Arabs should get their act together to be taken seriously by the world

In the case of the expanded Group of 20, only Saudi Arabia from the 22 countries of the Arab League gets a seat.

2017/05/21 Issue: 107 Page: 16

The Arab Weekly
Claude Salhani

Arab countries of the southern Mediterra­nean are, for the most part, in dire straits economically and politically. They are also often well behind when it comes to women’s rights and human rights.

Their relationship with the West is strained at best, with Europe and the United States tightening immigration restrictions and demanding progress in enacting democratic reforms. The West wants to see more on the eco­nomic front in return for direct support.

Adding to the problem is the realisation that long gone are the salad days when the West could devote much of its time and effort in assisting southern Mediterra­nean countries by bailing them out financially and opening their borders to their young people. Here, again, the West has reached a saturation point and can no longer sustain nor justify the financial strains, especially when they get nothing to show for it.

On the immigration front, recent terror activities have negatively affected Arab commu­nities. Greater travel restrictions on Arabs and Muslims have been enforced by some European countries. US President Donald Trump tried to prevent citizens from various Arab countries from travelling to the United States but the courts have blocked the attempt.

Another major concern is that the Arabs have squandered decades of gushing oil revenues when they could have built solid economies and stable societies. The United Arab Emirates has had the right idea but is the exception rather than the rule. Other Arab countries with large oil revenues, such as Algeria and Iraq, have wasted billions upon billions of dollars on weapons or appeasing their populations without building the basis for sustainable development.

Looking at the world today, many Arab countries are among the few still fighting internal wars. Just look at the region: Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen — their conditions stand in stark contrast to the Baltic states or countries of Central and Eastern Europe that were once part of the Soviet Union. These nations have endeavoured to improve the quality of life of their citizens, whereas parts of the Arab world remain almost locked in a time warp.

What have the flailing Arab states accomplished that is worthy of note in the last several decades? Ah, yes, Syrian President Bashar Assad has reportedly built a huge crematorium so as to exterminate his enemies faster and in a manner that would leave no trace of them whatsoever.

Isn’t it time for Arabs to get their act together? Isn’t it about time they stop their wars and conflicts and instead concentrate on rebuilding their countries? Don’t many of these egocentric leaders feel shame that the Arab world, despite all its richness, remains virtually excluded from any major role in important international conferences such as the Group of Seven? In the case of the expanded Group of 20, only Saudi Arabia from the 22 countries of the Arab League gets a seat.

I have no doubt that the people of Syria, for example, would much rather be told of their president building a new school or hospital than a method of exterminating his enemies that brings back memories of one of the darkest moments in human history.

Claude Salhani is the Opinion section editor of The Arab Weekly.

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