Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Arab League between Reality and Challenges | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Foreign ministers of the Arab League take part in an emergency meeting at the League’s headquarters in Cairo March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

I have a traditional bias to those who swear to protect nations and sacrifice souls for their sake. I have a deep-rooted conviction that military institutions were and still are one of the essential elements of national fabric coherence in Arab countries regardless of their political regimes and social formations.

If we tackle the issue from a strategic angle, the Arab world is now in a defensive position as it has become a target for attacks from more than one direction. The most dangerous types of attacks ever are those that are home grown, causing an unprecedented burden on security and military bodies of the region’s states.

Complexity lies in the absence of a single cause of events and crises. My generation grew up when the Palestinian cause was essential for having clear and definite dimensions. On the contrary, today there is no cause of such an impact on the Arab world as a whole.

And, the Arab world will not witness prosperity as long as there is chaos in any Arab country.

The Arab League continues to be the only platform for Arabism and the fact that its role hasn’t stopped throughout decades is a reflection of inter-Arab relations.

Risks that we are facing today have become crystal clear for citizens – terrorism under the banner of Islam is no more a theoretical idea or mental image but a reality full of tragedies and disasters – a reality that has been rejected by the majority of citizens after their experience with ISIS.

However, terrorism is not the only challenge we are facing. There are a series of other challenges that are no less dangerous. Some of them are geopolitical such as the failure to have a central authority in Yemen, Libya and Syria, as well as the growing regional greed of neighboring countries including Iran and Israel.

Some other challenges are economic and social, such as drop in oil prices, economic slowdown, and failure to achieve sustainable development.

Yet, Arab regimes still lack institutionalism and the ability to work collectively in confronting challenges that require a joint strategy. For example one of the faults in the Arab system is the absence of a unified defense strategy.

The region requires a huge economic recovery that grants the Arab youths opportunities to unleash their potentials. Our societies must be able to generate wealth by improving highly-productive sectors and putting an end to dependency on oil resources as well as moving towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Arab League remains the only framework that can fulfill these goals and face these challenges – it is true that the league’s work has been associated with political issues but its role is wider than that.

Certainly, the collective movement of Arabs through the league grants them greater power against other entities and ensures cooperation among them.

Joint Arab work is now a must and not an option. It is a necessity for survival.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit is Arab League’s Secretary-General