[UN Report] Arab Integration- Meaning, Opportunities, Challenges, Implications

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Pavan Kumar

Topic in news because recently UN’s Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) released a Report: “Arab Integration: A 21st century development imperative”. Frontline magazine also ran a story.
(Interview Q)

  1. What do you understand by the Arab Integration?
  2. Why is Arab integration necessary?
  3. What are the obstacle to Arab Integration?

What is Arab Integration?

As per the recent report by UNESCO, West Asia
Arab Integration means

  1. Enhancing the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA)
  2. Setting up free Arab citizenship area / common Arab labour market
  3. Setting up Arab customs unions.

Why Arab Integration?

Around the world, even the greatest powers have become part of larger entities in order to manage globalization (e.g. France, Germany under EU; even Japan). Therefore, Arabian countries will also benefit by the same.

#1: foreign interference

  • Happening since the time of WW1 -Sykes-Picot Agreement (Asia Minor agreement)= divided Arab countries in “sphere of influence” between Britain and France.
  • During the scramble for Africa, the Arab countries were also colonized.
  • Fragmented Arab nations =more susceptible to foreign interference of US, Russia and China.
  • Many Arab countries now host major foreign military bases or are under the sway of foreign powers in other respects.
  • In a way, Syria and Libya became the new “Cold war fronts” for US vs Russia.
  • Palestine issue still unsolved.
  • Israeli nuclear arsenal is a growing threat to the security of the region as a whole. Israel even threatened to use nuclear weapons against Arab capitals

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

  • Lack of integration =poor economies = low HDI.
  • Foreign interference = sectarian violence, corrupt puppet regimes.
  • Rampant corruption, unemployment, poverty and social injustice
  • Divides between urban-rural, shia-sunni also negatively hurting HDI.
  • subprime crisis in USA =remittances declined.

EXTREMISM

  • poor economics + corrupt regimes=> extremist groups have emerged.
  • They adopt radical and exclusionary doctrines based on narrow interpretation of Islam.
  • They’re intolerant towards freedoms, especially for women and non-Muslims.
  • because of these, >50% of refugees in the world comes from the Arab region

Arab Spring

  • popular uprising against the corrupt regimes=> tyrants dethroned
  • But the interim governments / army rulers were not capable of fixing economy.
  • Cross border trade difficult because non-tariff barriers + high cost of transport.
  • Hence all those “Arab Spring” countries now witnessing even more unemployment, food inflation and poor GDP growth rate.
  • Therefore proactive measures needed for “arab integration” before situation deteriorates and those old regimes come back in power again.

Obstacles to Arab Integration

#1: Absence of political will.

  • The core idea of Arab integration = Removing tarrif barriers, provide free labour movement across border.
  • But Rich Arab nations fear this will only benefit least developed countries (L.D.C) at the expense of the most affluent countries.
  • Their tax revenues will decline, local junta will become unemployed due to cheap migrant laborers, Shia vs Sunni etc.
  • Constant claim by Western media that Arabs are incapable of democracy.

#2: Foreign interference:

  • Unresolved Palestine issue and interference of foreign powers (US and Israel)
  • Egypt and Jordan have full trade & diplomatic relations with Israel = independent Palestine “country” is impossible.
  • USA gives Military aid to Israel and Egypt, provides nuclear umbrella to Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, armed rebels in Libya (weapons later went to Jihadists); while Russia-China tacitly support Syria
  • In short, Arab regional peace= Mission impossible#6.

Follow-up questions

  1. What will be the positive impact of Arab Integration for India?
  2. Should we also explore the possibility of “SAARC integration”? What will be the benefits / obstacles?

Visit Mrunal.org/Diplomacy for entire list articles on Diplomacy & International relations (IR) for Mains GS2 paper of UPSC Civil service Exam.

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