Among the most important decisions of the 44th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held in July 2017 in Abidjan, Cotê d’Ivoire, was the establishment of every 3rd September as the OIC Youth Day. This date, in fact, symbolizes the opening in Istanbul of the Headquarters of ICYF-DC – as the first OIC youth institution – by His Excellency Mr. Recep Tayyib Erdoğan, then Prime-Minister of the Republic of Turkey and His Excellency Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the ceremony attended by a number of the OIC Member States’ delegations. I would like therefore to start by expressing my tribute to the unequivocal support extended by these two visionary leaders towards full-fledged institutionalization of ICYF-DC in its decade and a half – long road of service to the youth of Ummah.
The celebration of this important day reminds us of the critical challenges faced by youth in OIC geography, which were ably described in the “State of Youth in the OIC Member States” Report released by ICYF-DC a year ago. While the youth population is one of the most important strengths of OIC Member States, we also have to boldly acknowledge regretful current state of Muslim youth in the majority of our countries, challenged by unemployment, disconnect from traditional values, growth of violent extremism and radicalization, disenfranchisement and underdevelopment.
Therefore I call on OIC leaders and governments to turn this table of status-quo challenges into challange of the status quo. I invite the Member States to utilize advise and analyses in ICYF-DC numerous policy documents (most importantly historic OIC Youth Strategy adopted by the recent ICYSM, last April in Baku) by prioritizing and exercising holistic approach to youth, applying urgent as well as long-run youth policies and to improve the status of youth in their respective societies. By doing so let us not forget, NOTHING CAN BE ACHIEVED FOR YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH AND OTHER THAN BY YOUTH THEMSELVES.
As the first OIC institution dedicated to Development and Solidarity of OIC youth ICYF-DC has set up model of best practices for such comprehensive policies. Be it Youth Strategy adopted upon strong ICYF-DC advocacy or OIC Youth capital program to boost solidarity and celebrate youth creativity, Model OIC Academy or Start-Up Platform – they all target development of youth while generating a “counter-narrative” to convince the youth of better alternatives to what a radicalization and extremism offers. These programs also set policy model of not just recognizing youth issues at the forefront of our national priorities; bringing youth not just on consultancy, but on co-decision making level of cooperation with the Governments.
While ICYF-DC stands dedicated to continue serving the youth of Ummah, I call upon dear youth to embrace the roots of the rich legacy of Islamic civilization, educating and training themselves as successful citizens – optimistic and constructive to retain responsibility toward the progress of their home countries, the Ummah and humanity at large.
In congratulating all young citizens of the OIC Geography, I call upon youth to be more participative and to own the processes that ultimately will influence their future, to channel all empowerment opportunities to ensure that they are the part of a #BetterToday because the future is already happening.
Once again – Happy OIC Youth Day!
Wa Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh
Ambassador Elshad Iskandarov