The League of Arab states, now commonly known as the Arab League was initiated as a result of calls for unity among Arab States in the early 1940s. Britain supported the idea as they were looking for an ally in their war against Germany. The Arab League was then established on March 22nd, 1945 in Cairo, Egypt. This organization was initially founded by seven countries and later was joined by other member states. The initial states that formed this organization were Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. During the mid 20th century, other 19 member states came in; 15 of them were Arab States while 4 were observers.
The League’s headquarters is in Cairo and constitutes member states covering an area of almost 14 million km square (Peretz: 81). It also runs across two continents i.e. North & Western Asia as well as North Africa. The area is mainly covered by the larger percentage of the Sahara deserts while other parts constitute the world’s biggest river (River Nile) and thick forest. The area is also famous due to its many early civilizations which included Phoenicia, Ancient Egypt and Assyria. The region is very rich with natural resources the leading ones being oil and natural gas. It also attracts many tourists with Egypt and Jordan being the most visited sites mainly due to their ancient history.
What is the Arab League?
The Arab League is an organization comprising mainly of the Arab states. These states are mainly those in the Southwest of Asia, North of Asia as well as those in the Northeastern part of Africa. The League was initially founded by six member states in 1945 and since then it has expanded and currently comprises of 22 member states. The main objective of the league was to improve the coordination and to strengthen the relationship existing between the member states as well as to protect their sovereignty and to aid in decision making and implementation of issues that relates to the Arab States. These issues include those of economics, social, cultural and political fields affecting the development of Arab States in one way or another. So far the League has enabled Arab States to settle their differences, coordinate matters of common interest and to resolve internal conflicts such as the Lebanon crisis of 1958 (Geddes: 83). The league has also enabled Arab States to unite together in signing up various treaties that has helped them develop economically. An example of such treaty is the Joint Arab Economic Action Charter.
The Arab League has also played an eminent role in designing the school’s syllabus, fighting gender parity in the Arab States, ensuring that the rights of children are met, initiating and foreseeing various youth programs and promoting and fostering Arab culture amongst its member states. Arab league has also assumed the responsibilities of fighting crime and has initiated various campaigns targeting at eradicating drug use amongst its members. It is also the role of the League to resolve issues dealing with labor especially those that involve Arab immigrants.
How strong is the Arab League as a Regional Organization?
The Arab League which was formerly known as the League of Arab States has been recognized over the years to be the best regional organization in Asia as well as in the Middle East. Harders and Legrenzi in their book ‘Beyond Regionalism’ states that, “Many scholars claim that regional and international organization can be important agents of Liberalization and democratization, particularly as they allow domestic elites to find support for such policies in the international arena.”(Harder & Legrenzi: 157). But comparing the Arab league with other regional organization in the world, the league seem to be lurking backwards and missing out on eminent issues making it doubtful to being considered as the ideal regional organization in Asia and Middle east. First of all, as other regional organization such as the European Union, organization of American states and the African Union makes it compulsory for its members to meet certain democratic requirement before being considered members, the Arab League does not have such requirement in recruiting its members. In contrast to other regional organizations the Arab League considers issues pertaining to democratic reforms as minor while paying much attention on ethnic and cultural issues. Another issue that has degraded the legitimacy of the Arab League as a regional organization came up during the creation of Israel in 1948. During this time all the members of the Arab League was against Israelites and in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 all the member states came up to fight out the Israelites in the process of helping out Palestinians to reclaim their land. The member states did not become successful in the fight and despite of that, they allowed Palestine to become a full member of the Arab League. The Arab League was not happy about Israel and they boycotted carrying out whatever kind of trade with Israelites. This boycott was applicable to all member states till 1980.
Failure in economic integration has also led down the status of the Arab League. The creation of the common Arab Market in 1964 achieved nothing. In 1981, there was the introduction of another trading bloc by the Arab League since there was need for its member to carry out international trade amongst themselves. This led to the creation of the Agreement for facilitation and promotion of intra-Arab Trade. The agreement was to get rid of all the tariffs imposed on goods therefore enabling the member States to carry out free trade. This agreement also did not last long since it achieved minimal success. Another trading bloc was re-introduced in 1997; this trading bloc was known as the Arab Free Trade Area. The major motive for the creation of this trading bloc was to give stiff competition to the European Union.
Another issue that has led down the Asian League is its founding principles. The founding principles of many organizations are mainly derived from the founding members. It therefore happens that the founding members of Arab League were mostly those states that practiced authoritarian way of governing. Due to this, the Arab League did not see the need for its member states to practice democratic principles. In the contrary the League has been protecting its members from external forces that have been pushing for democratic rights in the Middle East. Since its inception, several human rights cases, gender discrimination as well as domestic abuses go unpunished. The Asian League also has been known to be discriminatory in the way it seeks the entrance for its members (Tschirqi: 21). Instead of the Arab League using the geographical location as the principle rule in seeking its members, the league makes it clear that their members must be Arabs.
The role of Arab League in the International Community
The Arab League which has been in existence for the last 64 years has a mountain to climb in struggling to remain relevant. The regional organization is faced with numerous challenges starting from their own internal conflicts to pressing regional issues such as unresolved Palestine-Israel crisis and the Iraq war. The following are therefore the roles of Arab League in international community.
