The Arab League is in the midst of a financial crisis that is making it difficult for the 22-member organisation to maintain humanitarian activities or even pay the salaries of its employees. “Member states lag behind the deadline for paying their share of the 2017 budget,” said Adnan al- Khodeir, assistant Arab League secretary-general for financial affairs. “We have appealed to Arab governments to speed up the payment of their contribution to the budget or we will fail to carry out our job.”
Arab governments were supposed to have paid their annual share of the budget by the beginning of January but only 14% of the $64 million budget has been financed and that was all paid by Kuwait. In 2016, only 38% of the funds needed for the proposed budget was paid.
The lack of finances has crippled the league at every turn. It has failed to conduct most of the humanitarian missions it had planned for war-torn and poverty-stricken areas, such as Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Sudan. These projects were approved at the Arab League summit last July in Mauritania.
Each Arab League member is supposed to contribute to the league’s budget based on the number of its nationals working for the organisation. Egypt used to pay 65% of the budget of the league because that percentage of Arab League employees were Egyptian. In 2012, Saudi Arabia replaced Egypt, which was struggling with economic and political unrest, as the largest budget contributor.
One Arab League employee said instead of receiving her salary for December on the 25th of the month as usual, she received it on January 19th. “My colleagues and I believe the salary for January might not come at all,” said the employee, who requested anonymity.
Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki said: “The league has limited financial resources, which is why it needs to cut down its spending. The lack of funds has actually rendered the league incapable of offering support to Arab people in need.”
Observers accuse some Arab governments of withholding contributions to the budget of the league to put pressure on Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
“Funding is turning into some Arab countries’ pressure card to effect change in the Arab League,” said Abdullah al-Ashaal, Egypt’s former assistant Foreign minister. “Some Arab states have interest in undermining the league and its new chief.”
Some Arab League members, including Qatar and Sudan, objected to Aboul Gheit’s nomination to the top post of the Arab League last March. Qatar cited some of his decisions when he served as Egypt’s Foreign minister from 2004-11.
Khodeir warned the financial crisis would undermine the league in the coming months, including its bid to prepare for the Arab League summit, scheduled for March in Jordan.
This article by Ahmed Megahid, was originally published in The Arab Weekly