OIC Red Network Activities in 2021

Mehmet Çakmak
OIC Red Network

The past two decades have been challenging due to natural and human-related crises affecting vulnerable populations and the international community in a broad sense. The Organization of Islamic Coordination (OIC) region was the region that was most affected by large-scale humanitarian crises and disasters, especially throughout the years following World War II, and unfortunately, this situation continues to be the case. 

Given the great pressure to respond to large-scale disasters and emergencies, many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Organization of Islamic Coordination (OIC) region had to push their limits to assist in the long-running and devastating crises in Yemen, Bangladesh, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. National societies in the OIC region are local organizations that respond first to all kinds of disasters and emergencies, providing a wide range of services, from alleviating human suffering to protecting the dignity and well-being of vulnerable people and communities in need.

However, considering the extent, complexity, frequency, and prolongation of crises in the OIC region, it is beyond the capabilities of any organization to respond effectively to humanitarian needs. These factors have put pressure on national societies and led to the depletion of their resources. This situation has created the need for national societies to interact with each other with a more regional approach and to join forces to achieve common goals through coordination mechanisms to be created. 

The goal of establishing a network of national societies operating in the OIC member countries was first expressed and added to the OIC- 2025 Program of Action (Implementation Plan 2016-2025) by the President of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during his term as the OIC term president. Works have begun to establish a national network of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of OIC member countries, with the initiatives of the President of the Turkish Red Crescent, Kerem Kınık. As a result of the conference held in Istanbul on 28-29 January 2019 with the participation of 49 national societies, the OIC Red Network (of the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in the OIC Member States) was established to carry out its activities within the framework of the basic principles of the international movement.

The Istanbul Declaration and the Terms of Reference were adopted by the participating national societies at the end of the conference. It was decided that the duty of the network secretariat would be carried out under the responsibility of the Turkish Red Crescent, and its headquarters would be in Istanbul. At this point, we should mention the Islamic Committee of the International Crescent (ICIC), which has been strongly promoting the idea of a coordination and cooperation mechanism between the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the OIC region. ICIC is affiliated with the OIC in the status of a specialized institution and established by an intergovernmental agreement. It carries out intergovernmental activities in international humanitarian law and humanitarian aid in the Islamic geography and operates on solid legal ground. ICIC’s support and diplomacy throughout the process are invaluable. 

The OIC Red Network (Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in the OIC Member States) was established due to regional humanitarian crises increasing in number and severity. It ensures integrity and coordination between national societies in terms of improving life in the OIC region, eliminating vulnerabilities, and increasing the resilience of both communities and humanitarian organizations. The OIC Red Network offers a more systematic and structural cooperation opportunity between Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and contributes directly to the development of humanitarian policies in the OIC region by carrying out joint humanitarian diplomacy activities together with regional and global humanitarian organizations.

OIC Red Network, whose main fields of study are “advocacy, humanitarian policies, capacity building, and resource mobilization,” aims to empower member national societies in related fields and topics to ensure that they become one of the leading actors in the region, and to enable actors sharing the same geography to have a common perspective on humanitarian issues. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continued affecting and transforming humanitarian aid activities as in all areas of life in 2021. We recognized that the successful vaccine development activities across the world and the resulting sigh of relief do not last forever due to the variants announced each day. The idea that no one can be safe unless everyone is safe, became widespread. We also recognized that equitable access to vaccines and health services is not a blessing provided by the powerful and wealthy, but a humanitarian and actual necessity. It became essential to add vaccine-related activities to humanitarian aid services, especially for those with the status of a “displaced person (IDP)” or “refugee.” In this context, OIC Red Network participated in the initiative for vaccine equity for refugees and displaced persons, by the Qatar Red Crescent, aimed at raising global awareness of equitable access to vaccines.

In 2021, the OIC Red Network tried to report violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in the OIC region, and occasionally inform the international public and publish notices with the joint initiative of the members. 

OIC Red Network members released a joint statement on stopping oppression and violence in Jerusalem, the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian territories occupied by the State of Israel, and they made a call for an end to violations of international humanitarian law, such as civilian deaths and injuries, and targeting the offices and vehicles of humanitarian organizations. 

The OIC Red Network was established with the belief that regional development from a humanitarian perspective is possible if all actors operating in the region are strong. For this purpose, it supports the activities of different humanitarian organizations. In this context, Türkiye, which has the status of “signatory state” in the founding treaty of the Islamic Committee of the International Crescent (ICIC), must ratify this treaty in the Turkish parliament. As stated, an organization operating in the OIC region, like ICIC, is quite rare; in the sense that it was established by an intergovernmental agreement, on solid diplomatic and legal grounds and also carries out humanitarian aid activities. In this respect, advocacy activities were carried out by the relevant authorities, and a comprehensive report on the issue was prepared, with the thought that strengthening ICIC in the eyes of the governments, as an organization affiliated with the OIC, the second largest political organization in the world, would benefit the region and the vulnerable individuals.

Updating the OIC Red Network website was put on the agenda in 2021 to carry out the secretariat activities in a better way and to ensure stronger interaction between the member societies. The analysis and design phases were complete, and the testing phase began. The website was designed as a comprehensive system where member national societies can interact with each other, apply for projects and funds, access capacity-building activities and various training programs, and share their work. The website is intended to be the modern and up-to-date face of the OIC Red Network, rather than just an online page. 

In 2021, the OIC Red Network continued its webinars and activities regarding sharing experience and knowledge on different humanitarian issues among member societies. Experts from different national societies contributed to the webinars on topics such as “Volunteering,” “The Assisting Role of National Societies to the States in the Time of COVID-19,” “Cash-Based Assistance,” and “Volunteer Management Models.”

Drafted by the OIC Red Network Secretariat under the leadership of the Permanent Representation of Türkiye in the presence of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the COVID-19 Emergency Action: Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, and Somalia project, aims to create an infrastructure in fighting against COVID-19 in five OIC countries, was submitted to the relevant authorities of financially strong OIC countries. 

We hope that the year 2022 will be a more prosperous and healthier one for our region and humanity. As the OIC Red Network, we hope that the number of humanitarian crises will decrease and our cooperation will lead to a better future.

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