In light of the state of division plaguing the Arab world, the Arab Parliament appeared as the light at the end of the tunnel, giving hopes of lifting the Arab world after its collapse. The Arab Parliament, which was founded in 2004-2005, was able to convey the pulse of the Arab street to the Arab rulers and presidents, as well as to the outside world. It was able to illustrate the most important achievements and prospects of its work. Azzaman interviewed Ahmed al-Jarwan, president of the Arab Parliament, which witnessed a quality change in the joint Arab action.
Azzaman: What were the parliament’s recent achievements under your presidency?
Jarwan: The Arab Parliament was established following a decision by Arab kings and presidents in 2004-2005. The basic system of this transitional parliament was approved in Algeria. The transitional period was then extended for two more years during the Sirte Summit five years after its establishment. Thus [the transitional period for the parliament] was seven years in a row. After the Baghdad summit in 2012, the transitional period of the Arab Parliament ended and the permanent parliament began. It consisted of 88 members representing the Arab people in 22 countries — except for Syria due to the circumstances there — which led to the decision to suspend its membership by a resolution issued by the Arab leaders and presidents.
In the first phase of the parliament’s establishment, we were caught up in the development of internal and basic systems concerned with organizing the parliament’s work. In 2012, we started to develop parliamentary diplomacy to publicize the Arab Parliament within the Arab world. We also wanted to build relationships with regional parliaments around the Arab world and the international community, by improving relations and opening bridges with similar parliaments and organizations of the international community such as the United Nations, human rights organizations and the Red Crescent Societies, as well as institutions concerned with the Arab affairs in general. According to the statute of the parliament, we are tasked with delivering the Arab street’s message to the Arab kings and presidents, as well as to the Arab League institutions, to communicate with them in order to serve the Arab world in the political, economic and social fields. We should also transfer the image that the Arab street wants to show the international community and the region. We want to show that we strive for peace and cooperation with all parties, despite their different policies. We are still at the beginning of our journey and we have ambitions and dreams that we wish to achieve.
Azzaman: Despite the goals set by the Arab Parliament, some underestimated the decisions taken by the parliament because they are non-binding. How do you see this?
Jarwan: We in the Arab Parliament are working on the deployment of the parliamentary culture, but we are well aware of the circumstances under which we operate. The Arab Parliament was born in 2012 in light of tough circumstances in the Arab world, thus our concern is for the parliament to be able to move past these conditions. We do not seek to clash with the apparatuses affiliated with the Arab League, but we are looking forward to cooperating and delivering the Arab street’s demands to the Arab leaders so they can take the appropriate decision in accordance with the statute, which stated that the parliament apparatus must be legislative and supervisory. In this critical stage, we do not aim for the parliament to have a consultative or an executive role. We are trying to cooperate with the Arab League to prevent any foreign scheme from jeopardizing national Arab security.
We address the international community by saying that our leadership and peoples are one in the face of all of the attempts to destabilize Arab national security. It is the responsibility of the Arab League apparatuses to make the Arab Parliament task effective, by developing the rules based on which the Arab Parliament operates, and giving it the adequate space to express the voice of the Arab street. It is also our responsibility to have the culture and awareness of a parliament under the current situation in the Arab world. If goodwill exists, we can reach medium solutions when there is a disagreement
Azzaman: What can the Arab Parliament do to address the problems, which most people in our region face, particularly poverty and unemployment?
Jarwan: The Arab Parliament is not an employment agency, and does not select staff. We welcome the representatives of the peoples to be representatives of the whole Arab people. We give them all issues that raise concern in the Arab world to be examined, and the positive points will be taken into account.
Azzaman: With the approach of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, what is the role of the Arab Parliament in these elections?
Jarwan: The Arab Parliament apparatuses will participate in the follow-up of the elections, after we have received invitations to participate in them. We hope that the Egyptian people assume the responsibility of that phase and conduct honorable elections that best serve Egypt, the Arab world and the region in general, given Egypt’s responsibility in the leadership of the Arab world.
Azzaman: What are the obstacles that prevent the Arab Parliament from assuming its role?
Jarwan: Many challenges are facing the Arab world, while foreign interference prevents our communication with the Arab League apparatuses. Many situations require meetings to be held, but the preoccupation of the members prevents them from attending, which hinders the work of the Arab Parliament. Yet, we are aware of the nature of these circumstances and we are trying to face them.
