For the Arab countries, integration is a development imperative. Around the world, even
the greatest powers have opted to be part of larger regional entities in order to manage
globalization and the competition it brings. Meanwhile, Arab countries - fragmented and
divided - try to face individually external pressures, domestic challenges and emerging
risks in a world growing more interconnected and complex each day. The isolation of
individual Arab countries is all the more regrettable because Arabs share a common language,
heritage, history and culture, and are linked by geographical proximity. No region that successfully
integrated began with greater advantages.
Arab integration is not a new idea. It has been adopted as an official goal and attempted at different times since the 1950s. However, a history of division actively encouraged by outside forces, and an absence of clear political will and strategies, have almost always frustrated these efforts. As a result, Arab countries have missed several opportunities to join forces to promote development and national security, wasting the potential of integration to create a regional order that upholds the rights, freedoms and dignity of all its citizens. Taking its cue from the first aims of formal Arab cooperation over sixty years ago, the present report calls for a new Arab project of comprehensive integration. This ambitious initiative rests on three pillars: stronger political cooperation for good governance and effective external diplomacy; deeper economic integration to reap benefits for all Arab countries; and more extensive educational and cultural reform to root out lodged constraints and enable Arab knowledge societies to thrive.
An important goal is to unify the Arab space, creating one area where all Arab citizens enjoy full citizenship rights in a true nation of free will, creative knowledge, real power, continuous renewal and autonomy. The report argues that nothing less will answer the awakened call of the Arab people for justice, opportunities and freedom as heard during the recent wave of popular protests across the region. This historic awakening lends powerful impetus to Arab integration, which can deliver for the majority of Arabs those benefits denied them by its absence.
The report demonstrates that comprehensive integration, properly managed, can benefit all the Arab countries. It emphasizes, moreover, that an integrated Arab region will not close itself to the world but seek to consolidate relations with other regional groups and strengthen ties with other civilizations.