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"How will the Arab World be
able to master its own
independent developments?"



Mahdi Elmandjra

University Mohamed V, Rabat, Morocco

TFF associate


Rabat, Morocco - September 25, 2004 - Published by Kyodo News, Japan


The question posed in the title implicitly admits that the Arab world is not presently master of its own destiny. This is quite true and has been so for several decades.

The Arab world is composed of 22 countries, including Palestine, a total population of 300 million 40% of whom are under 15 years of age. The region represents an area of 13 million square kilometres (35 times the area of Japan).

It is hard to understand what is happening in this region today without recalling elements of a past which is still affecting the present and conditioning the future. Atomization has been and remains one of the basic obstacles facing the region. Eighty percent of the total Arab population is concentrated in 7 countries whereas 7 other countries barely reach 2 percent of that total.

This geo-political fragmentation is the consequence of a harmonized colonial Anglo-French plan, after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, including the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), the Balfour Declaration concerning Palestine (1917) and the Armistice Treaty (1918) which has transformed the region into a mosaic of artificial kinglets and mini-territories well endowed with oil.

A balkanization which is reflected today in an unequal distribution of income in the region - from less than $ 500 dollars (Somalia, Yemen, Mauritania) to over $ 20.0000 dollars (United Arab Emirates and Kuwait). The image people have about the richness of the Arab world needs to be relativized. The total GDP of the Arab countries ($ 500 billion dollars)is not even equal to the GDP of Spain and represents only one fourth of the GDP of Germany.

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Arab oil (two-thirds of the world reserves) has proven to be the major curse of the region because of the rivalries it arouses among major international politico-economic interests. Oil has also encouraged an exogenous model of development with an exaggerated reliance on external sources and models which stifles creativity and innovation. It has smothered self-reliance, promoted corruption and entertained a systemic waste of resources and a withering away of ethics.

There can be no real Arab independence until there is an independent Arab oil management. This calls for a radical change of the political regimes in power and of the policies of the multinational companies who are the real managers of that oil with the backing of Great Powers.

It is most appropriate to speak of the "establishment of independent developments in the Arab world" because no Arab country is independent today. It suffices to see their inaction, cowardice and betrayal with respect to what is taking place in Palestine and Iraq.

The harsh fact is that not a single Arab country has been able so far to enable its population to live adequately and in dignity. The region has been the seat of successive long-lasting massacres and an un-ending military, political and socio-economic occupation. It still suffers from poverty, illiteracy (50% of the population), the absence of truly democratic institutions including effective mechanisms for the protection of human rights, the lack of investment in research and development and very inadequate educational and cultural policies.

The first priority is the establishment of democratic institutions which recognize the people as the source of power in the place of bestowed constitutions. A democracy that is self-generated not one exported with a "fast-food" franchise.

None of the "Western democratic liberal" countries would be ready to accept the introduction of truly democratic regimes in the Arab world. It would endanger their vested interests and the politically corrupt systems they have backed for years. One finds here a hypocritical connivance between the reactionary forces in the Arab world and the Western officials who proselytise democracy and human rights.

The least democratic system in the Arab world today is the one which has been imposed in Iraq by the Occupation forces with the assistance of a network of criminals and corrupt traitors totally rejected by the population.

The present models of development have proven to be a total failure. There is a necessity for more endogenous development policies which take into account the values, aspirations and needs of the populations concerned with greater self-reliant regional solutions.

Political and economic integration is a fundamental priority for the building of a community of 300 million people with a critical mass and an economy of scale. The tragedy of the Arab world is that one finds no "vision" of the future anywhere except the one imposed by the World Bank. No vision because there is no democratic participatory process.

The tasks to be undertaken in order to attain a relative independence are arduous and numerous. From those of democratization and social justice to the most basic objectives such as food self-sufficiency, water management, fundamental education and health care.

The international environment does not favour change as long as a mega-imperial power dictates the way to the whole world and which is going through an acute phase of Arab-phobia and Islam-phobia. This fear is not limited to the United States.

Real fundamental change may have to wait for the end of the supremacy of the present mega-imperial power and the advent of China and India within the next fifteen to twenty years as super powers - thereby relegating the United States of America to second and even third position in the world economy.

Until then I do not believe that any of the present 22 regimes in the Arab world will be able to survive for more than ten to fifteen years because they are in full contradiction with the feelings of their peoples.

A recent poll has shown that 98% of Egyptians were opposed to the policies of the United States, in the case of Saudi Arabia the figure is 94% of the people and in that of Morocco it is 88%.

The future of the Arab world will also be determined by a very deep scar in the flesh and memory of the Arab people - the one of the massacres of Palestine and Iraq and the vast demolition of dwellings and of a millenary cultural patrimony. It will take several generations to heal. History has a price slightly different from the ones which prevail in Wall Street or on the oil market: because dignity is priceless.


© TFF & the author 2004  


Other articles by this author

We Have Entered the Era of the Second War of Civilisations

WorldNow: World faced with 'mega imperialism'



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