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A Rights Agenda for the Muslim World? The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Evolving Human Rights Framework

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is uniquely well placed to advance human rights in the Muslim world, but has repeatedly failed to fulfill that potential. Under the reformist leadership of Ekmelledin Ihsanoğlu, can the organization’s rights agenda move beyond traditional obstacles, namely members’ focus on state sovereignty and the debate over the role of sharia? Could the recently established Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights (IPCHR) form the basis of a robust international human rights regime for the Muslim world?

In a new paper published by the Brookings Doha Center (BDC), former visiting fellow Turan Kayaoğlu discusses how the OIC can become a more effective proponent of human rights. The paper, A Rights Agenda for the Muslim World? The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Evolving Human Rights Framework, describes the changing approach and tenor of the OIC’s rights policy.

Based on extensive interviews with senior OIC officials, the paper takes a close look at the organization’s various human rights instruments and notes a shift in its approach. Recent mechanisms – most importantly the IPHRC – have dropped a former emphasis on the centrality of sharia. The OIC’s traditional understanding of state sovereignty, however, has remained intact and led to important shortcomings in the new body. This paper demonstrates how the IPHRC can nevertheless grow into an effective promoter of human rights, and offers recommendations on how the international human rights community can assist in that process.

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