Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1326, (5-11 January 2017)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1326, (5-11 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Abul-Gheit and the state of the world

Change and adaptation are, according to the Arab League’s secretary-general, key characteristics and imperatives of the current world order, writes Al-Sayed Amin Shalaby

In his inaugural speech before the annual conference of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, 21-22 December 2016, it was indicative that the secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Abul-Gheit, gave much space to reading and analysing the basic features of the current state of world power relations and the emerging forces that influence the world scene, including extremism, nationalism and the revolt against globalisation. He believes that the world today is in state of anxiety and uncertainty — a world that became more dangerous amid a continuous rise of nationalisms.

What characterised the secretary-general’s reading was his focus on the revolt against globalisation. While its philosophy was based on transcending barriers, the free flow of people, trade and capital, we see today the return to protectionism, building walls among countries, imposing severe restrictions on people’s movements, and a refusal of international trade agreements. Abul-Gheit believes that migration is changing the face of the European policies.

On the balance of world powers, the secretary-general recalled the fact that US share in world GDP was 50 per cent following the end of World War II. Now its share is 20 per cent (this in the view of scholars indicates— to say the least — a relative decline in US power and consequently its world status). Related was the secretary-general’s reference to China as the emerging power, and its military prowess. In this context he recalled that Germany after World War I started to build its naval force. That is what China is doing today in the framework of its economic power, which enables it to finance its military capabilities.

As expected, the Arab region was not absent from Abul-Gheit’s vision on the state of the world today, regardless of signals of the US disengaging itself from the Middle East. The secretary-general believes that due to geostrategic trade and economic factors, particularly the region’s oil resources and its importance to world economy, the Middle East and its issues will remain at the core of the world strategies.

I believe that the secretary-general focusing on the changing nature of power relations reflects awareness that the Arab world, historically, has always been influenced by the state of the prevailing world order. During the Cold War between the Soviet and US superpowers, the region became one of the major arenas of that conflict. Even after the end of the Cold War and the bipolar system, the Arab world suffered under the new unipolar system led by the US, including in its destructive war on Iraq.

The implication of the secretary-general’s message is the need of the Arab world to closely follow the present transformational changes in the world and adapt to them.

The writer is former executive director of Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

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