By: Professor Alhagi Manta Drammeh, Professor of Islamic Thought and International Relations
As a Gambian insider-outsider working within the OIC system in the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia, I think it is befitting for me to make some reflections on the forthcoming summit of OIC to be hosted by the Gambia in December 2023. The OIC is one of the biggest intergovernmental institutions in the world second to the United Nations. It includes in its membership fifty-seven (57) countries around the world. It has affiliated, subsidiary and specialized organizations working in different complementary domains from agriculture, science and medicine, to shariah, law, finance, education and human rights.
Now there are no ifs or buts that the Gambia will be hosting this important summit of heads of state. The President of the Gambia, the CEO of the OIC Secretariat in the Gambia and the OIC envoy to the Gambia all confirmed that the Gambia will be hosting this event in December. Furthermore, the CEO of the OIC Secretariat in the Gambia indicated that the Summit would start with the Intergovernmental senior meeting and the ministerial meeting between the 12 and 15 of December to be followed by the Sumit between 16&17 December. The CEO has assured us of the logistical preparedness of the Gambia to host this hugely significant Summit and its impact will be huge and far-reaching. As we now move from the phase of logistics, policy and infrastructure, we will now enter the phase of implementation.
This may be characterized as moving from the hard infrastructure of mobilization of needed resources to the soft infrastructure of the human touch and dimension in translating great ideas into practice in terms of hospitality, protocols, security, care and humanity.
The Gambia can benefit from this Summit immensely if well implemented in terms of both bilateral and multilateral relations with member countries of OIC and other partners. It is a great opportunity to sell the Gambia as the Smiling Coast of Africa known for its compassion and peace. It is an opportunity to market the Gambia as a safe tourist destination for millions of people. It is an occasion for the Gambia to look for funding and training opportunities for its youth in order to empower them.
I believe that the OIC Secretariat in the Gambia will allow the Gambians particularly the Arabic and Islamic studies scholars to participate actively in this event as translators/interpreters and protocol officers as they are in a better position to communicate effectively with guests from Arab-speaking countries. There are untapped talents within this segment of the society.
Though the Summit will last for a couple of days, the Gambia will be taking over the Chairmanship for three years. This means that the Gambia has a great opportunity to develop its diplomacy and foreign policy towards OIC member countries. This Sumit, I believe should be seen as a national event that should bring all together to work towards its success. I am sure a Sumit like this would play a pivotal role in energizing the Gambian economy. I think it should be an opportunity to mend differences and heal wounds. The political elite has a great responsibility to consider the national interest instead of partisan interests. The OIC Summit in the Gambia is a golden opportunity that should not be missed.