Algiers’ 31st Arab League Leaders Summit: Last Chance for Arab Unity

The Arab people, political elite and media do not want to see another Arab League leaders' summit end as the thirty previous ones have, with more dissension and quarrels.

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Algeria will be holding the 31st Arab League Leaders Summit in Algiers on November 1 and 2, 2022. It is the country’s fourth Arab League summit that Algeria will be organizing since the country’s independence in 1962. The 31st Arab League leaders’ summit coincides with the commemoration of Algeria’s sixty years of active diplomacy. A narrative that has been pushed ahead since the election of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in December 2019. Analysts across the region are commenting on the next 31st Arab League leaders’ summit,  the last chance for Arab unity. Arab leaders will be accountable for restoring the broken Arab house and deep reforms of the Arab League.

Geopolitical and economic uncertainty

In a time of geopolitical and economic uncertainty in the aftermath of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the world is moving, so does the MENA region. This is why Algiers’ 31st Arab Leaders Summit cannot end with a banal photo-op of the twenty-two Arab leaders and empty resolutions such as calling for Palestinian rights and ending foreign presence on  Arab states’ soils!

The Arab people, political elite and media do not want to see another Arab League leaders’ summit end as the thirty previous ones have, with more dissension and quarrels. Usually, these summits are forums of Arab leaders, but not to meaningfully discuss the chronic questions that have turned into incurable diseases. Many Arab leaders either boycott or send their prime ministers for the sake of the show. The ones who participate will exchange warm hugs there amongst the participants.

In the preliminary sessions, they voted for the same old resolutions that will never take effect, condemning “Israel’s occupation” and stubbornness. However, the hearts of those leaders are somewhere else. Once even foreign guest leaders like the Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi were caught on camera sleeping at the 21st Summit in Sitre, Libya in 2010. He was lost in the translation.

Nonetheless, 2010 was a pivotal year that sparked the first wave of Arab uprisings that did shape the region’s political and geopolitical landscape — evidently, Arab leaders and large majority of the elite did not  the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia as a serious wake-up call for radical change following the fall of President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, President Hosni Mubarak, and Libyan leader Maamar al-Qadhafi.

An intellectual trajectory that  Arab regimes aborted later on, causing more chaos, despair, political violence, and instability in the region.

A narrative of continuity and actions

Thus, Algiers is showing confidence for the 31st Arab League Leaders Summit on November 1 and 2, 2022. It will score on symbolism like the 1973 and 1988 ones,  which sustain the narrative of continuity, giving strong diplomatic credibility to Algeria to position itself regionally and internationally as a serious mediator on substantial questions.

For instance, on October 11 and 12, Algeria did succeed in gathering various Palestinian forces who participated in the two-day dialogue session, a Palestinian reconciliation that reminded [me] of the 1988 Arab League summit in Algiers followed by the Palestinian Counsel Convention in Algiers in November 1988, a convention that broke through to the declaration of the Palestinian State.

Last January, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune launched an initiative to unite the Palestinians and end the division between Fatah and Hamas.

Following all these elements, what could be expected from this summit of Arab unity? It depends on the political will of the main and powerful Arab leaders. How far are they willing to go with Algeria’s new diplomatic doctrine? Active and balanced foreign policy.

Without doubt, there are many important issues that need to be discussed and ideally solved in the near future, starting with Palestinian unity, Lebanese financial and institutional crisis, civil war in Syria, political instability in Iraq, political and security vacuum crisis in Libya, the political impasse in Tunisia, civil war in Yemen, the socio-political situation in Sudan, the dynamic of the permanent tensions between Algeria and Morocco, and the new vision of Arab integral processes militarily and economically in a complex geopolitical context that is making Arab pivotal states worry about the role of the non-Arab triangle dominant in  Middle East politics and geopolitics: Ankara, Tehran, Tel-Aviv.

Not to mention the thorny issue of migrants and illegal immigration, which has become a complex national security issue for hosting countries as well as political dilemma for transit and  departure countries such as Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and most recently, Lebanon. Adding the humanitarian questions of millions of Syrian guests in Turkiye. A Humanitarian parameter that needs to be tagged with serious public policies in terms of follow-up, integration, and post-integration policies.

In terms of Arab common security policy imperatives, it should be noted that, regional tensions involving Iran’s challengers, a matter that started with a crescent,  ended up with  a full moon, are  all over the MENA sky. Do Arab leaders have a policy towards Tehran? Why are some Arab countries still complaining about Turkiye? Where does the normalization train with Israel stop? All these complex questions need to be answered. Yet, Arab leaders’ entente holds on to a fig branch; hence, Algiers’ 31st Arab League leaders’ summit is an opportunity to end Arab leaders’ disagreement.

An opportunity for unity and accountability

All the ingredients are ready for Arab leaders to leave their political narcissism and offer their people political stability and economic prosperity. Interestingly, the late Yemeni President Ali Salah in 2010 suggested an Arab Union instead of an Arab League. His motion was accepted by the Summit President, Mua’amar al-Gadafi, who did warn at  the previous summit in Damascus, told his counterparts, their Majesty and Excellency, that Arab leaders might be overthrown and would end up like Saddam Hussein. He went on to say that Arabs hate each other.

Seventy-five years after the  Arab League was founded to “draw closer the relations between member States and coordinate collaboration between them, [and] safeguard their independence and sovereignty,” according to the League charter, it has developed into a league of stagnation and quarrels between the Arab regime leaders, like the League of Nations, failing to stop fanaticism and anarchy.

Similarly, the Arab League is also facing these same awful inhuman acts. Therefore, the Arab League is still  not able to resolve inter-Arab conflicts; for Arab Street, it has become an irrelevant organization.

The Arab leaders are split into axes. This disunion is spreading like cancer throughout the Arab world.  Because of these leaders’ self-destruction and capricious behavior,  which has caused their people to lose faith and trust in them generation after generation  — the post-independence generation has been sacrificed for socio-economic models that have led to economic stagnation and social frustration.

Today, the children of the sacrificed generation cultivate a new idealism, not of hope and patriotism like their elders had, but of despair between al-Harga (immigrated illegally) and Echahada (martyrdom). The younger generation has just  graduated from college; and both genders are crossing the Gibraltar Strait on the West, and Sardinia and Cyprus on the East.

In sum, Haraga boats are taking-off from the shores of Sirte to Italy, where Arab leaders gathered in 2010 to discuss their “future,” risking the spring of their youth. Millions of Arabs will be tuning in to Algiers’ 31st Arab League leaders’ summit, hoping their leaders will  discuss their immediate needs and the cause of their dissatisfaction.

 

 

 

Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi is a journalist and a North African Studies specialist who received his PhD in Political Science from Toulouse University in France. His articles have been published by many outlets, and he has featured in reputable media channels including Daily Sabah, TRT World and BBC Turkish. He worked as a lecturer in the Department of Middle East and North African Studies at the Portland Community College, and was a member of the Portland State University Center for Middle Eastern Studies. His focus is on issues such as the socio-political mutations of North Africa; the role of Turkey in this region; the problem of immigrants, and the interactions of the North African diaspora in France.

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