The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance made up of six Middle Eastern countries located in the Gulf region on the Arabian peninsula. The bloc aims to boost economic cooperation between members and, through collective security, to guard against any threat from neighbouring states and from Islamic extremism. The GCC also aims to achieve unity among its members based on their common objectives and their similar political and cultural identities, which are rooted in Islamic beliefs.
On 21st Rajab 1401 AH corresponding to 25th May 1981, the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE met in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where they reached a cooperative framework joining the six states to effect coordination, integration and inter-connection among the Member States in all fields in order to achieve unity, according to article 4 of the GCC Charter. The base of this organization is erected on geographical proximity, homogeneous political systems, similar Islamic beliefs, same cultural identities, monolingualism and common objectives.
Following dramatic global increases in the price of oil and natural gas during the 1970s, formation of the GCC represented an effort to manage economic growth and diversify the economic base of the region. GCC member nations agreed to abolish customs duties on domestically produced goods; harmonize banking regulations; coordinate trade, development and industrial projects; and allow free movement of people and vehicles. GCC nations also undertook efforts to privatize publicly owned enterprises, such as state-run utilities.
- Bahrain — constitutional monarchy
- Kuwait — hereditary emirate
- Oman — absolute monarchy
- Qatar — constitutional monarchy
- Saudi Arabia — absolute monarchy
- United Arab Emirates — federal monarchy
The GCC Charter states that the basic objectives are to have coordination, integration and inter-connection between Member States in all fields, formulating similar regulations in various fields such as economy, finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation, administration, as well as fostering scientific and technical progress in industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources, establishing scientific research centres, setting up joint ventures and encouraging cooperation of the private sector.
Arguably the most important article of the GCC charter is Article 4 which states that the alliance was formed to strengthen relations among its member countries and to promote cooperation among the countries’ citizens.
Supreme Council: The highest decision-making body is composed of the GCC heads of state. It meets once a year. The presidency of the council rotates in Arabic alphabetical order. Decisions on substantive issues require unanimous approval.
Ministerial Council: Made up of foreign ministers or other ministers, the council meets once every three months. It proposes policies and manages the implementation of decisions.
Secretariat General: The administrative body prepares meetings and monitors the implementation of policies.
Consultative Commission: Made up of five representatives from each member state, the commission advises the Supreme Council.
Commission for the Settlement of Disputes: Formed on an ad hoc basis to seek peaceful solutions to problems among member states.
Secretary General: Appointed by the Supreme Council for three years, renewable once.
Article 4 of the charter describes the following objectives:
- To effect coordination, integration and inter-connection between member states in all fields in order to achieve unity between them.
- 2. To deepen and strengthen relations, links and areas of cooperation now prevailing between their peoples in various fields.
- 3. To formulate similar regulations in various fields including the following:
a. Economic and financial affairs;
b. Commerce, customs and communications;
c. Education and culture;
d. Social and health affairs;
e. Information and tourism, and
f. Legislative and administrative affairs.
- To stimulate scientific and technological progress in the fields of industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources: to establish scientific research: to establish joint ventures and encourage cooperation by the private sector for the good of their peoples.
Council’s Stance on Important Issues
The GCC has an apparent position on the Palestinian issue that is the recognition of the right of self-determination of the Palestinians, especially their right to return to Palestine and to establish their country.
2. Golan Heights
The GCC has supported Syria’s rights on the issue of Golan Heights and called on Israel to withdraw from Golan back to the 1967 line in accordance with the Madrid Conference. Moreover, the GCC has called on Israel to implement Security Council Resolution 242; according to which Israel should withdraw from the occupied land.
On the Syrian turmoil especially after the Arab Spring, the GCC has lent a strong support to Syrian people. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are more willing to support Syria and reports suggest that they are supporting Syrian people with weapons so they can defend themselves.
4. Yemen Crisis
On Yemen issue, the Gulf initiative and its mechanism has helped the immediate action to save Yemenis from sliding toward discord and chaos, and to achieve a peaceful and smooth transition of power through a transitional phase of two years. After obtaining the approval of the main parties in Yemen, it launched the initiative in the Security Council, which unanimously adopted Resolution 2140 on Yemen.
