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League of Arab States


this foremost pan-arab organization provides the institutional expression for the aspiration of arab unity.

The League of Arab States, also known as the Arab League, is composed of twenty-two independent Arab states that have signed the Pact of the League of Arab States. Palestine, represented by the Palestinian Authority, is included as an independent state. The multipurpose League of Arab States seeks to promote Arab interests in general, but especially economic and security interests. It also works to resolve disputes among members and between member states and nonmember states. It has the image of unity in the protection of Arab independence and sovereignty. It promotes political, military, economic, social, cultural, and developmental cooperation among its members.

The league is an international governmental organization with permanent headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. From 1979 to 1990 its headquarters were in Tunis. It maintains delegations at United Nations

facilities in New York and Geneva, and at the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It also has offices in such key cities as Washington, D.C., London, Moscow, Paris, Bonn, Beijing, Brussels, Vienna, Madrid, Rome, and New Delhi. The league has not realized the perfect Arab unity desired by some Arab nationalists. From its inception some states emphasized state sovereignty in accordance with the league's pact and rejected federalist or unionist proposals. The league not only serves the mutual interests of its members, but also reflects the differences. The league members agreed to an Arab Charter on Human Rights in 1994 and to the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism in 1998.


The League of Arab States was founded on 22 March 1945 with the signing of the pact by seven Arab states. Sixteen additional states joined, but in 1990 Yemen (Aden) and Yemen (Sanʿa) merged to form the Republic of Yemen, bringing the total to twenty-two.

Although the league was formed after World War II, the process that led to its creation is a function of the development of Arab nationalism, which predated the twentieth century but grew dramatically after World War II. Egyptian prime minister

Mustafa al-Nahhas, Iraqi prime minister Nuri alSaʿid, and Transjordan's King Abdullah I ibn Hussein are credited with being early architects of the league in the 1940s. The British initiated, in part, the preparatory talks leading to its creation. In the fall of 1944, seven Arab states met in Alexandria, Egypt, to discuss the creation of a "Commonwealth of Arab States." On 7 October 1944 Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan signed the Alexandria Protocol, which envisioned a league of independent states, rather than a union or federation. The main points of the protocol were subsequently incorporated into the league, as was an appendix stressing Palestinian independence. The league's initial members were Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan (now Jordan), and Yemen (Sanaa).

The league's general structure has remained intact since its formation, but the scope of its activities has expanded dramatically, especially in nonpolitical fields. The organization consists of a council, special committees, and a secretariat-general. In addition, the league has become an umbrella organization responsible for the numerous specialized agencies, unions, and other institutions created to promote Arab interests.


The pact established a council as the league's principal organ. It is composed of representatives of each member state, with each state having one vote. Unanimous decisions of the council are binding on all members. Majority decisions are binding only on those members that accepted them, except that majority decisions are enforceable on all members for certain specific matters relating to personnel, the budget, administrative regulations, and adjournment. The council implements league policies and pursues league goals. It meets twice a year, in March and September, but extraordinary meetings can be called at the request of two members.

Special committees have been established to support and represent the council. The league's committees have included the Political Committee, Culture Committee, Communications Committee, Social Committee, Legal Committee, Arab Oil Experts Committee, Information Committee, Health Committee, Human Rights Committee, Permanent Committee for Administration and Financial Affairs, Permanent Committee for Meteorology, Committee of Arab Experts on Cooperation, Arab Women's Committee, Organization of Youth Welfare, and Conference of Liaison Officers.

The secretariat-general consists of the secretary-general, assistant secretaries-general, and other principal officials of the league. It is responsible for administrative and financial activities. The council, with the approval of a two-thirds majority of the league's members, appoints the secretary-general to a renewable five-year term. The secretary-general has the rank of ambassador.

The office of the secretary-general was held by Egyptians during the first three decades of the league: Abd al-Rahman al-Azzam (19451952); Abd alKhaliq Hassuna (19521972); and Mahmud Riyad (19721979). A Tunisian, Chadli Klibi, held the post from 1979 until 1990. He resigned during the controversy surrounding the Gulf Crisis. Ahmad Ismat Abd al-Majid, an Egyptian, served as secretary-general from May 1991 to 2001. He was followed in 2001 by the popular Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa (also Musa).

In 1950 the Treaty of Joint Defense and Economic Cooperation complemented the league pact and provided for the establishment of the Joint Defense Council and the Permanent Military Commission. An Economic Council was set up under the treaty in 1953. An Arab Unified Military Command was formed in 1964. In 1976 an Arab Deterrent Force was sent to Lebanon under league auspices.


