Ahmed Aboul-Gheit deserves to be congratulated on his election as secretary general of the Arab League; after a long career in the Egyptian diplomatic corps, Aboul-Gheit has earned the traditional award of heading the most important Pan-Arab organization.

It’s just a shame that leading the Arab League has become little more than a reward to be passed around between Egyptian diplomats.

It’s a long-standing tradition that Egypt nominates the head of the league – and it shows, with Egyptians holding the top spot for 60 of the 70-odd years since the Arab League was founded in 1945. Aboul-Gheit will be the third secretary general in a row who is a former Egyptian foreign minister.

As the largest Arab country and considering its prominence in the Pan-Arab movement, it’s natural that Egyptians would be strong contenders to lead the Arab League. But in this day and age, and as the region adapts to new realities and a shifting geo-political reality, does the Arab League risk irrelevance if it continues the same traditions that have gotten us here?


The Arab leaders, governments and institutions that are adapting and becoming more inclusive are our best hope for real change and progress. The change underfoot in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates reorganizing its cabinet to involve more female and youth ministers and Saudi Arabia electing its first female politicians, is inspiring.

The days of Cairo being the dominant diplomatic power regionally are waning; Egypt’s domestic and economic instability have seen to that. It is time for the Arab League leadership to reflect the changing landscape of the region, and this was a missed opportunity to do so.

The region’s 100-million-plus youth deserve fresh leadership capable of bridging differences between Arab League member states rather than simply watching over the tension and growing divisions.