Middle East

The Arab League

The Arab League (the League of Arab States)is a union of Arabic-speaking African and Asian countries, formed in Cairo on March 22, 1945, to promote and advance “the independence, sovereignty, affairs, and interests of its member countries”

This union was established to be a viable platform to advocate for the interests of its member states. In order words, an outgrowth of Pan-Arabism.

The founding member states were Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan (now Jordan), Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. And other members are “Libya (1953); Sudan (1956); Tunisia and Morocco (1958); Kuwait (1961); Algeria (1962); Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (1971); Mauritania (1973); Somalia (1974); the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO; 1976); Djibouti (1977); and Comoros (1993).”

Due to the violent suppression of opposing revolts in Syria in 2011, it was suspended from the league, and Yemen provided two regional governmental representations from 1967 to 1990 when it was a divided country, the two regimes were both represented.  

As of 2021, the member states of the League increased to 22 with five observers. The member states include Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. And the observers are Brazil, Eritrea, India, and Venezuela.

King Hussein of Jordan (1935 – 1999) is welcomed
by officials upon his arrival in Khartoum to attend
the Arab League Summit, Sudan, August 1967.
The summit was held in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Summarily, the Arab League is a regional multi-national organization of Arabic-speaking countries on the African and Asian continents, whose mission is to enhance trade, economic development, growth and sovereignty and stability in the region. In addition, is the mediation of disputes among them or between them and third parties.

On April 13, 1950, an agreement was signed by the member states to jointly maintain the regional defence and economic togetherness; this also made the signatories execute military defence measures.

Arab League: The Structure

This league’s organisation is of a council, a special committee, and a permanent secretariat. The headquarter of the secretariat is in Cairo, Egypt. Constitutionally enshrined is the arrangement and coordination among the member states on fundamental matters like education, finance, law, trade, and foreign policy, and its forbid to resort to force as a means of settling disputes.

10th January 1955: Delegates to the Arab League
meeting in Cairo (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

When an Arab Parliament was established in 2005, its members are drawn from each parliament of the signatory nations. They deliberate on social, economic and cultural issues, basically.

Arab League: The Council

Comprising representatives from the member states two general sessions a year, the Council of the League is the supreme organ of the organisation. In times of urgency or any other circumstances, if requested by two members, an extraordinary session(s) can be established.

The activities of the League are managed by the Council; which plays a significant role to confirm the execution/implementation of reached agreements, and also appoints the Secretary-General. In the League Council, each signatory state has a vote and the decisions of the Council are binding only for those states that have voted for them.

The Joint Defense Council

This was established after the signing of the 1950 treaty for collective security and economic cooperation.  This Council is composed of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defense from all the member states.

The Economic and Social Council

This organ replaced the Economic Council which had been created following the treaty in June 1950, and the very aim of the Council is to advance the economic and social engagements of the member states. In addition, it also manages the activities of the specialized agencies that are established in the system of the League of Arab States.

Among the most significant of these are “the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Fund for Assistance to Arab and African Countries, the Arab Monetary Fund, the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, the Industrial Development Centre for the Arab States, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Arab Council for Civil Aviation, the Arab Postal Union, the Arab Telecommunication Union, the Arab Labour Council, and the Council for Arab Unity.”

Arab League: The Committees

There are three categories of the committees: the committees which establish the main institutions of the League; ad hoc Committees, responsible for carrying out specific tasks; and Permanent Committees, which play a significant part in the working of the League.

The Secretariat General

This is the institution of the League of the Arab States which is responsible for carrying out decisions taken by the Council of the League. The Secretariat General is headed by the Secretary-General and the assistance of many “Assistant Secretary Generals and a staff some of whom are permanent, and some temporary.”

Riyadh, SAUDI ARABIA: Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mussa (L),
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz (C) and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal (R) attend the closing session of the Arab Summit in Riyadh, 29 March 2007.
Arab leaders today wrapped up a summit where they relaunched a five-year-old blueprint for peace in the Middle East, although Israel has rejected the plan as it stands.
The proposal offers Israel peace and normal ties if it withdraws from all land seized in the 1967 war, allows the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees. AFP PHOTO/HASSAN AMMAR (Photo credit should read HASSAN AMMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The election of the Secretary-General is by a majority, two-thirds of the members, but usually he has been unanimously selected. The appointment of the Secretary-General is for five years. He is the representative of the Arab world at the international level.

Arab League: Governance

The Arab League is a regional multi-national organization of Arabic-speaking countries on the African and Asian continents, whose mission is to enhance trade, economic development, growth and the sovereignty and stability in the region

While respecting the sovereignty of every member state, the Charter of the Arab League supported the idea of an Arab homeland. The Council of the League and the committees had their international regulations agreed upon in October 1951, and in May 1953, the same thing with those of the Secretariat-General.


Since then, the governance of the Arab League has been based on the duality of supra-national institutions and the sovereignty of the member states. Preservation of individual statehood derived its strengths from the natural preference of ruling elites to maintain their power and independence in decision making.

Notably the differences between the richer and poorer create a fear of losing out wealth in the name of Arab nationalism; the Arab feuds and the influence of external powers that might oppose Arab unity are challenges towards a viable integration of the League.

Arab League and the Arab Spring

During the “Arab Spring” uprisings in early 2011, the League did not act decisively and unanimously. “It supported the United Nations’ action against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya.” And also Syria was suspended from participation in the Council.

Arab League: Recent Developments

While the League condemned the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 with its several member states launching airstrikes against the terrorist organisation, little was done to aid the Iraqi government from the Shiite-led leadership.

The Turkish invasion of Syria was condemned by the League and it called it to withdraw in 2018 and 2019.

Arab League and the Middle East

The position of the League on the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian question has been swerving. Israel’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley in 2019 were condemned by the League and also it rejected in early 2020 the Middle East peace plan advanced by the Republican U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s administration, saying it “does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.”

Several members seemed to be well with the plan. The United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize ties with the Jewish state in September was not condemned by the League.

Currently as of April 2022, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary-General is the head of the Arab League. Turkey though expressed interest in joining the Arab League and had requested observer’s status but had been rejected several times.

Turkey faces cautions from the League during its military aggression against neighbouring states like Syria and also its glaring opposition from Iraq (whose Kurdish citizens Turkey has frequently battled with) are all challenges for it to become a member state.

There are internal disputes in the League majorly due to external influence. The political unity suffers a setback by “division between pro-Western member countries and neutralist or pro-Soviet ones; more recently the division has been between militant Islamic fundamentalists and Arab moderates.”

However, the League has been greatly influencing the decisions of the Arab world in terms of political stability, social and economic developments and counter-terrorism activities with respect to the sovereignty of every signatory state.

References

  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2020, November 20). Arab League. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Arab-League
  2. Arab League. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press. Infoplease. (Access date April 18, 2022) Available at https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/social-science/government/intl-orgs/arab-league
  3. Will Kenton. Arab League. Updated December 11, 2021 Reviewed by. Chip Stapleton. Investopedia. (Access date April 18, 2022). Access URL: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/arab-league.asp 
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About the author

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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