Alumni Spotlight: Abdulrahman Ben Homaid S.J.D. '06

The Arab League – A Comparative Examination of Voting Mechanisms

Tell me about your thesis.

My thesis addresses reforms of the Arab League as a regional organization – how the reforms have been suggested and how some of them have been adopted. I focused on comparative analysis of the Arab League, the European Union and the African Union and studied how their procedural voting mechanisms operate. At the end of my thesis I suggest some amendments that should be made to the voting mechanisms – to make the Arab League a more effective organization. I found that the Arab League has not been very effective in dealing with regional issues such as the Iraq war, Darfur and Iran's nuclear ambitions. In turn, these security issues affect the security of the members in the Gulf and North Africa. The Arab League should be responsible for a more coordinated, formal security policy that deals with these issues.

Why did you choose to write about this subject?

I wanted to focus on organizations such as the Arab League which have primary roles in the stability of their regions. I am also from the Middle East and found that there has been little written about this topic before, and what has been written has been affected by political bias or other motivations.

Which voting mechanism did you recommend at the end of your thesis?

I chose the qualified majority as it is the most democratic. It reflects the mix of population, economic strength, and military strength of the members. This voting mechanism will enhance the role of stronger members in the Arab region to support the organization, and avoid individual policies. The larger members will have an advantage in supporting the organization as they will have more votes in the decision-making.

For your thesis to operate successfully, the countries involved in the League would have to have a strong system of rule of law. How would you enforce the League’s decisions? Would there be penalties for countries that didn’t follow the majority voting system?

One of the problems with the Arab League is that there are no sanctions. At present, there is an amendment to adopt more. That is why I specifically examined the Arab League in comparison to other regional organizations. Being a member of the League doesn’t mean that a country will give up their sovereignty, but the member has conceded and accepted some responsibility, a part of which is to protect other members in need of assistance.

Do you see the Arab League becoming as strong as the European Union in the future (e.g. a common defense, the free movement of people)?

These are areas that need to be reformed within the Arab League and the Arab Region. One of the premises of my thesis is that if you want a strong Arab League, you need stronger, democratic Arab countries. You need countries which comply with the rule of law and have good human rights records. There has been a conflict of opinion among Arab states recently with the recent crisis in Darfur and the Iraq war, and because of this the Arab League has got weaker. Arab countries need political will to pursue democratic reforms.

A large part of my thesis deals with how the Arab League deals with other international legal issues like the Israeli wall and the occupied territories in Palestine. I compare how the Arab League dealt with these issues with how the United Nations Security Council dealt with them. I found that the Arab League dealt with the issues more effectively in supporting the Palestinian cause, supporting the Palestinian claim over their territory, and supporting the rule of law. From that point of view, the Arab League is effective in dealing with the humanitarian violations in the occupied territories, international norms and the ICJ legal opinion that the Israeli wall is contrary to international law, and must be dismantled.

What do you think the future of the Arab League will look like?

I think it will be stronger. As countries become more democratic, they will inevitably support the League. It will also deal with the Palestinian issues more effectively. Three of four months ago the Arab League established an Arab Parliament which is a small step in the right direction.

What is your lasting impression of the ILSP program?

The ILSP program really did change my life. The amazing thing about it is that I have met people from around the world who have broadened my understanding. I have met a judge from Egypt, a professor from Kuwait, a prosecutor from Argentina, and a lawyer from Brazil. I was able to engage in discussions with legal scholars and build friendships that I will sustain in the future. Also, having people with diverse backgrounds in the program from more than sixty countries opens your eyes to issues you didn't know existed.