League of Arab States: History & Purpose

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  • 0:02 The Arab League - Purpose
  • 2:10 History & Membership
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

One of the most turbulent areas of the world today is the Middle East. In this lesson, you'll learn about the League of Arab States, including its history and role in the Middle East. A short quiz follows.

The Arab League - Purpose

Common sense tells us that groups are usually more effective than individuals acting alone. The same can sometimes hold true for states. The League of Arab States is an attempt by its members to be a more effective player on the world stage. But as you'll see after reviewing its purpose and history, its success is mixed at best.

The League of Arab States is an intergovernmental organization consisting of Arab states in Northern and Northeast Africa and Southwest Asia. It's often informally referred to as the Arab League. It was formed to provide a forum for its members to coordinate on issues of:

  • Education
  • Trade
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Foreign policy

The Arab League also provides a forum for members to resolve disputes between them. Members have also agreed to coordinate in military matters. In fact, a pact in 1950 was executed, whereby members agreed to treat any act of aggression against one member as an act of aggression against all members. It should be noted that the League's Charter does not provide a means to compel its members to comply with League resolutions.

Critics have argued that the Arab League has not been very successful in presenting a unified front during important crises. For example, the League could not present a unified policy regarding the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War. On the other hand, the league did reach a consensus on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that agreed to recognize Israel if Israel withdrew from the West Bank and Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War. Likewise, it suspended Syrian membership due to the violence and human rights violations in Syria, which culminated into a civil war. The League has also called for Assad, the leader of Syria, to resign and asked the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to support the League's demand.

History & Membership

The Arab League was formed in 1945. The founding member states included Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. According to its charter, any independent Arab state has a right to join. Membership has risen to 22 states, including Palestine, consisting of about 270 million people, covering about 5.4 square miles of land. Its headquarters are in Cairo, Egypt.

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