What Is the Arab League?

What Is the Arab League?

5 Min.

The Arab League is an organization that consists of multiple nations in the Middle East and North Africa, all of which are Arabic-speaking. The League was established in 1945 and has its headquarters in Cairo. Its main objective is to facilitate economic growth and trade while promoting political stability and sovereignty in the region. There are currently 22 member states and four observer nations in the League, and all members must adhere to the charter, which consists of 20 articles and three annexes.


Established in 1945 in Cairo, the Arab League unites African and Asian nations where Arabic is spoken, dedicated to advancing member nations' independence, sovereignty, interests, and affairs. Originally with seven founding members, it now boasts 22 member nations and four observer states. Governed by a charter, the League operates under the oversight of a council, diligently pursuing its objectives.

Exploring the Arab League: A Regional Union

The Arab League, officially named the League of Arab States, comprises 22 diverse nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa. It emerged in 1945, headquartered in Cairo, focusing on fostering economic and political development and resolving conflicts among its members.

Member States:

  1. Algeria (1962)
  2. Bahrain (1971)
  3. Comoros (1993)
  4. Djibouti (1977)
  5. Egypt
  6. Iraq
  7. Jordan
  8. Kuwait (1961)
  9. Lebanon
  10. Libya (1953)
  11. Mauritania (1973)
  12. Morocco (1958)
  13. Oman (1971)
  14. Palestine (1976)
  15. Qatar (1971)
  16. Saudi Arabia
  17. Somalia (1974)
  18. Sudan (1956)
  19. Syria
  20. Tunisia (1958)
  21. United Arab Emirates (1971)
  22. Yemen

Additionally, four nations hold observer status within the League: Brazil, Eritrea, India, and Venezuela. The Arab League member countries exhibit significant variations in population, wealth, GDP, and literacy rates. Predominantly Muslim and Arabic-speaking, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are considered key influencers within the League. The organization facilitates cooperation and conflict mitigation among its nations through agreements covering joint defense, economic collaboration, and free trade, among other areas of governance and culture.

The Arab League: A Historical Overview

Origins and Early Headquarters

In 1945, the Arab League emerged following the signing of the Alexandria Protocol in Cairo by its seven founding members. The primary focus was on liberating Arab nations still under colonial rule.

Relocation and Membership Changes

Initially headquartered in Cairo in 1945, the League later shifted its base to Tunis, Tunisia, in 1979. Egypt's membership was temporarily revoked when it signed a peace treaty with Israel but was reinstated in 1987. Subsequently, the League moved its headquarters back to Cairo in 1989.

Response to Arab Spring and Libya

During the Arab Spring of 2011, the Arab League unanimously suspended the membership of a certain country and supported United Nations action against Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya. Later that year, Libya's membership was reinstated under new leadership.

Syria's Membership and Calls to Turkey

The League condemned Syria's government violence against civilian protestors in 2011 and passed a resolution to revoke its membership. In 2018 and 2019, the organization urged Turkey to withdraw from Syria.

In April 2021, the League called on Somalia to conduct postponed presidential and parliamentary elections.

Views on Israel

The Arab League's original aim was to prevent the establishment of the state of Israel, and it recognized Palestine as a distinct nation. The organization's stance on Israel has evolved over time, with condemnations of Israeli actions in 2019 and opposition to President Trump's Middle East peace plan in February 2020. In contrast, some members supported the plan, and in September 2020, the League did not condemn the normalization of ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

One of the Arab League's enduring and unanimous actions was the economic boycott of Israel, spanning from 1948 to 1993.

The Arab League Charter: Strengthening Arab Unity

On March 22, 1945, the Pact of the League of Arab States, known as the Arab League Charter, was established. This historic charter was signed by the leaders of the seven founding member states: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. It was designed to enhance their bonds and reinforce their sovereignty.

Comprising 20 articles, the charter delineates the organization's objectives, governance structure, headquarters, and establishing the Arab League Council. Additionally, it specifies procedures for resolving disputes among member states.

The charter also includes annexes addressing critical issues such as Palestine, cooperation with non-member Arab countries, and the appointment of the League's Secretary-General.

The Arab League Council: Highest Authority

The apex body of the Arab League, known as the League Council, consists of representatives from member states, usually foreign ministers, their envoys, or permanent delegates. Each member state holds a single vote. Regular sessions of the Council are convened biannually, in March and September, with the provision for special sessions upon the request of two or more member states.

The league's day-to-day operations are overseen by the General Secretariat, headed by the Secretary-General. This administrative entity serves as the executive arm of the Council and the specialized ministerial councils within the league.

Internal Divisions in the Arab League

The Arab League's influence and efficacy have often been impeded by internal divisions among member states. These divisions have manifested in various forms, such as alignment during the Cold War, rivalry for League leadership, and conflicts between monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco. Additionally, states undergoing political transitions, such as Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, have contributed to disruptions within the League. The U.S. invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq also exacerbated divisions among Arab League members.

Notably, resolutions by the Council do not require unanimous approval; they are binding only on nations that voted in favor, and countries are not compelled to adhere to them against their will. Consequently, the effectiveness of these resolutions is somewhat limited, often amounting to mere declarations rather than actionable policies.


Across the globe, numerous intergovernmental organizations exist, catering to a range of scopes. These organizations can be global, exemplified by the United Nations, or regionally oriented, as seen with the Arab League. Comprising 22 member nations spanning the Middle East and Northern Africa, the Arab League, like its counterparts, aims to enhance diplomatic bonds among member states while fostering their political and economic advancement.

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