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Earlier this month, Kazakhstan welcomed Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – as well as other international and regional organisations – to the Organization's first ever Summit on Science and Technology.
The Summit, originally proposed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the 2016 top-level meeting, was the first ever gathering where governments and heads of Islamic states could focus exclusively on science and technology. Its objective was to identify priorities, goals, and targets for advancing and promoting education, science, technology, and innovation across the Muslim world.
In his opening remarks, President Nazarbayev noted Islam's deep historical roots in Kazakhstan. “Islam came to our land more than 1,000 years ago. We served as a link in the friendly dialogue between Islamic and Western civilizations," he said. He highlighted two major challenges facing the Islamic world today – extremism and Islamophobia – and emphasized the need for member states to focus on possible solutions to these, particularly through education, science, and technology.
Throughout the centuries, the Islamic community has been a prominent driving force of science and technology, and has actively expanded global knowledge. It is believed that the great cultural legacy of ancient Greece and Rome was in many senses preserved by Muslim scholars and historically returned to the West, which laid the foundation for the Renaissance, or the “revival" of the antiquity.
It is quite appropriate that a call on the Muslim world to regain its prominence in science and technology was heard in Central Asia. One of the region's greatest Muslim thinkers, Abu Nasr Al Farabi, was referred to as 'The Second Teacher'. His philosophic studies were deeply revered in both the East and the West. Another famed Central Asian Islamic scholar was Abu Ali Ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna. His writings, 'The Canon of Medical Science', were translated into Latin in the 12th century and were used by European medical faculties for more than four hundred years.
With its rich historical context and optimistic vision for the future, the OIC Summit in Astana was attended by a number of high-level participants, including: President Recep Erdogan of Turkey; President Hassan Rouhani of Iran; President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan; President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan; President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan; as well as many other heads of states and governments and senior representatives from international and regional organizations.
One major outcome of the Summit was the signing of the Astana Declaration. This important document signals members-states' commitment to alleviating poverty, strengthening education, delivering on the OIC 2026 Plan of Action, and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Astana Declaration also emphasizes the need to develop expertise in science, technology, and innovation, and serves as a framework for strengthening cooperation among Islamic states in the fields of science, technology, and education.
The OIC 2026 Plan of Action is a set of policy commitments and recommendations designed to achieve key Islamic world development goals by the year 2026. The Plan focuses on filling the education, research and skills gap; increasing the share of member states in global scientific output (publications and patents) by 100% in the next ten years; doubling the number of research and development workers per million population in OIC member states; increasing the share of high technology goods and services in the economies and trade of Member States up to 10% by 2025. It also aims to have at least 50 regional universities included in the top 500 global universities list and sets a minimum target of 20% enrolment in technical/vocational education among the 15-19-year age group, as well as promotes networking and partnerships within OIC and with leading world universities for research projects, sharing of knowledge, experience and best practices.
The Summit was a significant development for the OIC as an increasingly important global organisation. It pushed science, innovation, and education up the OIC's agenda, which is key to modernising economies and meeting the needs of its 1.5 billion citizens. Increased cooperation in science and technology will not only benefit Muslim majority nations, but also the wider global community.
OIC Secretary-General, Dr Yousif Bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, praised the Summit as an “historic event". He thanked President Nazarbayev for the initiative to call the first OIC Science and Technology Summit and for its excellent organization.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was established in 1969 and its General Secretariat is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The OIC is at the forefront of championing Islamic interests around the world and offers a unique platform for Islamic states to engage in constructive dialogue. With 57 Member States representing a total population of 1.5 billion, the OIC is the second largest international organisation, behind the United Nations.
Kazakhstan has been a member of the OIC since 1995 and considers interaction with the Organisation as one of the important pillars of its foreign policy. While chairing the OIC in 2011, Kazakhstan initiated a major reform by calling for the change in the body's title from the 'Organisation of Islamic Conference' to the 'Organisation of Islamic Cooperation', as well as by introducing the concept of the Islamic Organisation for Food Security headquartered in Astana.