U.S.-OIC Bilateral Consultations

Arsalan Suleman
Acting U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation 
Embassy of Uzbekistan
Washington, DC
December 21, 2016

Thank you. Ambassador Gulyamov, Excellencies, honored members of the OIC delegation and the Washington DC diplomatic corps, distinguished colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening.

I want to express our sincere thanks to Ambassador Gulyamov and his staff here at the Embassy of Uzbekistan for their generous hospitality in hosting this beautiful reception. And I'd also like to thank my colleagues at the State Department – particularly Dominique Graham, Usra Ghazi, and Albar Sheikh -- who were so instrumental in preparing for today’s meetings and those taking place tomorrow.

We are here to celebrate both the inaugural US-OIC bilateral consultations, and Uzbekistan's chairmanship of the OIC. I had the honor to attend and address the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held earlier this year in Tashkent. And I also had the great pleasure to visit Samarkand and Bokhara, two breathtaking treasures of our shared global heritage.

In a time when there is considerable discussion of the rise of “fake news” and whether we are in a “post-truth era,” landmarks like Samarkand and Bokhara are critical because they represent -- through their very physical existence -- a reminder of the reality of our shared global civilization. Schools and universities -- centers of learning -- were the heart of these cities, which produced world-changing scholars like Ibn Sina and Al-Biruni, as mentioned by Ambassador Gulyamov. Scientific and technological advances from one part of the world have built upon each other and have been part of the development that has led to the interconnected and interdependent global civilization we live in and enjoy today.

And we have to work hard to protect these gains and advances. Because while technology has broken down physical barriers, there are political and mental barriers that remain -- and are perhaps resurgent -- inhibiting progress and stoking the flames of instability and conflict.

It is in this context that we gather here to recognize the importance of our deepening engagement and collaboration with the OIC.

Our engagement with the OIC became formalized in 2008 when President George W. Bush appointed the first US Special Envoy to the OIC, Sada Cumber. Since that time, during the Obama Administration, our relationship has grown from one of dialogue to one of partnership. And I'd like to recognize my predecessor Rashad Hussain, who is with us tonight and who so ably served as President Obama's Special Envoy to the OIC for several years, helping us reach this point in the relationship.

The United States and the OIC regularly engage on a very broad range of issues that span the globe and touch on a full range of shared foreign policy interests. These bilateral consultations are both a reflection of the substantive nature of our engagement, as well as an opportunity to further deepen that relationship.

There are no shortages of challenges that we share, from conflict resolution to humanitarian crises to countering violent extremism. And that is why working together more closely is not just sound policy -- it is a necessity in today's interconnected world.

Beyond working together on key multilateral and regional priorities, the United States and the OIC have significant partnerships in areas of mutual interest.

We have partnered to help eradicate polio, combat global health threats, like Ebola, and improve the effectiveness of maternal and child health programs.

On humanitarian affairs, we collaborate to improve aid distribution, coordinate donor support, and build the capacity of local actors.

We work together to counter violent extremism through concrete initiatives, like by building the capacity of local community and religious leaders to recognize and prevent violent extremism. We are also working together to counter violent extremist messages online. And we are advancing educational approaches that build resilience to such radicalization and recruitment among youth.

On human rights, we engage closely with the OIC to champion human rights both within OIC members and beyond, including on religious freedom, freedom of expression, protection of the rights of members of religious minority groups, and human rights-related issues at the UN.

We also work with the OIC to promote gender equality and combat gender-based violence, including the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).

Finally, we coordinate with the OIC on conflict resolution activities, seeking to identify peaceful solutions to disputes.

These areas of our cooperation are among our top foreign policy priorities globally. The marked progress is our relationship is a testament to the depth of our shared values and interests, and I am certain that this relationship will progress even further through mechanisms like our annual bilateral consultation.

Thank you again for joining us in celebrating this milestone in the US-OIC relationship. And thank you again, Ambassador Gulyamov, for your hospitality.