions. That engagement contributed to a consensus resolution on combating religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence – also known as Resolution 16/18 – that has become a model action plan for promoting tolerance and ending discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
The OIC and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 that facilitates cooperation on humanitarian aid delivery and capacity building initiatives for the OIC. This partnership enables information sharing and collaboration in addressing key humanitarian challenges. USAID and the OIC have held several joint capacity-building training sessions for the OIC and its affiliated network of NGOs.
Global Women’s Issues
The United States works with the OIC to promote women’s rights and combat gender-based violence, including the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). The United States and the OIC co-convened a panel on the margins of the UN’s annual Commission on the Status of Women focusing on the role of women storytelling in promoting social change. We also co-convened an event for UN Zero Tolerance Day to FGM/C, which highlighted the role of religious leaders in combating FGM/C.
The U.S. coordinates with the OIC on global health challenges, for example through participation in OIC donor initiatives in response to the Ebola crisis. The OIC is a partner on global polio eradication efforts, helping to improve the reach and effectiveness of vaccination efforts in OIC states, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Similarly, U.S.-OIC collaboration on maternal and child health programs has enhanced their effectiveness and led to the inclusion of additional key stakeholders, such as religious leaders.