Accessibility links

Arab League to Discuss Social, Economic Reforms During Tunis Summit - 2004-05-21

Arab League officials are promising that this year's summit, beginning Saturday in Tunis, will address issues never before discussed during Arab League summits: social and economic reform.

Senior Arab League officials acknowledge that the organization has not been the powerful voice of Arab solidarity the founders had expected.

The League was formed in 1945 to help build Arab unity, but it has rarely been united and in recent years, its agenda focused almost exclusively on Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Senior Arab League officials say the weekend summit will mark a turning point for the organization. Internal reforms of the organization, spokesman Hossam Zaki said, are among the key points on the agenda.

?The establishment of an Arab parliament. The establishment of a security mechanism. The establishment of a conflict prevention mechanism. The establishment of an Arab investment bank. The establishment of a higher council for culture. Things of this sort,? he said. ?And, we have to reform our voting system. We have to come up with a mechanism for the implementation of resolutions in the League, because there is no current mechanism. So, many, many issues.?

Mr. Zaki said that the purpose of the reforms is largely aimed at giving the League power it has never had, the power to enforce many of its own resolutions.

In addition, the League is expected to pass what it calls landmark resolutions dealing with social and economic reforms throughout the Arab world, including human rights that meet international standards and social and political empowerment for women.

It is also expected to condemn the Israeli government, which it blames for the recent escalation of hostilities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The League will also call for a speedy end to the occupation of Iraq and the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

The officials say the aim of the reforms is to make the League an effective instrument of progress for the Arab world. The reforms, they say, will be the first step towards that goal.