Thursday, March 24, 2005

About the notorious Arab League

Summits that showcase Arab disunity

People in the Middle East have learned not to expect much of substance from the annual Arab League summit.

"The Arabs have agreed not to agree."

That is the cynical refrain often heard on Arab streets when the region's leaders hold their annual summit.

Arab public opinion has long learnt that these Arab League summits are almost invariably disappointing.
Well, the Arab League is one of those Cold War era, supposedly non-aligned regional/cultural organizations that often ended up being a conglomerate of dictators, each backed by one or the other super-power. This was also the case, for instance, of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union) for many years. These organizations ended-up being meeting and chatting clubs for the despots/dictators, while at the same time displaying all the outward appearance of serious regional cooperation, "for the good of all people, God willing". The African Union is slowly transforming itself into a credible people-oriented force to be reckoned with. The Arab league, on the other hand, is still lagging behind. Like we are seeing in the UN, it needs to stop being a council of rulers, and start being a council of the Arab people, as represented by their legitimate leaders. And for that, there will be a great need for reforms... that no amount of US propaganda and Iraq wars will provide: it will have to come from the streets of "Arabia", in their own time, and in their own way. If there is something the Arab World has taught us, it is that undue pressure tends to yield quite the opposite results from what one expects. I still wonder...

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