Azzaman: How do you assess the participation of women in the Arab Parliament and in the decision-making centers in Arab countries?
Jarwan: Women play a prominent role in all Arab Parliament institutions, and have assumed a prominent role in recent years in a number of Arab countries. Yet, they did not assume decision-making positions in a number of countries. Therefore, we call on all Arab governments to remove the obstacles to their access to a share in decision-making positions, and to ensure they occupy public posts, based on the standard of competence and without any discrimination. We call on Arab and African constitutions and legislation to guarantee support for women's political rights. We have issued detailed annual reports on the situation of Arab women, and monitored the developments in the Arab countries national legislation and the extent to which they are committed to the implementation of the women’s rights legislation provisions.
Azzaman: Are you satisfied with the member states’ response to the recommendations of the Arab Parliament?
Jarwan: We are not asking for the impossible. We are aware of the difficult circumstances in the Arab world, and we are trying to be present on the Arab map in an acceptable way. We do not want to be a burden on the decision-makers or the Arab street by fomenting problems and opening files that are inconvenient at present. We have many dreams, such as the railway linking the Arab countries together.
We also have [the project of] common workers and the single currency. These are all important issues, but we are facing challenges hindering their implementation, such as terrorism. Yet, still, we are trying to have positive participation and there are a lot of positive points that we have made especially with regard to the Palestinian problem. For the first time ever, we have conveyed the Arab point of view to the international community and joined the states supporting the Palestinian cause. Moreover, we supported a political solution to the Syrian crisis and warned against political interference. We also recognized the legitimate Libyan government and the parliament chosen by the Libyan people. Also, we warned against Yemen turning into another Somalia, and we supported the Gulf initiative as it is suitable for the Yemeni people. With regard to terrorism, we condemned all negative practices carried out by terrorist organizations in the name of Islam.
Azzaman: As far as terrorism in the Arab world is concerned, do you think that this phenomenon is the result of a foreign plot or the result of popular congestion due to the practices of the regimes?
Jarwan: I guess it is all of the above. Any plot involving terrorism definitely involves the World Zionist [Organization]. Moreover, the regional countries that have interests in the region have a hand in those problems. We hope that the Arab leaders representing the Arab people will work on communicating with all the components of their populations away from any kind of exclusion.
Azzaman: Do you believe that the pro-Iranian groups’ control of several Arab countries is part of a regional Iranian scheme?
Jarwan: We in the Arab world are seeking strong relationships with our neighbors in order to build bridges with our surrounding nations, including Iran. From this standpoint, we congratulated the Iranian president when he took office and asked him for good neighborliness and non-interference in our affairs. Also, we call on all regional parties not to interfere in our affairs. Whoever has a plan should carry it out away from us and without using as a pretext humane, national and sectarian subjects that have recently emerged. Accordingly, we ask Iran to act as a support and a friend of ours in the region. And if it is an accomplice with groups within our country, then let them assume this responsibility and let history be their judge. Concerning Iran’s occupation of the three UAE islands, we call for solving this problem through discussion or through the International Court of Justice. Still, we have good relations with the Iranian people, and we ask them to raise demands of good neighborliness to their government instead of spending their money on wars.
Azzaman: What is the role of the Arab Parliament in support of the Palestinian demands to establish their state on the 1967 borders?
Jarwan: Since the beginning of the Palestinian Authority's move to win the world's recognition of a Palestinian state, we established contacts with the European parliaments and we supported their recognition of the Palestinian state. We also addressed the international community and the European parliaments before the vote on the UN Security Council resolution in order to place pressure on their governments. However, world Zionism is more influential than the Arabs. The international diplomacy was neglectful and it is shameful for the world to watch people being killed and stand idle.
Azzaman: To conclude, what is your vision on activating the role of the Arab Parliament in the next stage?
Jarwan: We are looking forward to achieving further communication with the Arab League. We are also looking forward to further cooperation with national parliaments, which send their representatives to activate the joint Arab action. We also hope that the Arab governments will pay more attention to the Arab Parliament, which is a positive apparatus that works in the support of Arab diplomacy and the Arab people.
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