Important Summit for Joint Arab Action

  • 18 January 2009

Despite the problems, differences and complications that the collective Arab endeavor is currently witnessing, the Arab economic summit to be hosted by Kuwait (tomorrow and day after tomorrow) is important because it is the first Arab summit of its kind dedicated to discussing Arab economic and development issues. Indicators show that it was under preparation for a long period of time, and that the decision to hold it was taken at the Arab summit in Riyadh on March 2007. The summit is held at a time of difficult international economic situation in light of the financial and economic crisis that has overtaken the whole world with its horrific effects and is also posing a threat to the whole Arab world without exception. This crisis has reconfirmed the importance of supporting Arab economic cooperation at all levels.

The experience of forming effective and successful regional blocs in the Arab region shows that economy forms a strong bedrock for these blocs and helps them rise to the levels of strength and effectiveness. It serves as the bulwark that protects them from any external problems or internal differences. However, the focus on politics at the Arab level, from the beginning of the joint Arab endeavor, has led to a fall in interest in economic cooperation and the non-implementation of decisions, despite the existence of several mechanisms and frameworks for such cooperation. According to economic estimates, inter-Arab commerce does not exceed 12% of the total Arab foreign trade, despite the existence of great potential for raising this percentage and achieving higher levels of economic and commercial cooperation among Arab countries. Based on this fact, the Kuwait economic summit—although it takes place in difficult times for the Arab world and the region in general—marks an important turning point for collective Arab action because it focuses on setting strong and robust foundations for linking the interests of all Arab nations. For this reason, it is understandable that it be viewed as presenting an opportunity for correcting the course of Arab cooperation, and getting it out of its current crisis.

The Kuwait summit is primarily economic in its outlook, but the Gaza issue would make its presence felt. There is talk of directing huge sums to the reconstruction of Gaza and in support of the Palestinian Authority. It is hoped that this summit would provide an important venue for reuniting Arabs and to reduce differences that recently surfaced over the war in Gaza. This would be a true precursor for opening a new page of collective Arab action, and for intra-Arab relations in general. It is also hoped the differences within the Arab world would not affect the summit or its activities and resolutions.