Arab Globalization vs. International Globalization [Archives:2001/37/Law & Diplomacy]

September 10 2001

Mohammed Khidhr
A few years ago, many European countries held a conference to study and discuss means and ways for staving off problems and conflicts in Europe. The attendees discussed plans on how to spot areas of potential tensions and how to try to trace their causes and offer solutions to avoid these conflicts. The Europeans seem to have developed a mechanism aimed at prevention a problem from degenerating into a conflict instead of waiting for its emergence and then trying to solve it. This mechanism can without any doubt of save time, efforts and many other things. There is no need to go any further in the European lengthy and successful efforts to realize the European unity. I still remember that the conference came out with a multilateral strategy to implement this project which could be a practical application of the proverb, ” Prevention is better than cure.” What the European leaders and experts had done at that conference was only part of a multidimensional plan to achieve the European unity.
As Arab countries, we belong to one family sharing a common nationality and history. We are in great need of political, economic, cultural, and social unity. We possess all the required elements to realize this goal. What we really need is an investment in these fields and the willingness to act concretely.
In fact, I remembered this European conference while attending a series of meetings at the Intellectual Symposium on Future of Yemeni-Gulf Relations which I reckon being a big step forward in the reconciliation and cementing of Arab-Arab relations.
The Intellectual Symposium on ”Future of Yemeni-Gulf Relations” was held in Sana’a on 7-8 August 2001. It could prompt many Arab writers and intellectuals to tackle this vital issue. It is indeed a question of essential interest for all Arab intellectuals and thinkers specialized in Arab social, political and economic affairs. Although the symposium’s title seems to be regional in its scope, its jurisdiction in reality goes beyond and include the entire Arab nation and all Arab countries. It can be argued that tackling and drawing the boundaries of Yemeni-Gulf relations can be taken as an example of inter-Arab relations which can introduce a more comprehensive picture covering Arab-Arab relations as a whole.
Over two days, the symposium offered discussions on various working papers dealing with Arab relations and workshops laying down proposals and recommendations. I do not want to go into the details of the symposium but I thought to concentrate on one of the visions that the symposium had come out with: ”Considering unity of the Arab peninsula and the Gulf and the unity of its issues as a launch pad for continuous actions, for further meetings and dialogues, as well as an impetus for joint cultural cooperation.”
A long time ago, world nations adopted the conclusion that being part of various political, economic and social groups is primordial. Although many nations were aware of this necessity decades ago, the world of the third millennium has made them realize that their inclusion into groups and blocks should be sped up in order to keep pace with rapid developments, more especially in technology which plays an important role in our daily lives.
A closer look into Arab reality would lead us to dreadful conclusions. As one nation, we are divided into more than 22 politically separate entities with a variety of political and economic systems. The more time passes the more seeds of division are growing within our large Arab entity. Our ruling regimes are greatly responsible of our nation’s division instead of trying to unify her ranks. On the other hand, they try hard to strengthen their individual ties with other world regions without even bothering to give priority to inter-Arab relations. The equation is thus turned upside down making national policies run against the unification trend that is supposed to be the priority.
We can find some weak and incomplete Arab associations, such as the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Maghreb States grouping. However, they are in such condition that they do not play a real and effective role in unifying the Arab people and they fall short of their goals to create such groups in order to meet supposedly Arab people aspirations.
The Arab League was established more than half a century ago. It has achieved so far very little and has not raised to the level of its declared objectives. It has not achieved the Arab unity nor Arab economic unity. It has not even been really successful in solving disputes or disagreements occurring among the Arab states, nor it has drawn up a practical mechanism to do that. The Arab League is thus far behind its stated objectives. The League’s failure is obvious in political, economic and military issues, as it has never been able to settle successfully Arab-Arab disputes. The most recent example is the crisis between Iraq and Kuwait that led in 1990 to a devastating war which has made the Iraqi people suffer from its consequences. The Arab League played a negative role that paved the way for foreign intervention and consequently the occupation of the Gulf region under the pretext of protecting the area against the so-called Iraqi threats. In fact, it is aimed at protecting the US and British imperialist interests, particularly in maintaining flow of Arab oil to continue their hostile war machine against the Arab nation. The Arab League is in practice an enhancement of Arab division into more than 22 political entities having a similar number of different orientations.
