Officially known as the League of Arab States, the Arab League is made up of African and Asian countries that speak Arabic. The main aim of the union is to promote the sovereignty, independence, interests and affairs of member states. As of 2021, there were 22 member countries in the Arab League and 4 observer countries. It was formed in 1945 in Cairo with only 6 member countries. 

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are known to be the dominant countries in the League.

The 22 member countries 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. Apart from these member countries, there are 4 observer countries – Brazil, Eritrea, India and Venezuela. 

The Arab League members vary widely in terms of wealth, population, GDP and literacy. The League facilitates cooperation and limits conflict between its member nations by helping them coordinate cultural and government programs, including agreements for economic cooperation, joint defense, free trade and other such initiatives. All member countries are predominantly Muslim and mostly speak Arabic.

When the League was created in 1945, many member countries were still under colonial rule. So, freeing them from this rule and creating the Jewish state of Israel to prevent Palestine from disintegrating were the major concerns of the time. 

Conflicts between members of the Arab League 

Divisions and conflicts between the member states have stood in the way of the Arab League’s influence and effectiveness. Rivalry over whether Iraq or Egypt should lead the League has contributed to this. Back during the Cold War, divisions came up in the form of certain members supporting the West while others supported the Soviet Union. 

The attack on Iraq by the United States created serious divisions among the member countries. Many of these countries have also undergone critical and widespread changes in government under their leaders, creating disruptions among themselves. 

Resolutions decided upon don’t need unanimous member approval. But these resolutions are binding only on the countries that vote for them. This reduces the effectiveness of the League and often leads to mere declarations instead of implementing sound policies. 

The Arab League Council 

The highest body in the Arab League is the League Council. It is made up of representatives from the member countries. Each member country is allotted one vote. The representatives are usually foreign ministers, their representatives, or permanent delegates. 

The Council is normally scheduled to meet two times every year. But if two or more members feel the need to meet for important reasons, they may request a special session. The general secretary heads the Council and the day-to-day operations of the body are overseen by the general secretariat. The general secretariat manages the administrative functions and is the executive body of the Council and the other specialized ministerial councils. 

The Arab League and the Arab Spring 

Even though there have been divisions among the member countries of the Arab League, during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the whole union acted unanimously. All the members supported the actions taken by the United Nations against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya. Syria was also unanimously suspended from taking part in the Council. 

Recent activity 

In 2014, the Arab League vehemently opposed ISIS (Islamic State) and many of the member countries even carried out airstrikes against the terror organization. However, the League did not do much to help the Shiite Iraqi government to stabilize the country. In a more recent development, the Arab League condemned the invasion of Syria by Turkey and asked the latter to call back all its forces in 2018 and 2019. 

The League has been active in the past 2 years, calling for a denouncement of the plan Israel had to annex the Jordan Valley. In 2020, it refused to accept the Middle East peace plan drafted by U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration. In 2021, the League asked Somalia to resume the parliamentary and presidential elections that had been postponed. 

FAQs on the Arab League 

1. Does the Arab League Still Exist?

Yes, it does. But, of late, various members have been declining positions and roles and skipping summits of the League. This may be a sign that all is not well within the League. Many experts feel that the League is not able to function effectively and is unable to overcome problems due to the fact that there is severe internal divisiveness among the member countries. This results in prefabricated resolutions that are outdated and against Israel. 

2. Who Is the Leader of the Arab League?

Ahmed Aboul Gheit has been the Secretary-General of the Arab League since 2016, leading the union.

3. What Is the Purpose of the Arab League?

The main purpose of the Arab League is to promote cooperation among its member countries. It tries to do this through matters that commonly interest all parties such as economics, nationality., culture, communication, health, social welfare, and many others. The goal is to bring the member nations closer together and help them collaborate with each other. 


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