Since the revision of the OIC Charter some 5 years ago, the issue of setting the criteria for new membership has not been trash out to date. Many countries have been waiting since 2002 to join the organisation according to Mr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the OIC.  Ihsanoglu is urging an early adoption of draft rules for OIC membership and Observer Status.  An Expert Group meeting was held at OIC Headquarters on 18 January 2011 to draft the rules governing observer status at the OIC, according a recent OIC press release.

Ihsanoglu affirmed that many states have been waiting their turn to be granted observer status. He emphasized the importance of approving this issue of observer status for states and international organizations. He pointed out that every delay in its adoption actually impedes the organization’s work on many issues and weakens its role at the international level while at the same time denying a number of states’ and organizations’ possibility of cooperating with it and keeping abreast of the efforts it assumes at the level of the Islamic world and outside, including the Muslim minorities worldwide.

The states that have requested OIC observer status are as follows: Republic of South Africa (since 2002), Republic of Sri Lanka (since 2008), Republic of the Philippines (since 2008), Republic of Serbia (since 2008) Republic of Nepal (2008), and Democratic Republic of Congo (since 2008). States standing in line for full membership are as follows: The Republic of Mauritius (since 2002) and the Republic of Central Africa (since 2002).

The Secretary General went on to say that the OIC’s amended Charter has included new provisions in all areas of interest to the Organization’s work, including the need to define full membership rules. In this respect, and in order to facilitate deliberations and action on the matter, the General Secretariat has already evolved a new list of criteria for access to full membership that takes into consideration the changes introduced in the amended Charter. They were adopted by the Council of Foreign Ministers at its Thirty-Sixth Session held in Damascus in 2009.

The Secretary General drew the Expert Group’s attention to the fact that the OIC’s key guiding instrument is the new Charter, which affords the Organization a system agreed by the leaders of the Islamic Ummah as to the granting of observer status. The Secretary General recalled also the Charter’s stipulation that consensus is the only path through which observer status can be granted and that this, in itself, provides ample guarantees in this respect.

There is no doubt that Serbia is seeking membership in order to stymied Kosovo’s efforts to join the OIC. Turkey and Albania are lined up in every effort to prevent Serbia from attaining full membership or Observer Status.  The same goes for the Philippines. Manila wants to speak for the Muslims of the Philippines and in particular, the predominantly Muslim province of Mindanao that is seeking self determination. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which has OIC Observer Status has lobbied hard to block any attempt to have the Philippines join the OIC.  India’s efforts to join the OIC have been blocked by Pakistan many years ago.

Expansion of the OIC has been put on hold since 2002.