Peninsula Shield Force in 1982
Among the important achievements in the military field is the creation of the Peninsula Shield Force in 1982, which incorporates the credibility of the GCC will.
The Comprehensive Security Strategy
The Supreme Council approved the Comprehensive Security Strategy in 1987. This strategy is a broad structure for inclusive security cooperation.
Military Communication Network
One of the results of military cooperation was the completion of studies and negotiations for secure network communications, and the continuing work on development and maintenance of a private cooperation system linking the leaders of air defence centres in GCC countries.
Facilitating the movement of people and commodities
One of the practical and significant achievements of the GCC is facilitating the movement of people and commodities between member countries
Unified Economic Agreement (1981) & Economic Agreement (2001)
Under these agreements, followings have been achieved:
- Free trade agreement in 1983
- Custom unions in 2003
- Common market in 2008
Moreover, there is a proposal of common currency ―Khaleeji
Weaknesses OF GCC:
The GCC was formed from the exerted pressure of the Saudi oligarchy for the purposes of maintaining control over their smaller Gulf neighbours ― politically and strategically. Saudi Arabia has made this organization to fulfil its foremost desire to control the Middle Eastern-Oriental politics and to subdue traditional rival — Iran.
After the Arab Spring, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, once close allies, are experiencing a very public falling out. After supporting conflicting factions in Egypt and Syria, as well as vying for dominance over the Arabic news waves, both countries seemed on the verge of plunging the Arab Peninsula into a Cold War. The security dilemma between them has become pronounced, and Saudi Arabia now looked at Qatar as a threat to its national security.
Reservations over Saudi Arabia
Since Saudi Arabia is the most trusted ally of US and other global giants, the Gulf rulers are more susceptible to Saudi pressure and her strategic moves. They are wary of the growing Saudi influence on the regional affairs. For instance, in Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia played a key role in GCC decision-making apparatus in order to curb the wave of democratization and to safeguard its monarchical empire. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has tried to influence the domestic affairs in the oil-rich Bahrain.
Non-settlement of Syrian Refugees
Although Saudi Arabia has failed to accommodate the issue of the Syrian refugees, the other member states too are equally responsible for the disregard of the humanitarian calamity.
Sectarian hues in Middle East
Most of the GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia, have Sunni-dominated populations while the only state that has a majority Shiite population is Bahrain. This explicitly proved the spread of sectarianism among the two main sects of Islam. The Middle East is burning and sectarian schism is one of the reasons behind it. Yemen crisis and Saudi led operation is one example.
Pakistan & the GCC
The GCC has always considered Pakistan a part of the formula of regional balance with Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s military capabilities qualify it to play a balancing role in the region. An active Pakistani presence in the Middle East, and particularly in the Gulf region, can provide regional stability and security, and enhance Islamabad’s international influence. Pakistani interests in Arab Gulf countries are huge and have bigger value commercially, politically and religiously. Pakistan has played a balancing role with Iran in the Gulf since the 1970s. Successive Pakistani governments have strengthened relations with the Gulf countries.
- Saudi Arabia would continue to dominate the domestic as well as foreign policy of the Gulf Cooperation Council in order to minimize the growing influence of Iran in the region;
- As all members of GCC are possessors of Black Gold so they would continue to prosper in economic terms;
- The chances of issuing common currency-Khaleeji are only probable because it would compel the autocracies to dilute their sovereignty;
- Accompanying the tumultuous situation in the Middle East, the member states would pursue strong strategic and security agreements or alliances;
- Sectarianism over political prospects would continue to exist in the policy of GCC;
- Over the issue of Palestine, the Council would maintain its old stance and nothing in practical-negotiations; mediation or arbitration could be expected on this matter.
- More countries like Egypt, Libya, Jordon or Morocco would likely to join GCC because of their current coalition in Saudi led military alliance ― Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism.