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Silence the Guns, Stop the Conflicts, Face the Pandemic

Silence the Guns, Stop the Conflicts, Face the Pandemic

Sunday, 22 March, 2020 - 12:00
Ahmed Abul Gheit
Ahmed Abul Gheit is the Secretary General of the Arab League.

This year, on March 22, falls the diamond anniversary of the League of Arab States. Seventy-five years have passed since this historic step was made by a founding generation of wise Arab leaders, to develop an institutional framework for relations between Arab countries, which has long been based on the unity of feeling and conscience, as well as language, history and a shared culture, without this being translated into a political institutionalization framework.

This step was a precedent in various regions of the world, as the League was even born months before the creation of the United Nations.

A long journey of challenges: from great achievements to bitter failures, which our organization made during the past 75 years... Over this period, the Arabs defeated colonialism and became free nations and peoples who control their own destiny… They let the world hear their one collective voice. They defended their causes and capabilities as much as they could, in light of the circumstances and the reality of the situation.

The 75th anniversary comes today, and the Arab world is most in need of the value of joint teamwork. The ambition is still ahead of reality and the hope is much greater than what has been achieved.

The problems of the Arab world cannot be hidden… Its bleeding wounds are hurting us so badly.

Recently, our Nation has also had to contend with the most serious challenges of the time, which is the coronavirus pandemic that struck most countries with varying degrees of intensity. The most dangerous aspect of this pandemic is its impact on the social fabric, in a way that makes it a threat that may outweigh the gravity of wars and conflicts. It makes people themselves “time bombs” that can explode in the social body in a progressive manner, leading to its total disruption, as we see in some countries, with all the economic, social, and even security and political consequences this entails.

For this reason, all governments find themselves facing difficult tests while trying to combat this hidden enemy. The strategies put up for confrontation have a high human and economic cost, and the best options are bitter.

Despite the measures required to confront the spread of the epidemic, from social distancing to quarantine and self-isolation, the most powerful weapon remains human solidarity and compassion, and the understanding that such an enemy can only be defeated by crushing it everywhere.

The spirit of societal belonging and the responsibility towards it is the lifeline of all societies, including our Arab world, whose people are known for their mutual support in adversity and pain. Some of our Arab countries suffer from burning crises. Conflicts in Syria and Yemen have had tremendous human costs.

Many have agreed that Syria, in particular, faces the most serious refugee crisis since World War II, with about half of the population left between displacement and emigration. Since the clashes flared in Idlib in December, nearly a million Syrians have been displaced.

The current epidemic should not make us forget us that our people in Yemen are already suffering from the outbreak of malaria, which numbered over 116,000 as of last October, while the World Health Organization says that 21 million Yemenis are prone to catch it.

These dangerous humanitarian situations are a symptom of the original disease, which is the persistence of conflicts. It is time to silence the cannons, through which the people of one homeland kill each other. The global situation against the coronavirus pandemic reflects the futility of the continuation of such conflicts.

I call on all parties, in the name of mercy and humanitarian responsibility, to stop the fighting on all burning Arab fronts. The crisis facing the world will put pressure on all available resources, and confronting the pandemic will be the top priority of aid programs. This situation will incur more pain to the misfortunate groups, who are already suffering from humanitarian crises… Refugees, displaced persons and the most vulnerable…

In other terms, if we do not help ourselves, we should not blame others if they fail to extend a helping hand.

It has become clear that facing the pandemic requires the greatest solidarity and trust between governments and the public.

In the Arab region, some countries suffer from protracted political crises, especially in Iraq and Lebanon. Again, the current moment does not tolerate political conflict, but rather requires the utmost levels of national alignment.

Arab peoples are waiting for their leaders and politicians to be up to the challenge, to rise above political disputes and to agree on a common word. This is because facing a test of such a severity, like the coronavirus pandemic, necessitates essentially a degree of trust between governments and their peoples. Without this confidence, measures taken by the authorities would lack the required effectiveness.

In every hardship lies an opportunity. This pandemic, which affects everyone without discrimination, may represent an opportunity for countries that suffer from conflicts to declare a truce that allows to remedy the situation and put an end to humanitarian crises and economic suffering.

On this day, I intended to send a message reminding the Arabs of the value of solidarity, as they are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the birth of their organization. However, the global crisis compelled me to appeal again to the need to stop the raging conflicts in our country, bridge the political gaps and mobilize forces to confront this imminent danger.

Perhaps this pandemic is a new opportunity for Arab countries to consolidate their bonds and deepen coordination in all fields, because the repercussions of the coronavirus will not be limited to the health field, but have long-lasting economic and social effects, which requires Arab institutions to coordinate efforts, exchange experiences and share burdens.

The Arab League, which is celebrating today its diamond anniversary, with its specialized institutions, councils and organizations, remains the best mechanism for achieving our goals, whether against the global pandemic or others. Our role remains to continue the march, and to ensure that our institution remains immune to demolition and to the challenges of fragmentation.

God protect this Nation, preserve its people and secure its path towards progress and recovery.

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