Arab League’s Challenges decades after its Establishment!

Listening to some Arab leaders describe their countries’ internal challenges during the recent Arab Submit should help us to understand why we have been living with the same difficulties for decades; unable to provide true and valid resolutions. Culturally, Arabs tend to present their problems without offering practical solutions, accusing their opponents of being difficult and stubborn – and eventually labeling them as enemies. When delivering their speeches, Arab leaders usually sound as if their aim is to share their pains with their peers, but they show no desire to arrive at permanent solutions to their problems.

A couple of decades ago, we Arabs had to contend with a single complex crisis (the Arab-Israeli conflict); today we are living with internal conflicts in each of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, along with various concealed conflicts in Lebanon, Sudan and Egypt. Nevertheless, apart from expressing an earnest desire to resolve our problems, the League of Arab States did not submit for debate a single concrete proposal aimed at resolving any of these conflicts at the recent Arab Submit.

In a way, the League of Arab States symbolizes our chronic Arab challenges. The League that was established with the goal of uniting Arab nations to better deal with external challenges is today stuck with the internal challenges of its own member states. The League that was supposed to become the mind and engine that drive Arab nations forward has managed to gradually weaken its role, becoming a financial burden on the Arab nation without contributing any clear outputs. The League is continually expanding its bureaucratic mechanism; it hosts many experts who are over-compensated but don’t have a clear mandate to address our challenges.

Every time a new Secretary General is elected (and they are generally persons of high caliber), I tend to revive my hope that he will manage to stimulate the role of the League. My infantile hopes are then dashed as it materializes that having been a good Egyptian bureaucrat has helped the new incumbent to assume the post of Secretary General of this deadweight entity. The Arab League that was supposed to act politically on behalf of its member states has recently been delisted from invitations to many political conferences organized by relevant stakeholders who have come to regard the League as an entity of no value.

Most Arab governments don’t want other nations to offer ideas that could solve their problems; in our region, such proposals are defined as ‘external interference’. Each country is happy to live with its challenges and crises for decades, willing to accept any support that strengthens the regime in power – but instantly declining any initiative that might undermine the ruling regime. This being the implicit behavior of most of our nations, do we still need the League of Arab States that contributes nothing while imposing significant financial obligations on its member states?

Our main dilemma and challenge lies in the prevalent culture in this region that prevents us from ruling inclusively. To be able to solve some of our problems, we need to agree that leaders in power are not always right to relegate national opposition parties to the ‘wrong side’; at the very least, this prevents them from benefitting from any solutions the opposition may propose. Additionally, our common language is not the only thing that can unite us; we Arabs need a level of political maturity that does not exist in most of the nation; accepting and tolerating ideas put forth by Arab citizens to solve our problems is the only way to move us forward.

To modernize the Arab League, we could begin by recruiting heads of committees and departments based on their ability to devise solutions to our challenges, instead of continuing to rely on the current bureaucratic mechanism that offers secure high-paying jobs, with no accountability. Furthermore, the Egyptian state that insists that the Secretary General of the League of Arab States be an Egyptian should also ascertain that this Secretary General is committed to carry out a specific mandate, prior to his nomination.

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