As I mentioned earlier, other Arab regional groups are present but have not met so far the aspirations of the Arab people.
In the beginning of the 80s in the 20th century, the GCC was created and six Arab Gulf states were its members: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. Iraq, though a Gulf state, was excluded for various reasons and most probably because of various foreign interventions. This situation also applies to Yemen. After more that twenty years since its establishment, the GCC has not achieved much, neither internally nor regionally. Population of the six states are Arabs, still it needs visas and passports to travel from one member state to another and duration of their stays are limited. No educational, political, economic, military and monetary unity has so far been achieved within the GCC. Disputes among the GCC member states, such as those related to border demarcation or territorial sovereignty, are not and could not be solved by the leadership of the association. An stark illustration of this inability is the continuous dispute between Qatar and Bahrain over some islands was solved after both countries resorted to arbitration at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Is not that shameful?
The ball is now in hands of the Arab people to urgently change the Arab miserable reality. They depend on political parties, organizations and a multitude of civil society groups to activate this important role. They should work out an Arab version of globalization tailored-made to the Arab nation in all fields. By this, they will be capable of adapting their daily life and to deal with and establish a relationship with the ”global” globalization.
On the political level, all Arab political parties and movements should unify their political attitudes by putting down political barriers which separate them. First, they must unify and coordinate their policies within the boundaries of their own countries and come out with one stand towards Arab issues. Then, they should hold a political conference with an agenda covering all Arab issues with proposed realistic solutions and recommendations. They, as a political popular front, would refer them to their countries’ leaders by calling a summit conference. This would place their leaders on the touchstone to rescue the nation from the deteriorating situation and averting the tragedy from happening. The most alarming crisis, which has been an invincible obstacle for more than a decade, is the situation between Kuwait and Iraq. Arab political parties and movements must promptly take some initiatives to find a peaceful settlement to this tragic crisis affecting not only the Arab people in both Iraq and Kuwait but also the entire Arab nation. Solving this crisis would make the nation devote all its efforts to backing the Arab people of Palestine in their heroic resistance against the Zionist usurpatory entity and the spearhead of US imperialism in the region.
The economic situation within the Arab states is calamitous. Huge amounts of Arab capital are invested abroad and not in the Arab countries themselves except for limited amounts. There is not really an effective economic cooperation and integration among the Arab states and the so-called Arab economic unity is just an entity dreamed of. Arab countries, especially the Gulf states, hire millions of foreign labor instead of Arab manpower. The latter is not less capable or efficient than foreign labor, but for mainly political or other undeclared reasons, Arab labor is excluded.In my point of view, foreign labor should not be hired if it is at the expense of Arab labor. Arab governments, unfortunately, deal with Arab citizens from other Arab countries in accordance with criteria and policies subject to the nature of relations between the ruling regimes. On many occasions, Arab employees are expelled or deported by some governments because a dispute or a restrained relationship arose with the employees’ country of origin. Political disputes between Arab regimes always lead to severance of economic agreements and contracts, heedless of their respective peoples’ interests. 7

Hence, it is the duty of Arab businessmen and commercial corporations to establish inter-Arab trade and economic transactions, i.e. in a manner leading to create an Arab economic integration. Their major investments must be first in Arab countries, as their attitude would enhance and activate an integrated Arab economy by the creation of thousands of jobs and a common interest. It would be the Arabic version of economic globalization within the boundary of the Arab world. This would thus form a solid and broad economic base capable of trade transactions with other world economic associations in the West and the East.
All these proposals and ideas need to be urgently planned and rapidly implemented. This fight will be of benefit for the entire Arab nation because time is running away and developments in the political, economic, technological and scientific fields are so fast. Let us move swiftly before it is too late! The future generations would not pardon us if we fail to do so, especially if they would find themselves lagging behind other nations.