The of international relations’ (Baylis et al., 2013:

Organization of Islamic Cooperation


Student: Juanita Rojas, 445364

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Assignment 3. International Relations Theories


Rotterdam, 23 January 2018


Word count: 2102










































International Relations theories:

the case of the Organization of Islamic


are a very important part of our international system. There are two main theories
in the field of International Relations (IR) which explain what regimes are and
how they are formed and maintained. Yet these two theories are very different
to each other. (Baylis, Smith & Owens, 2013). These two major theories are
liberalism and realism. They mainly explain how the international system works.

Stephen Krasner defines regimes as ‘sets
of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making
procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of
international relations’ (Baylis et al., 2013: 293).

According to the liberalist theory, regimes can help
overcome anarchy, which is defined as a lack of authority that can enforce
agreements among states or among actors in the system (Ozkan, 2011). They believe anarchy can both prevent collaboration
but simultaneously help promote regime formation. Microeconomics and game
theory are used to explain why anarchy prevents regime formation. According to
micro-economists, an uncontrolled market is not effective when it comes to the
production of common goods. They state that economic actors should instead
collaborate rather than compete within the market. A possible way to do this is
through state intervention where states require actors to collaborate. This
same idea can be applied to the international system, where in contrast to the
market, there is no actor who can require sovereign states to collaborate. However,
the sole existence of regimes, such as the United Nations or the Organization
of Islamic Cooperation, shows that collaboration can be possible within an
anarchic structure. Regardless, this collaboration and interaction between
states can also prove to be a complex situation. Game theorists refer to a
Prisoner’s Dilemma; there are cases of ‘market failure’ in which states choose competitive
rather than collaborative strategies because they expect the other actors to
pursue competitive strategies. As a result, effective solutions cannot be reached.

Liberalists, thus, believe that it is important to identify a mechanism that
proves that other actors will not defect, which in this case is a regime that
provides this kind of mechanism. The biggest means for establishing and maintaining
a regime according to liberals is the principle of reciprocity and the shadow
of the feature which prevent actors from defecting and which results in the
Battle of the Sexes (Baylis, 2013). Furthermore, liberal theory believes that regimes
enable states to collaborate with each other, that they promote the common
good, that they flourish best when promoted and maintained by a kind hegemon,
and that they promote globalization and a liberal world order (Baylis et al.,

According to the realist perspective, regimes form in
situations where there are uncoordinated strategies which interact to produce
suboptimal outcomes. This theory also resorts to game theory, which argues that
states which form a regime face the problem of coordination which can be
illustrated by the Prisoner’s Dilemma. In this case, the problem is associated
with the possibility of failing to coordinate strategies, resulting in the
dismissal of a mutually desired goal. Realist then argue that because of this
problem, states conform to a regime while wishing to change the fundamental
principles. A failure to coordinate will only put them in a more disadvantaged
position (Baylis, 2013). There is a mutual desire to cooperate, but anarchy
creates a problem of coordination. Moreover, realists believe that regimes can
enable states to coordinate, that they generate different benefits for states,
that power is the central feature of regime formation and survival and that the
nature of the world order depends on the underlying principles and norms of
regimes. In this article, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be
analyzed in terms of these two theories in order to determine which theory is
better in explaining the foundation and design of the OIC.



1969 on the 25th of September, after a fire was started in the
Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a historical summit took place in Rabat, Morocco,
where a resolution was passed stating that the Muslim government would confer
with a view of promoting cooperation and mutual assistance in scientific, economic,
cultural and spiritual areas (OIC, 2017). The OIC was then founded in 1972 during
the Third Islamic Conference of Foreign Minister where the first Charter of the,
then called, Islamic Conference Organization was approved and adopted. This
charter put emphasis on the notion of Islamic solidarity (Castillo, 2014). The
interest in Islamic solidarity and cooperation between Muslim states can be seen
in terms of liberalism which puts emphasis on cooperation to further the common
good. In this case the organization is concerned with the common good of
Muslims and the Islam. In contrast, realist theory is more about cooperating to
further national interests of the member states. Another reason that supports
the liberal theory is that they believe that state’s interests are determined
by the many interests, ideals, and activities of its members, which capture
governmental authority (Ozkan, 2016).

However, at the same time, the OIC works for the resolution
of conflicts and disputes by its Member States (OIC, 2017), this aspect of the
organization relates to realist theory which claims that states cooperate in
order to resolve conflicts. But compared to all its other objectives
emphasizing cooperation on religious grounds, the liberal theory is more
prominent than the realist theory, because liberalists tend to focus more on cooperation
than on conflict (Ozkan, 2016). Moreover, on the 28th of June of
2011, the organization changed its name to the Organization for Islamic
Cooperation. And as the name already implies, this regime was established with
the aim for cooperation based on community norms and values instead of power or
survival as believed by the realist theory. Also, the progress and cooperation within
the Islamic community will end up being an absolute gain for all the member
states of the OIC, which is believed to be one of the reasons to cooperate within
the liberal theory (Ozkan, 2016).

            As previously mentioned, the main
objectives of the organization are based on religious ground. Important
objectives are, for example, to improve and strengthen Islamic friendship and
solidarity among the Member States; protect and defend Islam’s true image;
promote interaction and communities and religions; strive to achieve integrated
and sustainable human development, and ensure the well-being of Member States (Castillo,
2014). Since the study of international relations for realists is the analysis
of relations among states, the objective to strengthen friendship and promote
interaction among member states could be seen as realist instead of liberal
(Ozkan, 2016).  However, even stronger is
the long and historic desire among the Muslims to unite and to form an
association which deals with the problems faced by the Islam community (Bacik,

            Furthermore, the OIC contributes in
its capability as subject of international law, to further institutionalize
international society and develop its sources, but always from an Islamic perspective
(Castillo, 2014). Bacik (2011) states that the OIC recognizes the authority of
international law. This aspect of the organization relates more to the liberal
theory than to the realist one. Besides, realist approaches have always been
skeptical of international law (Ozkan, 2016). The organization insists on the
foundational status of the Islamic idea of Ummah (the Islamic community) as in
the cooperation of Muslim countries, yet recognizes national sovereignty.



OIC consists of 57 Member states and is the second largest organization after
the United Nations (UN). It is also the only international organization in the
world with a religious basis (Bacik, 2011). Bacik (2011) claims that despite
the religious ethos of the organization, in times of crisis the behavior of
members are determined by national motivations rather than religious ones,
which connects more to the survival aspect of the realist perspective. However,
the OIC has never neglected the Ummah in its official jargon. At the summit of
1981, it declared that “all Muslims,
different though they may be in their language, color, domicile or other condition,
form but one nation” (Bacik, 2011: 597). Yet, the organization seems to be
paralyzed by its member states, which are thus primarily driven by their
national interests. According to Bacik (2011) the institutional weakness of the
OIC is connected to the lack of clear membership rules between 1972 (when the
Charter was launched) and 2008 (when it was amended).

            During this period, the OIC demanded
nothing from the states that wanted to become member of the organization. According
to the OIC Charter, which was ratified in 1972, “every Muslim State is eligible to join the Islamic Conference on
submitting an application expressing its desire and preparedness to adopt this
Charter” (Bacik, 2011: 603). This easy membership method eventually caused
the organization to paralyze (Bacik, 2011), making it an organization without
an effective strategy or shared ambition. Usually, all international organizations
aim to create an international regime of rules, norms, principles, and
procedures. As stated by the liberal theory, in order to create standards of behavior,
regimes must have a mechanism that enforces the existing rules and procedures.

Easy and cheap membership rules, however, prevent the success of the OIC
(Bacik, 2011). This means that de design of the OIC displays a more realist
approach where states are not concerned with the shadow of the future and are
more likely to defect when there is need for cooperation due to a lack of enforcement
of the unclear membership rules. Loose membership criteria fail to constrain
member states to abide by the shared values and principles (Bacik, 2011).

            Another reason for the failure of
the OIC is that it does not have a rule enforcing body that steers it. Without
the power of such a body to coordinate the organization, it faces events with
difficulty instead than in an harmonious, easy manner (Bacik, 2011). The fact
that it cannot solve problems harmoniously but rather in conflict connects to
the realist perspective which emphasizes cooperation to solve conflicts. The
OIC is thus in a weak position in regard to its members.

            Moreover, several OIC countries have
considerable power. This is because OIC pledges for financial member aids are
often only partly met, so countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have significant
influence within the OIC (Johnson, 2010). For example, Pakistan has used the
OIC as a platform to push a resolution on religious blasphemy in the UN.

Pakistan also has had major influence in preventing India (one of the world’s
countries with the largest Muslim population) from joining the organization
(Johnson, 2010). This supports the realist perspective that states use regimes
to further their own national interests and that it is all about power and
survival after all.


looking at these two separate aspects of the OIC, there are also theories that
which connect religion to International Relations theories. According to Sandal
& James (2010), neoliberalism is the most suitable framework for religious
organizations such as the OIC. Such religious organizations use religion to
legitimize their actions and influence world politics (Sandal & James,


analyzing the OIC in terms of the two major international relation theories, liberalism
and realism, it can be concluded that both can be used to explain respectively
the foundation and the design of the OIC. The foundation of the OIC has a more
liberalist approach because its objectives are mainly directed at promoting
cooperation between Muslim states in order to safeguard the Islamic community,
the Ummah. However, even though the OIC is fundamentally based on religious
grounds, there are some aspects of the foundation, such as its emphasis on
conflict resolution and the relation between its member states, which resemble
a rather realist approach. Regardless, its emphasis on cooperation and the
values and norms of the Islamic community have a bigger role in its foundation.

In contrast, the design of the OIC has a more realist
approach. Mostly because in times of crisis most member states tend to prefer
national interests rather than the religious values of the organization.

Moreover, because the OIC lacks a clear membership structure and a rule enforcing
body. These aspects allow members to defect easier because there is no
enforcing mechanism, which connects to the realist theory of Prisoner’s
Dilemma. Furthermore, the past has shown that some countries tend to have a
significant influence on the decision-making procedure of the OIC, which
reflect their own national interests. All in all, this shows that there remain
differences of opinion on the nature of the organization’s role in
international relations.