KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 (AFP): The first World Islamic Economic Forum today called for the establishment of an Islamic common market and floated a series of initiatives to boost business cooperation amongst Muslim nations.
A declaration issued at the end of a three-day meeting listed the initiatives and urged the 57 governments of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to facilitate trade and business environments.
Delegates called for governments to "consider the establishment of an Islamic Free Trade Agreement through regional and sub-regional FTAs in a step-by-step, time-bound process that would ultimately lead to an Islamic Common Market," said the declaration.
The forum, which had debated poverty alleviation in Muslim countries, called for the creation of a World Islamic Economic Development Corporation to promote investment and infrastructure development projects in OIC countries.
It also floated plans for a global Islamic businesswomen's network and an education trust to be funded by Muslim entrepreneurs emphasising science and information technology arenas.
The forum pledged to "establish relevant task forces each led by a prominent Islamic business leader to develop specific practical implementation plans" for the initiatives.
The declaration was delivered to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also the current chairman of the OIC.
The forum, which gathered over 500 delegates from 44 countries including government officials and business leaders, was billed as the Davos of the Muslim world, after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The concept of a World Islamic Economic Forum emerged from an OIC meeting of business leaders held here in 2004.
Delegates agreed to make the forum an annual event, with the next meeting slated for 2006 in Pakistan, to be alternated with Malaysia.
Forum organisers include Malaysia's foreign affairs ministry, Pakistan's Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Morocco's Islamic Centre for Development and Trade and Malaysian think tank the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute.