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The Arab League ( al-Jāmiʻa al-ʻArabiyya), officially called the League of Arab States ( Jāmi Arabiyya), is a regional organization of Arab states in Southwest Asia, and North and Northeast Africa. It was formed in Cairo on March 22, 1945 with six members: Egyptmarker, Iraqmarker, Transjordanmarker (renamed Jordanmarker after 1946), Lebanonmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, and Syriamarker. Yemenmarker joined as a member on May 5, 1945. The Arab League currently has 22 members. The main goal of the league is to "draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries."

Through institutions such as the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO) and the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League's Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), the Arab League facilitates political, economic, cultural, scientific and social programs designed to promote the interests of the Arab world. It has served as a forum for the member states to coordinate their policy positions, to deliberate on matters of common concern, to settle some Arab disputes, and to limit conflicts such as the 1958 Lebanon crisis. The League has served as a platform for the drafting and conclusion of many landmark documents promoting economic integration. One example is the Joint Arab Economic Action Charter which sets out the principles for economic activities in the region.

Each member state has one vote in the League Council, while decisions are binding only for those states that have voted for them. The aims of the league in 1945 were to strengthen and coordinate the political, cultural, economic, and social programs of its members, and to mediate disputes among them or between them and third parties. Furthermore, the signing of an agreement on Joint Defense and Economic Cooperation on April 13, 1950 committed the signatories to coordination of military defense measures.

The Arab league has played an important role in shaping school curricula, advancing the role of women in the Arab societies, promoting child welfare, encouraging youth and sports programs, preserving Arab cultural heritage, and fostering cultural exchanges between the member states. Literacy campaigns have been launched, intellectual works reproduced, and modern technical terminology is translated for the use within member states. The league encourages measures against crime and drug abuse, and deals with labor issues—particularly among the emigrant Arab workforce.

Members and dates

The Arab League was founded in Cairo in 1945 by Egyptmarker, Iraqmarker, Lebanonmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Syriamarker, Transjordanmarker (Jordanmarker from 1946), and Yemenmarker. There was a continual increase in membership during the second half of the 20th century, with additional 15 Arab states and 4 observers being admitted.

Egypt's membership was suspended in 1979 after it signed the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty, and the League's headquarters were moved from Cairo to Tunis. In 1987, Arab countries restored diplomatic relations with Egypt and the country was readmitted to the league in 1989 while the league's headquarters moved back to Cairo. In September 2006, Venezuelamarker was accepted as an observer, and India in 2007.

Israelmarker is not a member despite 20% of its population being of Arab origin, nearly half the Jewish population being descended from Jews from Arab countries, and Arabic being an official language. Neither is Chadmarker a member, although Arabic is in both official and vernacular use there.

Four countries are observer states — a status that entitles them to express their opinion and give advice but denies them voting rights.

The current members and observers of the Arab League are listed below along with their admission dates.
Joining dates of member states; the Comoros (circled) joined in 1993.

40s 50s 60s 70s
Country Admission date
March 22, 1945
May 5, 1945
January 19, 1956
March 28, 1956
October 1, 1958
July 20, 1961
August 16, 1962
Country Admission date
September 11, 1971
September 29, 1971
December 6, 1971
November 26, 1973
February 14, 1974
 Palestine September 9, 1976
September 4, 1977
November 20, 1993
observer since 2003
observer since 2006
observer since 2007
Date of foundation.
As Transjordanmarker.
Libya announced its withdrawal on October 24, 2002, which would have been effective one year later; however, Libya then retracted its decision to withdraw on January 16, 2003, reaffirmed it on April 3, 2003, before retracting it again on May 25, 2003.
The sovereignty of Western Saharamarker is disputed between Moroccomarker and the Polisario Front's Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic government. The Arab League recognizes it as a part of Morocco.
Representatives from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).


The area of members of the Arab League covers around 14 million km2 and straddles two continents: Western Asia as well as Northern and Northeastern Africa. The area consists of large arid deserts, namely the Sahara. Nevertheless, it also contains several very fertile lands, such as the Nile Valley, the High Atlas Mountains, and the Fertile Crescent which stretches from Iraqmarker over Syriamarker and Lebanonmarker to Palestine. The area comprises also deep forests in southern Arabia and southern Sudanmarker as well as the major parts of the world's longest river—the Nile.

The area has witnessed the rise and fall of many ancient civilizations: Ancient Egypt, Romemarker, Ancient Israelmarker, Assyria, Babylonmarker, Phoeniciamarker, Carthagemarker, Kush, and Nabateans.


The Charter of the Arab League endorsed the principle of an Arab homeland while respecting the sovereignty of the individual member states. The internal regulations of the Council of the League and the committees were agreed in October 1951. Those of the Secretariat-General were agreed in May 1953.

Since then, governance of the Arab League has been based on the duality of supra-national institutions and the sovereignty of the member states. Preservation of individual statehood derived its strengths from the natural preference of ruling elites to maintain their power and independence in decision making. Moreover, the fear of the richer that the poorer may share their wealth in the name of Arab nationalism, the feuds among Arab rulers, and the influence of external powers that might oppose Arab unity can be seen as obstacles towards a deeper integration of the league.


The Arab League is rich in resources, with enormous oil and natural gas resources; it also has great fertile lands in South of the Sudanmarker, usually referred to as the food basket of the Arab World. The region's instability has not affected its tourism industry, that is considered the fastest growing industry in the region, with Egyptmarker, UAEmarker, Algeriamarker, Tunisiamarker, and Jordanmarker leading the way. Another industry that is growing steadily in the Arab League is telecommunications. Within less than a decade, local companies such as Orascom and Etisalat have managed to compete internationally.

Economic achievements initiated by the League amongst member states have been less impressive than those achieved by other smaller Arab organizations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, several promising major economic projects are set to be completed soon. Among them is the Arab Gas Pipeline, scheduled to be accomplished in 2010. It will transport Egyptian and Iraqi gas to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey. The Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), planned to come into effect on January 1, 2008, will render 95% of all Arab products free of customs.

Economic development in the Arab League is very disparate. Significant difference in wealth and economic conditions exist between the rich oil states of UAEmarker, Qatarmarker, Kuwaitmarker, and Algeriamarker on the one hand, and poor countries like the Comorosmarker, Mauritaniamarker, and Djiboutimarker on the other hand. Arab economic funding is under development. As an example, the Arab League agreed to support the Sudanese region of Darfurmarker with 500 million dollars, and Egyptian and Libyan companies are planning to build several wells in this dry area.

List of member states by GDP (PPP)

Arab League HQ building in Cairo, Egypt
This following table lists the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Arab League and its member states based on purchasing power parity (PPP) and measured in US dollar. If not indicated otherwise, the figures are based on the 2008 data published by the International Monetary Fundmarker, World Economic Outlook Database, in April 2008.
Country GDP (PPP) US$M GDP (PPP) US$ per capita
2,604,639 7,671
592,886 23,814
443,430 5,896
233,479 6,709
185,287 38,893
138,250 4,433
137,450 38,857
114,151 3,652
94,563 4,756
94,404 86,008
88,037 2,309
88,133 14,192
82,636 8,002
68,331 24,674
52,050 2,335
51,474 13,374
27,986 4,886
24,499 32,064
5,818 1,800
5,575 600
 Palestine 5,034 1,100
1,738 2,271
719 1,125

The IMFmarker source does not provide data for the compound Arab League. The total GDP figure has been calculated as the sum of the GDPs of the member states. The per capita value is derived on the basis of the population stated in the infobox.
The IMFmarker source does not provide data for this country. The reported figures are taken from a 2007 estimate of the CIA published in the CIA factbook. For Palestine, a 2006 estimate was retrieved from the same source which is published as "West Bank (includes Gaza Strip)".

Status of Palestine

Mindful of their previous announcements in support of the Arabs of Palestine the framers of the Pact were determined to include them within the league from its inauguration. This was done by means of an annex that declared:

At the Cairo Summit of 1964, the Arab League initiated the creation of an organization representing the Palestinian people. The first Palestinian National Council convened in East Jerusalem on May 29, 1964. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded during this meeting on June 2, 1964.

At the Beirut Summit on March 28, 2002 the league adopted the Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-inspired peace plan for the Arab–Israeli conflict. The initiative offered full normalization of the relations with Israelmarker. In exchange, Israel was demanded to withdraw from all occupied territories, including the Golan Heightsmarker, to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bankmarker and the Gaza Stripmarker with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a "just solution" for the Palestinian refugees.

The Peace Initiative was again endorsed at 2007 in the Riyadh Summit. In July 2007, the Arab League sent a mission, consisting of the Jordanianmarker and Egyptianmarker foreign ministers, to Israel to promote the initiative. The mission was welcomed with reservations by Israel.

Following Venezuelamarker's move to expel the resident Israeli diplomats amid the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Kuwaiti member of parliament Waleed al-Tabtabai made a public plea to move the Arab League headquarters from Cairomarker to Caracas, Venezuelamarker.


The Arab League is a culturally and ethnically diverse association of 22 member states, although a vast majority of the league consist of Arab people. As of January 1, 2007, about 314,000,000 people live in the states of the Arab League. Its population grows faster than in most other global regions. This threatens to diminish the slow economic expansion expected in the league's developing countries.

The most populous member state is Egyptmarker, with a population of about 80 million. The least populated is Djiboutimarker, with about 500,000 inhabitants. Most of the Persian Gulf Arab states have large populations of foreign laborers. The UAEmarker's Arab population counts for less than 20% of its total population, while 50% originate from South- and Southeast Asia, although they are not citizens. Some Persian Gulf Arab states also import cheap Arab labor, mainly from Egyptmarker, Yemenmarker, and Somaliamarker.

Since large parts of the Arab League are deserts, the population is concentrated in and around cities where most the trade and industry are located. The largest Arab cities are Cairomarker, followed by Baghdadmarker, Khartoummarker, Gizamarker, Damascusmarker, Riyadhmarker, and Casablancamarker.

Comparisons with other organizations

The Arab League resembles the Organization of American Statesmarker, Celtic League, the Council of Europe, and the African Union, in that it has primarily political aims. However, membership in the league is based on culture rather than geographical location. In this respect, the Arab League resembles organizations such as the Latin Unionmarker or the Caribbean Community.

The Arab League differs notably from the European Union, in that it has not achieved a significant degree of regional integration and the organization itself has no direct relations with the citizens of its member states. However, the Arab League is based on principles that support and promote a unified Arab nationalism and a common position among Arabic states on various issues.

All Arab League members are also members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. In turn, the memberships of the smaller GCC and Arab Maghreb Union organizations are subsets of that of the league.

Secretaries General

Abdul Rahman Azzam 1945 to 1952
Abdul Khalek Hassouna 1952 to 1972
Mahmoud Riad 1972 to 1979
Chedli Klibi 1979 to 1990
Assad al-Assad 1990 to 1991
Ahmad Esmat Abd al Meguid 1991 to 2001
Amr Moussa 2001 to date



  • Two summits are not added to the system of Arab League summits:
    • Anshas, Egypt: 28–29 May 1946
    • Beirut, Lebanon: 13 – 15 November 1956

  • Summit 14 in Fes, Morocco, occurred in two stages:
    • On 25 November 1981: The 5-hours meeting ended without an agreed on document.
    • On 6–9 September 1982

See also


  1. Ashish K. Vaidya, Globalization, (ABC-CLIO: 2006), p.525
  2. The Arab Balance of Power
  4. Geddes, 1991, p. 208.

Further reading

  • Ankerl, Guy: Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Geneva, INU Press, 2000. ISBN 2-88155-0044-5
  • Geddes, Charles L: A Documentary History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Greenwood Press, 1991. ISBN 0-275-93858-1

External links

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