Resolving Israeli-Palestinian crisis: The Arab League have the task of mediating and resolving this long stalled crisis. It is the work of the League to re-start the talks which went to stalemate after the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Arab League can play a primary role by convincing the Palestinians to use dialogue in the process of finding solutions to their conflicts with Israelis. Peace talks between the Palestinians and Israeli came to a halt four years ago and since then several lifes have been lost through suicide bombing and several military operations. This has prompted other members of the Arab League as well as the European Union and the United States to restart the peace talks afresh. Recently Egypt announced that a comprehensive report which contained how the peace talks will be conducted has been formulated and the initial stages towards the peace talks are already underway.
Promoting Peace in Iraq: The Arab League being one of the Pan-Arab organizations has the core role of promoting peace and stability in the war thorn country. Though not much has been done, the Arab League has been in the fore front in restoring peace, state’s sovereignty and political independence. The Arab League has also sought for help from other international organization such as the United Nations so as to help them in finding solutions to the Iraq’s political process and the rising number of insurgent attacks.
Preventing Nuclear arms and Dangerous Weapons in the Middle East: The Arab League has the responsibility of ensuring that Middle East is a nuclear-free zone. This involves stepping up effort to ensure that Iran does not go on with the nuclear program. The league should also held talks with international community on how to deal with Israel and try to warn them of dire consequences not only from the Arab League but also from other international bodies incase they are found in possession of nuclear weapons. The Arab League has another task of ensuring that Egypt and Saudi Arabia do not pursue the same program of manufacturing nuclear weapons.
Working with Iran to promote peace: The Arab League should also work with Iran in developing a security system that will prevent arms in the area. This will help promote peace and stability in Iraq since it will reduce the rising rate of insurgents and suicide bombers. The Arab League should also seek for support from Tehran since they will play a major role in resolving conflict that has existed for years between Arab and Israel.
Resolving Sudan’s Conflict: The Arab League is working together with the African Union in trying to find lasting solutions which will ease tension in the war stricken area of Sudan. The two regional organizations have written to the international court to postpone the prosecution of the Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir to a later date (Ismael: 41). The two organizations stated that the postponement of the prosecution was as a result of interruptions in finding lasting solutions with various factions through dialogue. The Arab League has also moved forward to support Sudanese President saying that the dialogue will find a lasting solution to the problem.
The considerations of the International Community of the Arab League
The Arab League has faced numerous challenges since its inception in resolving various regional conflicts. The regional organization is now fighting off crisis originating from within and without the organization. The future of the Arab League now depend on the way they will be able to handle and resolve their internal matters and how they will resolve two major crisis in the Middle East. These crises involve the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and Iraq war.
Though Arab League has tried to impress many, they are still considered as a failure by the international community. This is because many conflicts of international interest that are affecting their member states usually go unaddressed. For example the Arab League did not take any action at the time when thousands of civilians were massacred in cold blood during the Darfur war in Sudan. The League completely failed even to mention a single word because they knew that the Sudanese government was responsible for the killings. The Arab League also did nothing to ease the tension that erupted between Syria and Lebanon after the Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed. Rather than solving issues, the Arab League usually accuses other regional organization for not lending a hand. Such actions usually put the Arab League under question whether it should truly be considered as an ideal regional organization. Clearly the Arab League has failed to perform its duty when it is mostly needed. Instead of doing what they are required of them, they are completely doing the opposite. Harder and Legrenzi in their book ‘Beyond Regionalism’ clearly illustrate how the Arab League protected Sadam Hussein and Iraq at the time when Iraq invaded Kuwait. They stated that, “When Iraq Invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the Arab League failed to develop a coordinated effort to deal with the crisis. It necessitated the intervention of the United States and a large international coalition in which some but not all Arab States participated to eject Saddam’s forces from Kuwait.”(Harders& Legrenzi : 162).
Another issue that puts Arab League to Spot light from the international community is their mentality against federalism. It has been noted that the Arab League do not want their member states to practice whatever form of democratization and liberalization. Very many cases that violate Human rights usually go with no efforts being made to resolve them. Currently, the League itself is doing nothing to help Iraqi People in terms of moral and even material help. The same Arab League was in the forefront during the time of Saddam Hussein protecting him from any external criticism.
Summary and Conclusion
Different scholars view regional organizations to be of different kinds. There are those that are liberalizing and can change the life of their member states quite in a positive manner while there are those who usually have little or non to do. Member states that are interested in democracy and liberalization usually joins regional organizations that practices such principles while those who are opposing have been known to join different organization not because they want to practice these principles in a different way but because they want to protect themselves from external forces by practicing their own policies. It has also been noted that an organization that is founded by members practicing authoritarian way of governing usually follows the same way of governing just like the Arab League. (Baaklin, Denoex and Springborg: 67).
Baaklin, Abdo, Denoex, Guilain and Springborg, Robert. Legislative Politics in the Arab World: The Resurgence of Democratic Institutions. Boulder, Co. Lynne Rienner.1999.
Geddes, Charles. A Documentary History of the Arab-Israel Conflict. New York. Praeger.1991
Harders, Cilja and Legrenzi Matteo. Beyond Regionalism. Ashgate Publishing.2008
Ismael, Tareq. The Communist Movement in the Arab World. New York. RoutledgeCurzon, 2004.
Peretz, Don: The Arab-Israel Dispute. New York. Facts on File.1996.
Tschirqi, Dan. The Arab World Today. Boulder, CO. Lynne Rienner. 1994.