The League of Arab States is financed by an assessment of charges made to each member. The secretary-general prepares a draft budget and submits it to the council for approval before the beginning of each fiscal year. The council then fixes the share of the expenses or dues to be paid by each member state. This share may be reconsidered if necessary.

Issues at Arab League summits
no. date and location resolutions, outcomes
Table by GGS Information Services, The Gale Group.
1st january 1964, cairo agreed to oppose "the robbery of the waters of jordan by israel."
2nd september 1964, alexandria supported the establishment of the palestine liberation organization (plo) in its effort to liberate palestine from the zionists.
3rd september 1965, casablanca opposed "intra-arab hostile propaganda."
4th 29 august1 september 1967, khartoum held post-1967 arab-israeli war, which ended with crushing israeli victory; declared three "no's": "no negotiation with israel, no treaty, no recognition of israel."
5th december 1969, rabat called for the mobilization of member countries against israel.
6th november 1973, algiers held in the wake of the 1973 arab-israeli war, it set strict guidelines for dialogue with israel.
7th 30 october2 november 1974, rabat declared the plo to be "the sole and legitimate representative of the palestinian people," who had "the right to establish the independent state of palestine on any liberated territory."
8th october 1976, cairo approved the establishment of a peacekeeping force (arab deterrent force) for the lebanese civil war.
9th november 1978, baghdad condemned the camp david peace accords between egypt and israel, and threatened egypt with sanctions, including the suspension of its membership if egypt signed a treaty with israel.
10th november 1979, tunis held in the wake of israel's invasion of lebanon in 1978, it discussed israel's occupation of southern lebanon.
11th november 1980, amman formulated a strategy for economic development among league members until 2000.
12th november 1981/september 1982, fez meeting was suspended due to resistance to a peace plan drafted by saudi crown prince fahd, which implied de facto recognition of the jewish state. in september 1982 at fez, the meeting reconvened to adopt a modified version of the fahd plan, called the fez plan.
13th august 1985, casablanca failed to back a plo-jordanian agreement that envisaged talks with israel about palestinian rights. summit boycotted by five member states.
14th november 1987, amman supported un security council resolution 598 regarding cease-fire in the iran-iraq war. also declared that individual member states could decide to resume diplomatic ties with egypt.
15th june 1988, casablanca decided to financially support the plo in sustaining the intifada in the occupied territories.
16th may 1989, casablanca readmitted egypt into arab league, and set up tripartite committee to secure a cease-fire in the lebanese civil war and re-establish a constitutional government in lebanon.
17th may 1990, baghdad denounced recent increase of soviet jewish immigration to israel.
18th august 1990, cairo 12 out of 20 members present condemned iraq for invading and annexing kuwait. agreed to deploy troops to assist saudi and other gulf states' armed forces.
19th june 1995, cairo held after a hiatus of five years. iraq not invited.
20th october 2000, cairo set up funds to help the palestinians' second intifada against the israeli occupation, and called on its members to freeze their relations with israel. iraq was invited.
21st march 2001, amman held after the election of ariel sharon as israel's prime minister, it appointed egypt's amr mousa as the arab league's new secretary-general.
22nd march 2002, beirut adopted the saudi peace plan of crown prince abdullah, which offered israel total peace in exchange for total israeli withdrawal from arab territories conquered in the 1967 war. opposed the use of force against iraq.
23rd march 2003, sharm al-sheikh, egypt agreed not to participate in the u.s.-led attack on iraq, but allowed the united states to use military bases in some of their countries.

The league experienced significant difficulties in the collection of member-state dues in the aftermath of the Gulf Crisis (19901991) and subsequently. Its 1991 budget was over $27 million, with the largest share being assessed to Saudi Arabia (14%), Kuwait (14%), Libya (12%), Iraq (10%), Egypt (8.5%), Algeria (8%), the United Arab Emi-rates (6.5%), and Morocco (5%). Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, and Yemen had reservations concerning their share of the league budget. The 1999 budget was set at $26.5 million, but when Amr Moussa took office in 2001, it was estimated at $50 million. Also, late dues reportedly had reached $100 million, with some states more than a decade in arrears. According to Article 15 of the league's bylaws, approved in 1973, members can be denied voting rights if their delinquent dues total more than their total assessment of the current year and the two preceding years.


