EXCERPTS FROM THE INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF H.E. AHMET NECDET SEZER, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY AND CHAIRMAN OF THE COMCEC

Honourable Ministers, Honourable Secretary General, Distinguished Delegates,
Distinguished Guests,
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The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, has after the new adhesions, increased its membership to 56 countries. Our community, which is composed of brotherly countries situated in regions extending from Asia to Europe, from Africa to South America, is the organisation with the highest number of members, second only to the United Nations.
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Economic and political events are developing rapidly and globalisation is having a growing impact on all aspects of modern life. Globalisation, the positive and negative consequences of which can be briefly described as accelerated growth, rise of the standard of living and new opportunities, now appears clearly. On the other hand, the distribution of the opportunities created by globalisation is unfortunately far from being equal and just while developed countries benefit much more from the opportunities generated by globalisation, thanks to their economic and technologic superiority, developing countries are faced with increased trade deficits and deteriorating income distribution leading to social unrest, increasing brain drain and similar serious problems. The failure to bridge the growing gap between the level of prosperity of various countries, the rich growing richer while the poor poorer, will inevitably have a negative impact on world peace and stability. In this context, while we have to devise ways and means to benefit to a greater extent from the opportunities offered by globalisation, we must also develop measures to prevent possible threats of this process.
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We have now entered a new millennium. Great progress and achievements in the recent past have ensured a happier and more prosperous quality of life for humanity as a whole. However, besides the problems which have still not been coped with by mankind, we are still faced by serious problems created by the specific conditions of the present era.

I would especially like to draw your attention to the issue of poverty. In spite of the important economic improvement observed in the world in the last fifty years, there are today still over a billion people who survive on a daily income of less than one dollar. Together with poverty the excessive widening of the income distribution gap both among countries and within countries constitutes an serious threat to the peace and stability of society.

It is impossible for communities caught in the vicious circle of poverty to solve other urgent problems. The lack of concern of the international community in this situation means isolation of poor communities. As a result of this, we witness a phenomenon of marginalisation parallel to globalisation. To break the vicious circle of poverty, the developing countries need a qualified work force, education, increasing investment in the young generations as well as to closely follow the technologic developments in the world and raise their production standards so as to increase their share of world trade. Instead of the raising obstacles, the support of developed countries in these efforts is an important factor in shortening the road to success.

There is no doubt that no time should be wasted in taking measures to fight poverty at the national level. It is however obvious that national resources will be insufficient to solve problems of such urgency and magnitude, and that international solidarity and cooperation will be required at this point. In this context, the Millenium Summit of the United Nations, held last September with a large number of participants, was a meeting of historical significance for the international community on the necessity for solidarity and cooperation in solving the problems facing the world. ... Another point I would like to emphasize as one of the main outcomes of the Summit, is that human rights are no longer the internal affair of a country and that concepts like the supremacy of law and democracy have evolved thanks to globalisation. It is probable that there will be an increase in the developments in this field in the 21st century, and that a growing proportion of the world population will benefit from the opportunities provided by democracy for decent life standards and self-improvement.
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I would like to take this opportunity to convey my best wishes to the Istanbul Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) on the twentieth anniversary of its foundation. I wish to congratulate the Director General as well as all the staff for their fruitful work. The Istanbul Centre has been extremely successful in the 20 years of its existence and, with the valuable support and sustained interest of the OIC General Secretariat and Member Countries, has achieved meaningful results on the cultural and artistic works which are a treasure of Islamic civilisation. I am sure that this work will be pursued thanks to your support and interest.
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As mankind enters the 21st century with new hopes for a better and peaceful future, conflicts, tensions and violence are unfortunately still seen in various corners of the world. There is no doubt that, as member countries of the Islamic Conference, we are more concerned with the Middle East problem. The people of this region which own the richest natural resources in the world are negatively influenced in their rightful scientific, economic and social development due to the failure to reach a long-awaited peace and stability in the Middle East.
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The conditions of the new era in front of the international relations require a closer economic cooperation between our brotherly countries proud to share the same historical, moral, and cultural heritage.
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