Three Days in the Arab House

Three Days in the Arab House

For the purpose of gathering scientific material about my research topic, I spent three consecutive days last week at the Arab League University, commonly known as the ‘Arab House.’ Undoubtedly, everyone is familiar with the Arab League University located in the historic building in Tahrir Square in Cairo. However, visiting that building and exploring its corridors carries other implications and meanings.

Before delving into those implications, for the reader’s benefit, the Arab League University, established on March 22, 1945, came as an implementation of the contents of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, titled ‘Regional Arrangements.’ This chapter includes numerous articles that define the concept of regional security, the role of regional organizations, and their impact on maintaining international peace and security. Consequently, several regional security organizations were established, including the Arab League University, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In my estimation, the framers of the United Nations Charter were correct in realizing the necessity of regional organizations that bridge the gap between national and global security because regional security is influenced by the regional environment and the strengths or weaknesses of its constituent units.

Following the trajectory of the Arab League University, described by researchers as the ‘Arab House,’ which is a significant characterization, when we say ‘the house of so-and-so,’ we refer to a name, identity, culture, and history in a world rapidly accelerating towards globalization with all its challenges and repercussions unprecedentedly affecting all aspects of life.

The scope does not permit an extensive discussion of the university’s role, at least during my three decades of work as a researcher in regional security issues. However, I would like to highlight five key points: First, although the initial signatories to the Charter were seven members, the eagerness of other Arab countries to join the university and support its goals and principles was evident, even those countries that had not yet gained independence. This indicates the prevalent idea of unity and cohesion among all parties in the Arab system. Second, despite the importance of the university’s goals for coordination and integration in all areas of joint Arab work, the university also played a pivotal role in the issues of Arab states’ independence and the Palestinian cause, sparking extensive debates among colleagues working at the university. Third, the Arab League University, like other regional security organizations, is not a supreme authority above states but rather a convergence of their wills. Therefore, researchers must be meticulous when evaluating the university’s role, especially in crisis management in the Arab region, as well as its role in resolving some conflicts, considering that the university operates within a regional and global framework with simultaneous opportunities and challenges. Fourth, comparing the Arab League University to other regional security organizations reveals that proposals for the university’s development do not stop at considering the rapidly changing regional and global environments. Fifth, when analyzing the experiences of regional security, it is a gross oversimplification, or rather a mistake, to transition from introductions to conclusions, as was the case with the Arab integration experiments. In other words, elements of integration, including history, culture, and identity, do not automatically achieve that integration; rather, there are intermediary variables reflecting different interests that must be taken into account.

Away from delving into the role of the university, impressions flood the mind as soon as one enters the old building, including the issue of identity that was a subject of conversation and debate with a colleague. It’s not just a term that resonates within research works but a feeling embodied by the pictures of the university’s secretaries adorning its walls, which visitors can notice while wandering through the university corridors, in addition to pictures of the first meetings of the university ‘before the huge revolution in the world of photography now.’ And undoubtedly, each picture carries a thousand meanings and its essence. The university leaders are keen on gathering and consulting to make necessary decisions aimed at preserving the unity of the Arab body. What caught my attention was the content of the university library, managed by the Information and Documentation Department, working as an integrated team to document university news and its members through a rare newspaper archive, as well as rare documents, pictures, postal stamps, all original research sources through which a scientific and objective view can be formed about this important regional organization. It was remarkable that those working in that department, led by its distinguished director, were well-informed about its contents, references, books, classification, and meeting the needs of researchers by providing them in record time. This is the solid foundation on which researchers rely in preparing their scientific research and reports.

Also, it was noticeable that the university archive not only contains its activities since its establishment but also includes numerous writings discussing the role of the university, even if they contain divergent perspectives, enabling researchers to form a comprehensive view of the university’s role.

The discussion about this visit could go on, but I would like to emphasize three things: First, Arab researchers are invited to conduct more analytical studies about the university because it will remain the linchpin of Arab national security amid unprecedented proposals and arrangements, and these studies should be based on original sources enabling researchers to identify opportunities and challenges. For example, the issue goes beyond the military dimension; the United Nations itself, as the parent organization, does not have an army, which sometimes gives NATO the opportunity to intervene militarily in some crises. Second, when comparing the university to other regional security organizations, it is important to identify the surrounding conditions of each organization, internal power balances, and what the international environment allows these organizations in terms of opportunities to fulfill their assigned roles, especially with the UN’s tendency to refer several files to regional organizations, especially natural resource conflicts. Third, it is important to be accurate when discussing the journey of the League of Arab States, which has been and will remain the home of Arabs.

Lastly, but not least, it is important when conducting studies about the university to define its institutions and development over different periods and the pivotal role of its secretaries-general from the first secretary-general, Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, to the efforts of the current Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Regional security organizations, including the university, do not just mean applying the contents of the UN Charter in its eighth chapter but will remain a solid foundation for Arab national security integrated with regional and global security.

Note: This article has been automatically translated.

Source: Akhbar Alkhaleej

Dr. Ashraf Keshk, Senior Research Fellow

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