By Massoud Derhally
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud presented a new initiative in January, titled “Charter to Reform the Arab Stand,” which he said he hopes will be put before the next Arab Summit, to be in held in March 2003 in Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud proposed a new initiative in January, titled “Charter to Reform the Arab Stand,” which he said he hopes will be put before the next Arab Summit, to be in held in March 2003 in Bahrain. The initiative encourages regional economic development and greater participation by the Arab people in the political process. The new Arab charter would serve to harness the strengths of the region and help develop Arab political and economic interests by guiding the Arab World in its relations with the international community as well as managing the needs of inter-Arab relations. As part of an economic reform agenda, the initiative calls on Arab states to implement a Greater Arab Free Trade Zone by the end of 2005. In addition, the Arab states would agree to develop unified tariffs and duties within 10 years, which will serve as the basis for the establishment of a Common Arab Market (CAM). The initiative also encourages members of the Arab League to modernize local economies, privatise government-owned industries and open economic development to outside investment and participation. According to the text of the initiative, “Since economic cooperation among Arab countries must be based on a firm foundation, it is essential to support and encourage the private sector. It is essential to create the conducive atmosphere to attract investment, encourage private initiatives, and attract Arab and international capital.” The charter also calls upon Arab states to recognise the need for internal reform and enhanced political participation in the political process as an important step toward the development of Arab human resources. “Internal reform is needed in order to respond to the challenges of the international marketplace and achieve sustainable economic growth. We face a myriad of global challenges in technology, communications and education as well as the emergence of huge economic blocs. In order for the Arab world to continue to be an important contributor to the development of human civilization, we must keep pace with the accelerating demands of an ever- changing world.” With increased participation in the political process as well as greater economic cooperation, Arab countries will be in a much stronger position to increase their capabilities and promote further development. Saudi Arabia hopes that the initiative will be adopted in the form of a declaration, which will be binding on all Arab states. Furthermore, the charter calls on Arabs to forbid the use of force against each other and stand united against any Arab country attacking another by stating their “total rejection of any illegitimate foreign aggression against any Arab country and their commitment to solve all Arab conflicts peacefully, prohibiting the use of force between Arab countries.” In the declaration, Arab leaders would pledge to work to “safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Arab countries, upgrade their defense capabilities and decisively back the Palestinians.” It also reiterates the Arab Middle East peace plan, endorsed by a Beirut summit in March last year, which stated acceptable conditions for the establishment of normal ties with Israel.