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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Info Post
(Published in The New Indian Express, School Edition, on 22 November, 2011, retrieved from

NOTE: This is not opinion; it's something like a lesson out of a History textbook, intended for schoolkids, and possibly journalists who need to write an explanatory article or package, are time-pressed, and therefore free to plagiarise.

The League of Arab States, usually referred to simply as ‘Arab League’, is an organisation of Arab nations, predominantly Muslim and with a shared cultural and linguistic history. It was formed in 1945 by Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan (now Jordan), Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria after the signing of the Alexandria Protocol, and joined almost immediately by North Yemen (now Yemen). Interestingly, the idea for an Arab League was first mooted by the British government.
The membership later expanded to 22, including one which is not a fully independent nation (Palestine). Syria’s membership was recently suspended, following its refusal to follow the League’s Peace Plan to tackle the violence that has broken out in the country. Four observers – India, Brazil, Eritrea, and Venezuela – have been appointed too. The headquarters of the League are in Cairo, Egypt.
The primary goal of the League was political, social and economic unity. Members signed a pact, agreeing to respect and safeguard each other’s independence and sovereignty, to settle disputes without war, and to coordinate policies on matters of mutual concern, such as commerce and foreign policy. A treaty for cooperation on defence and economy was signed later.
The League is controlled by a policy-making body, the League Council, in which each member state is equally represented and has equal say. Every member gets one vote, and the decisions are binding only on the states that have voted in favour of them.
History and Governance of the Arab League
The Arab League was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members, following the adoption of the Alexandria Protocol in 1944. Yemen joined in on 5 May 1945. The League was established in order to promote and protect the interests of the Arab world, and increase cooperation and collaboration amongst its member countries.
The Arab League operates like a Parliament, with foreign affairs being dealt with under the supervision of the United Nations. Its guiding document is the Charter of the Arab League, which endorsed the idea of an Arab homeland, while strictly respecting the sovereignty of its member states, which range from constitutional and absolute monarchies, to republics, to military dictatorships.
Its members include Iraqi Kurdistan, which is considered an ‘Autonomous Entity’ and Palestine, which is considered a fully independent state. Outside the League, though, this is not the case, as control of Palestine – which consists of the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories – is divided between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority.
One of the main aims of the Arab League was to settle disputes between Arab countries without interference from the rest of the world. An Arab Court of Justice has been proposed, along the lines of other international courts. The members mostly meet at annual Summits, and occasionally at Emergency Summits called to discuss specific, urgent issues.
What Has it Achieved?
Political: The first major intervention of the Arab League was in the Palestinian issue in 1948, though that was seen more as a tussle between Egypt and Transjordan. Transjordan had agreed with the newly-created State of Israel to divide up the Arab Palestinian state, and Egypt along with the Arab League intervened to prevent this. The resolution of the issue took much longer, though. At the Cairo Summit of 1964, the Arab League pushed for the creation of an organisation representing the Palestinian people. The first Palestinian National Council convened in East Jerusalem on 29 May 1964. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded on 2 June 1964. The Arab League has continued to play an active role in the Israeli-Arab conflict since, with the Arab Peace Initiative and by sending delegations to speak to Israeli authorities about economic blockades and armed attacks.
In July 1958, when Lebanon was threatened by a civil war between Maronite Christians and Muslims, the Arab League and the US intervened, and after the crisis ended, the Arab League established cordial relations with the transitional government.
In 1998, the Arab League drafted a regional anti-terrorism pact, agreeing to deny refuge, training and financial or military support to groups that launch attacks on other Arab countries, and also to exchange information on terrorist groups. However, there is a slight contradiction here – while ‘resistance movements’ are exempted, the treaty says attacks on ruling regimes or families will be considered ‘terror’.
In recent times, the Arab League has rapped several of its members, such as Libya and Syria, on the knuckles, for using force against civilians, and thus flouting some of its basic principles. These two countries have been suspended at various points, though Libya has since been reinstated.
Economic: Several documents and agreements promoting economic integration, such as the Joint Arab Economic Action Charter, have been drafted by the Arab League. The countries that are members of the Arab League are diverse in terms of economy, literacy and other development-related criteria. Some, such as Kuwait, UAE, Egypt and Qatar rank high, while there are others such as Comoros and Djibouti that lag behind.
While the Arab League has tried to foster economic cooperation by building a common market as early as 1965, and initiated projects such as the Arab Gas Pipeline and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), it is largely understood that organisations like the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been more successful in terms of ensuring economic progress.
However, the Arab League has extended support to troubled regions such as Darfur in Sudan, where it has donated $ 500 million, and built wells to provide water in the parched areas.
Special agencies of the Arab League include the Arab Postal Union, Arab Telecommunications Union, and Arab Organization for Agricultural Development.
Cultural: Discussions on the rights of women, and youth, sports and educational programmes in schools have featured in the Summits. Cultural exchanges between the nations, literacy campaigns, and awareness campaigns have often been carried out. The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) and the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League’s Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), have helmed most of these projects. All Arab League members are also members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.


England suggests the idea of the Arab League, to prevent Nazi Germany making gains in the Middle East.
22 March, 1945
Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan (now Jordan), Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria start the Arab League in Cairo.
5 May, 1945
North Yemen (now Yemen) joins in.
Libya joins the Arab League after two years of independence.
19 January, 1956
Sudan joins the League, after winning freedom from England and Egypt.
1 October, 1958
Morocco and Tunisia join the League.
20 July, 1961
Kuwait joins the League after 31 days of independence.
16 August, 1962
Algeria joins, about two months after independence.
2 June, 1964
The Palestinian Liberation Organization is founded.
South Yemen joins the League after independence.
United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain join the League.
26 November, 1973
Mauritania joins the League.
14 February, 1974
Somalia joins the League.
9 September, 1976
The Palestine Liberation Organization joins the League.
4 September, 1977  
Djibouti joins the Arab League; first country to do so before its independence.
22 May, 1990
North and South Yemen unify into Yemen.
The Comoros join the League.
22 April, 1998
Anti-terrorism pact is signed.
League decides to create an Arab Parliament headquartered in Damascus.
28 March, 2002
The League adopts the Arab Peace Initiative, offering complete normalisation of relations with Israel, if it withdraws from all occupied territories including the Golan Heights, recognises Palestinian independence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and provides a just solution for Palestinian refugees.
Eritrea and Brazil join in as observers.
September, 2006
Venezuela joins the League as an observer for one Summit.
April, 2007
India joins the League as an observer for one Summit.
July, 2007

Mission from the Arab League goes to Israel to promote the Peace Initiative, is welcomed with reservations.
22 February, 2011
Libya’s membership to the Arab League is suspended following use of force against civilians.
June, 2011
South Sudan gains independence from Sudan, chooses not to join the League.
13 June, 2010
Amr Mohammed Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, visits the Gaza Strip to pressure Israel to lift its economic blockade against Gaza, following the election of Hamas in 2007. Israel turns him down.
20 September,  2011
Arab Parliament recommends the suspension of Syria and Yemen, following reports of violence against regime opponents and activists during the Arab Spring.
21 October, 2011
Libya is reinstated as a member of the Arab League, after the takeover by its interim government, the National Transitional Council.
12 November, 2011
League suspends Syria’s membership for failing to honour the terms of its peace plan.


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