The highest decision-making body of the Arab League is the Council, which holds a summit in March each year. Then the countries’ heads of state meet. In between, the Council is convened at ministerial level. The presidency alternates between states in alphabetical order.
When the heads of state meet, they take a position on overall strategic and political issues. They have the right to change the organization’s statutes and they appoint a general secretary. Decisions must be unanimous. Every country, including Palestine, has one vote.
Council meetings at ministerial level determine how the decisions of the summits are to be implemented and prepare for future summits. At ministerial meetings, it is usually the countries’ foreign ministers who meet, but other ministers can also be convened.
A number of committees assist the Council in, among other things, financial and legal matters. The General Secretariat of Cairo implements the Council’s decision. The Secretary – General is appointed by the Council for a term of five years and may be re-elected. The secretariat is divided into forty different departments for, among other things, Arab affairs, economics, defense, international relations, social issues, information and law. There is a special section on the Palestinian question.
Since 2005, there has also been a transitional parliament with 88 members hand-picked from the parliaments of the member states. It is intended that the transitional parliament will prepare for the establishment of a permanent parliament, but that development has been slow. The members therefore do not have a direct popular mandate either. The assignment of a member is determined by whether the person succeeds in being elected or appointed a Member of Parliament in the national elections of the home country.
According to pharmacylib, the Arab League has more than twenty specialized specialist bodies, all of which are members. The specialized bodies operate in areas such as technology, culture, social development and crime control.
The Arab Organization for Administrative Development (ARADO) is responsible for developing and improving administrative procedures. A joint nuclear energy institute (AAEA) will coordinate research on nuclear energy. The Arab Satellite Organization (ARABSAT) in Saudi Arabia has launched several satellites to use space technology to improve communications by telephone, data, radio and television in and between the Arab states. The Arab Telecommunications Union, based in Iraq, is working to improve cable communications.
More efficient agriculture is the goal of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development. From Syria, work on water issues and deserts is organized through the Arab Center for Drought and Desert Areas. The Arab League has also formed the Arab Monetary Fund and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
Tensions between the oil-rich states of the Arab League and the poor Member States have been one of the reasons why the organization has had difficulty in realizing its goals of closer economic cooperation. Poor countries accuse rich states of not providing them with sufficient financial support. The previously unequivocal political support for the Palestinians has waned as several member states have expanded their contacts with Israel.
The security agreement entered into by the Arab League in 1950 also concerned economic cooperation. States acceding to the agreement would prioritize trade with each other and work together to increase growth in Arab states. The agreement also included the formation of the Economic and Social Council, which held its first meeting in 1953. The Council includes the finance ministers of the Member States or their deputies. The task of the Council is to compare and coordinate the economic policies of the states and to develop practical tools for economic development and integration.
Much of the financial cooperation has been conducted in sub-bodies and independent organizations founded by the union. Three of the most important: the Council for Arab Economic Unity, with the task of facilitating economic cooperation. The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, which aims to encourage economic integration through the financing of development projects and consultancy. Arab Monetary Fund, which, among other things, provides loans to cover Member States’ budget deficits.
The first plans to create an Arab common economic market took shape in the early 1960’s, but it took a long time before anything happened. It was not until 1997 that the Economic and Social Council adopted an action program to phase out tariffs between members until 2005, when the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) entered into force.
The security agreement of 1950 meant that the acceding states would rescue each other in the event of an attack on any of them. In addition, a Defense Council was formed with the member states’ foreign ministers or defense ministers, as well as two other bodies for coordinating cooperation.