Arab League… Establishment Phase, Decades of Joint Action

Doha: Over the course of eight decades, Arab leaders held 46 summits, including 32 regular and 16 emergency sessions, alongside 4 Arab economic development summits. The 33rd Summit, hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain, comes at a critical juncture amidst significant political, security and geopolitical challenges in the region, the most notable is the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the deaths and injuries of tens of thousands of Palestinians, and necessitates unity and solidarity to support the historic and foremost cause of Arabs and Muslims.

The idea of establishing an institution advocating Arab unity and coordinating Arab collective action dates back to the early 20th century. Various individuals and entities circulated ideas and opinions calling for the consolidation of relations and unified efforts during colonial times, with the aim of aligning Arab positions and raising voices for independence and sovereignty.

These calls became more serious during WWII, specifically in 1942, when the Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa el-Nahas delivered a speech in the Senate declaring Egypt’s intention of convening a conference for Arab leaders to discuss the issue of Arab unity. This was echoed by the positions of King Abdullah I of Jordan, which aligned with el-Nahas’s calls. The first concrete step towards establishment was taken with el-Nahas inviting both the Syrian Prime Minister Jamil Mardam Bey and the Lebanese National Bloc leader Bechara El Khoury in 1944 to discuss the idea of establishing an Arab League in Cario.

A series of bilateral and preparatory consultations between Egypt and the Arab states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen began. The prevailing direction at the time was to ensure that the establishment of the Arab League did not affect the independence and sovereignty of the signatory states. The preparatory committee settled on adopting the name ‘League of Arab States’ and endorsed the ‘Alexandria Protocol,’ which became the first document related to the League, signed by the heads of the participating delegations on October 7, 1944.

After holding 16 meetings at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Alexandria, amendments were approved, and the Charter of the League of Arab States was announced. On March 22, 1945, the seven Arab countries called for the signing of the Charter, with Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan being the first signatories followed by Saudi Arabia and Yemen. March 22 of every year became the day of celebration for the League of Arab States, which now comprises 22 countries.

In 1946, between May 28 and 29, the Inshas Summit was held. It was the first conference of Arab leaders convened at the invitation of King Farouk I. The seven founding countries of the Arab League (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria) attended. The first conference issued a set of resolutions focusing on assisting colonized Arab peoples in achieving their independence, emphasizing that the Palestinian issue is central to national causes, as it is inseparable from other Arab countries.

The League of Arab States became the first international organization established after World War II, preceding the United Nations by months. Its aim was to activate cooperation among member states, as affirmed in its Charter, which stressed the consolidation of Arab relations and support for Arab bonds based on respecting the independence, sovereignty, law reforms, and institution organization of these countries.

The Charter of the League includes a preamble for approval, aiming to strengthen Arab relations and ties, along with twenty articles and three special annexes. The first annex concerns Palestine, with a Palestinian delegate attending as an observer in the League’s council meetings until its independence is achieved. The second annex focuses on cooperation with non-independent Arab states at that time and coordinating with their leaderships. The third annex approved the appointment of Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, as the first Secretary-General of the League for two years.

Article Twelve of the Charter outlines the establishment of the League’s Secretariat, to be formed by a Secretary-General, assistant secretaries, and a number of staff. The Council of the League appoints the Secretary-General with a two-thirds majority for a renewable five-year term. The Secretary-General, with the Council’s approval, appoints the assistant secretaries and principal staff of the League. Seven Secretaries-General have served, including Abdul Rahman Azzam, Mohamed Abdul Khalek Hassouna, Mahmoud Riad, Chedli Klibi, Esmat Abdel-Meguid, Amr Moussa, and Nabil Elaraby, with Ahmed Aboul Gheit currently serving since 2016.

The League of Arab States consists of three main branches established according to the Charter’s provisions: the Council of the League, the Permanent Committees, and the General Secretariat, in addition to bodies established by the Joint Defense and Economic Co-operation Treaty signed in 1950 and bodies established by resolutions of the League’s Council, as well as ministerial councils concerned with health, tourism, and security matters.

Source: Qatar News Agency