Reforms in the Arab League in progress [Archives:2005/835/Reportage]

April 21 2005
H.E. Ambassador Dr. Hussein Hassouna
H.E. Ambassador Dr. Hussein Hassouna
By Walid al-Saqqaf
Washington, DC
For The Yemen Times

There seems to be a solid commitment by Arab countries to reform the Arab League and make it a more effective institution that would help urgently needed reforms in the Arab world, said Dr. Hussein Hassouna, the Ambassador of the League of Arab States in Washington DC on April 15.

Dr. Hassouna emphasized that the Arab League, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this month, is suffering from a number of problems, which could all be solved if its member countries were more committed.

“The Arab League was established at a different time under different conditions and it needs to change so as to cope with the challenges of the current world,” he said.

He pointed out the need to bring more transparency and democracy into the Arab League, ensure financial dues to the League are paid from the members and most important of all, guarantee that adopted resolutions are implemented.

“The Arab League is going through a soul-searching process to rethink what it has achieved and how it can be more effective in the more challenging world of today.”

Dr. Hassouna stressed on the need to follow up and ensure the enforcement of all resolutions adopted. “We need to create a follow-up mechanism to see that those resolutions are implemented. After adopting a resolution, we need to follow-up and see why it wasn't fully implemented by some or all member countries” he added.

The Ambassador said it was clear that this year's Arab summit held in Algiers in March, was a milestone that showed that its members are changing their mindsets and are accepting change and reform as an inevitable factor toward development and prosperity. He noted a number of decisions taken during the summit which, if implemented, will bring a new era to the Arab world.

Among those important developments in the summit, Dr. Hussouna said, was a plan to establish an Arab Security Council, similar to that of the United Nations, to look into the security challenges of Arab states and contain crises before they get out of hand and without having to take them out of the Arab framework.

Arab countries have also agreed to allow Arab civil society to be involved in the work of the social and economic Council of the Arab League. “This is a good development as the League is becoming more democratic.” said Dr. Hassouna.

He also noted another decision to establish an Arab Parliament, which will be representing the populations of each member country and will not in any way be appointed by governments.

Furthermore, the summit also considered the establishment of an Arab Court of Justice with Arab judges dealing with legal issues between the members. “This has been a step that we all have been awaiting for a very long time.” Dr. Hassouna said.

“I find it unbelievable that legal issues, for instance, involving border differences between two Arab countries, are filed before the International Court of Justice instead of being dealt with in an Arab framework.”

The summit also considered the creation of pan-Arab financial institutions within the framework of the Arab League. This includes an Arab Development Bank to help less developed countries develop more rapidly with the assistance of richer Arab countries. Establishing an Arab Investment Bank was also seen as an important step for better growth for the region.

“So as you can see, the Arab League is reforming gradually. Reform cannot come overnight. It needs time and a lot of follow-up I think the League is on the right track, but it is all down to the political will of the member states. If they want reform and change to the better, they can achieve it.” Dr. Hassouna said.

Dr. Hassouna affirmed the importance of having Arab countries themselves understand the implications of keeping the status quo. He emphasized that all Arab countries must realize the need to have “the political will to push for reform” both in their countries and in the Arab League.

“If Arab countries don't stick together and don't integrate with each other to form one strong bloc, they will have no global weight in the future.”