The League of Arab States has had a significant impact on the Middle East and on its members. Although it has not been a stepping-stone to Arab political unity, it has fostered Arab cooperation in many fields. Cooperation on political questions, however, has been difficult. In fact, political conflicts in the Arab world are frequently reflected in the league. Governmental diversity is protected in the league pact, which requires each member to respect the systems of government of other members. The pact also requires states to abstain from action calculated to change the systems of government in other members.

The Cold War served to draw political lines within the league between clients of the United States and those of the Soviet Union. Despite the wealth of some of its members, the league is more closely aligned to the South in the North-South conflict, sometimes acting as a bloc for the South in the United Nations.

The league has actively sought to bolster Arab security, but its efforts are limited by inter-Arab rivalries. It has facilitated the peaceful settlement of disputes between its members, as between Morocco and Mauritania; between groups within member states, as in Lebanon or Somalia; and between members and outside parties, as between Libya and the United States. The league has acted as a regional alternative to the United Nations in this regard.

The league has been united in its support for Palestine vis-à-vis Israel, but has come under increasing criticism in recent years for failing to do enough for the Palestinians and for Iraq. Egypt's treaty with Israel (the 1978 Camp David Accords) resulted in its suspension from the league from 1979 to 1989. Members were also divided over the Fahd Plan (1981); over the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); and over the Iran-Iraq War (19801988). Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War (1991) prompted additional controversy. The U.S. move against Iraq in 2003 brought strong and united condemnation of "American-British aggression against Iraq." The league also emphasized its cooperation with the United Nations.


League members are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In November 2002 Libya asked to withdraw its membership. Any independent Arab state is theoretically entitled to become a member, but a request for membership must be made through the permanent secretariat-general of the league and submitted to the council. Eritrea assumed an observer status in January 2003.

Satellite Organizations

Numerous specialized organizations and other institutions that promote Arab cooperation and protect Arab interests in a wide array of fields fall under the league umbrella. These include, among others: the Academy of Arab Music; Administrative Tribunal of the Arab League; Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa; Arab Bureau of Narcotics; Arab Bureau for Prevention of Crime; Arab Bureau of Criminal Police; Arab Center for the Study of Arid Zones and Dry Lands; Arab Civil Aviation Council; Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development; Arab Fund for Technical Assistance to Africa and Arab Countries; Arab Industrial Development Organization; Arab Labour Organization; Arab League Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization; Arab Maritime Transport Academy; Arab Monetary Fund; Arab Organization for Agricultural Development; Arab Organization for Standardization and Metrology; Arab Organization of Administrative Sciences; Arab Postal Union; Arab Satellite Communications Organization; Arab States Broadcasting Union; Arab Telecommunications Union; Council of Arab Economic Unity; Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior; Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation; Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries; and the Special Bureau for Boycotting Israel.


After the second Persian Gulf war in 2003, relations between member states of the league remained uncertain. Amr Moussa moved to reunify the Arab ranks and worked through the United Nations. The uncertainties unleashed in the gulf spawned new dangers aimed at regimes friendly to the United States. The crisis offers new challenges to Arab leadership that could enhance the role of the Arab League. The league's aspiration of Arab unity will be central to the creation of a new world order, as will the inevitable divisions in the Arab ranks. Arab cooperation in nonpolitical areas will continue under the league's aegis and will promote not only improved relations among Arabs, but also between Arabs and outside states and organizations.

see also abdullah i ibn hussein; arab boycott; camp david accords (1978); fahd plan (1981); gulf crisis (19901991); nahhas, mustafa al-; organization of arab petroleum exporting countries (oapec); palestine liberation organization (plo).


Arab League. Available from <>.

Burdett, Anita, ed. The Arab League: British Documentary Sources, 19431963. Slough, U.K.: Archive Editions, 1995.

Hasou, Tawfiq Y. The Struggle for the Arab World: Egypt's Nasser and the Arab League. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985.

Hassouna, Hussein A. The League of Arab States and Regional Disputes: A Study in Middle East Conflicts. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1975.

MacDonald, Robert W. The League of Arab States: A Study in the Dynamics of Regional Organization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Pogany, Istvan S. The Arab League and Peacekeeping in the Lebanon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Riad, Mahmoud. The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. New York: Quartet Books, 1981.

Zamzami, Sirag G. "The Origins of the League of Arab States and Its Activities within the Member States: 19421970." Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate School, 1978.

charles g. macdonald

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League of Arab States

League of Arab States: see Arab League.

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"League of Arab States." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 12 Dec. 2017 <>.

"League of Arab States." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 12, 2017).

"League of Arab States." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from