Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: Nouakchott summit

Al-Ahram Weekly

Since its founding in the mid-1940s, the Arab League has been the subject of two competing theories. The first holds that the league was originally a British-inspired project that aimed to co-opt the idea of Arab unity, which was gaining ground among Arab peoples as their countries were gaining independence from British, French and Spanish colonial rule. Proponents of this theory maintain that the meeting that took place in Alexandria beneath the heading Arab Unity Talks produced a fragile organisation that was incapable of performing any real and effective role in the life of the Arab nation.

The second theory argues that the league, as feeble and impotent as it is, offers a minimum degree of a pan-Arab bond that serves to draw Arab countries closer to one another. They add that, ultimately, it is a reflection of the realities of the conditions of official inter-Arab relations. The more these conditions improve, the better the performance of the league and vice versa.

In support of their argument, the proponents of the first theory point to the many failures in the league’s history and, indeed, to what they describe as the many instances of collusion and the dangerous positions adopted by the league, sometimes in conflict with its charter, rendering the league a mere cover for decisions taken by dominant powers in the Arab world.

Advocates of the less pessimistic theory stress that the problem resides not so much in the league itself or its charter or bylaws as in the nature of Arab officialdoms under the impact of decades of Western subordination, corruption and dictatorship. They note that the league experienced its golden age in the first half of the 1960s at the time when Egypt, under Nasser, emerged as the leader of the entire Arab nation. It was during that epoch that the league adopted an array of resolutions and agreements on collective Arab action, most notably the Arab Common Market and the Arab Joint Defence agreements. If these and the hundreds of other decisions had been put into effect, the Arab regional system would have rivalled the most powerful of similar systems in the world.

The advocates of the second theory further argue that only by changing the nature of Arab governments will it be possible to stimulate a renaissance in the league. One cannot ignore the cause (realities on the ground) and merely attempt to remedy the consequences (the Arab League), the argue. At the same time, they stress that the league, in spite of its deficiencies, is still the Arab house that affirms the Arab identity of the region and beneath whose roof it is possible to solve all the problems and issues that Arab countries have in common.

In this regard, they draw attention to the desperate attempts on the part of Washington and its instruments, most notably the Zionist entity, since the early 1990s to infiltrate the Arab League and convert it to a “Middle Eastern League” in which the Zionist entity would play a central role in the framework of the so-called Greater Middle East project. As the architects of that project were unable to push it through, they have turned to Plan B, which is to partition Arab states and fragment their societies. According to this view, the Arab League would be used as cover for — and an instrument to facilitate — the project that was set into motion with the occupation of Iraq in 2003 and that manifested itself in developments in Palestine, Lebanon (the invasions and strife), Sudan (civil warfare and partition), Syria (sedition and terrorism), Libya (attacks and turmoil), Yemen (attacks and civil strife), the Maghreb (designs seeking to partition these countries into separate statelets), and in attempts to ignite and fuel sectarian and ethnic hatreds and divisions across the length and breadth of the Arab world.

In light of such developments, those eager to promote the survival of the Arab League as a framework for collective Arab action believe that the ability of this organisation to perform its desired role effectively is contingent on a number of factors:

1. The league’s resumption of its commitment to the articles of its founding charter. In this regard, it must rescind any action it took against any of the states that took part in the establishment of the league. In particular, it should revoke the decision regarding the suspension of membership of a founding member such as Syria. The league should have been part of the solution to the Syrian crisis, rather than lending itself to becoming part of the problem and a factor that only aggravated it further.

2. Measures to implement all the resolutions adopted in Arab League summits to promote collective Arab action in the realms of politics, the economy, defence, education, the media and social affairs. There are reportedly more than 3,000 decisions or resolutions that have been shelved and left to gather dust. Putting them into effect will stimulate a major transformation in the lives of the Arab peoples. Priority should be given to the Arab Joint Defence and Arab Common Market agreements which, if implemented, will realise aspirations for security and development of the Arab region.

3. Egypt’s resumption of its effective leadership role, at the level of the region and its causes and at the level of the Arab League itself. In spite of its arduous circumstances at present, Egypt is still poised and equipped to work together with central countries in the Arab region to steer collective Arab action that can be a source of strength for Egypt and the Arab nation at the same time.

4. The development of an Arab people’s system in tandem with the official system. Bringing on board forces from civil society organisations operating at the Arab regional level, the people’s system would exercise oversight on the activities of the Arab League and could form lobbies to pressure in favour of the adoption and implementation of resolutions in the fields of collective Arab action. The Arab National Convention that was held in Khartoum in 2009 adopted a proposal calling for creating such an Arab People’s League that would operate parallel to — not instead of — the League of Arab States.

The future of nations and peoples, let alone regional and international organisations, is not determined by wishes, however sincere, or by slogans, however dazzling. It is achieved by diligent and persistent work, at all levels, and through communication, combined efforts and cumulative experience among all dynamic forces in the Arab region.

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