On Saturday (May 25) marked the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in the early ‘80s, highlighting the success of its foundation, thanks to the wise and balanced policies adopted under the wise leadership of the leaders of the member states.
After these long years of dedication and interaction, the GCC has succeeded in enhancing its regional position and its international presence and engagement. It has become a reliable and active partner in fostering global security and stability.
The anniversary arrives at a time when the GCC has proven to be the most successful integrative experience in the region. This experience has garnered widespread admiration and praise, becoming a cornerstone of security and stability, a voice of wisdom and balance, and a unique model for a prosperous life. The anniversary also comes as the Gulf citizen enjoys security and stability, feels proud of their achievements and gains, and extends a helping hand to their brethren and all humanity.
The GCC was established on May 25, 1981, in exceptional circumstances due to regional tensions and the political, security, and economic challenges faced by the region. These circumstances prompted the member states to unify their efforts, co-operate, and enhance economic, political, and security integration to achieve stability and cooperation in facing these challenges. The main objectives of establishing the GCC, as outlined in its basic charter, include achieving co-ordination, integration, and interconnection among member states in all fields, strengthening ties between their peoples, and adopting similar systems in various economic, financial, commercial, customs, transportation, educational, cultural, social, health, media, tourism, legislative, and administrative fields. It also aims to advance scientific and technical progress in industry, mining, agriculture, water, and animal resources, establish scientific research centres, and implement joint projects, and encourage private sector co-operation.
The decision to establish the GCC was not spontaneous but rather an institutional embodiment of a historical, social, and cultural reality. The GCC states are characterised by deep religious and cultural ties and familial interconnections among their citizens, all of which are factors that enhance their unity and co-operation. The geographical proximity and the shared desert coastal environment facilitated communication and interaction, fostering a homogeneous identity and values. The establishment of the GCC also came in response to the aspirations of the region’s people for some form of regional Arab unity, after such unity proved difficult to achieve at the broader Arab level. The GCC’s basic charter states that its establishment was driven by the member states recognition of their special relationships, common characteristics, and similar systems, all rooted in Islamic beliefs. It reflects their shared destiny and unity of purpose, and their desire to achieve co-ordination, integration, and interconnection in all fields, convinced that such co-operation serves the noble goals of the Arab nation.
In the context of the council’s evolution and increasing effectiveness and influence regionally and globally, the GCC launched its regional security vision on March 29. Qatar participated in the vision launch event organised by the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh.
The Qatari delegation at the event was headed by HE the Director of Policy and Planning Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Khalid bin Fahad al-Khater. In his speech at the event, he stated that the launch of the vision comes at a time of escalating international and regional changes, necessitating intensified co-ordination to deal with these changes and avoid their serious repercussions.
He emphasised that the GCC countries are working to strengthen collective security ties, share a common approach to reducing tensions, and address instability in the region through diplomatic and economic means, aiming to end conflicts that violate state sovereignty through dialogue, negotiations, and diplomatic methods, and to avoid the use of force to ensure regional security and stability.
HE Dr al-Khater highlighted that the event was a culmination of joint Gulf efforts through the regional security team to develop a common vision for the GCC regarding regional security in the Gulf. He added that this vision represents the starting point for addressing regional security issues in the upcoming period through ongoing dialogues with various partners on this matter.
He clarified that the vision is based on several pillars of security for the GCC, foremost among these is the council’s fundamental charter, which emphasises the shared destiny and unity of purpose among the member states, aiming for co-ordination and integration, in addition to, the joint defence agreement stipulates that any attack on one member is considered an attack on all, and any threat to one is a threat to all.
HE Dr al-Khater also participated in a panel discussion organised by the GCC General Secretariat during the event, focusing on the GCC’s vision for regional security and ways to enhance and advance it. In his speech, he highlighted that enhancing regional security is a priority for Qatar during its current presidency of the GCC, reflecting Qatar’s long-standing commitment to contributing to regional security by building bridges of dialogue and co-operation.
Over its more than four-decade-long journey, the GCC has achieved numerous historical milestones that have strengthened the council’s foundation and entrenched its goals and aspirations in the hearts of Gulf citizens. Among these achievements is the establishment of the Gulf Common Market, which offers numerous benefits, including the seamless flow of goods between GCC countries, thereby increasing competition among Gulf institutions to the benefit of consumers.
The GCC also established a “Free Trade Area”, primarily characterised by the exemption of GCC-produced industrial, agricultural, and natural resource products from customs duties. This Free Trade Area came into effect in March 1983 and lasted for nearly 20 years until the end of 2002, when it was replaced by the GCC Customs Union.
During its journey, which has now entered its fifth decade, the GCC also accomplished the project of the unified GCC identity card (smart card). This initiative has facilitated the movement of citizens between member states, reduced wait times at entry points through the use of electronic gates, and aided the smooth movement of national labour between member states.
In terms of the GCC’s milestones and projects, the adoption of a comprehensive security strategy for its member states and the GCC security agreement stands out. Joint military work has always received attention from the leaders of the GCC states, since its inception. Notable achievements in this area include the approval of the GCC joint defence agreement, the GCC defence strategy, the formation of the Peninsula Shield Force, and the conducting of joint military exercises. The education sector has also garnered significant attention from the GCC in recent years, achieving numerous successes such as equality in general and technical education and the promotion of Gulf citizenship values. The GCC established the Gulf Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and approved the guide for good practices, ensuring equal treatment for GCC nationals residing in member states in universities and public higher education institutions.
In the healthcare sector, GCC countries have demonstrated significant co-operation through the exchange of medical expertise and technologies among member states and coordination to combat epidemics and maintain the health of communities in the region. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the GCC played a crucial role in collaboration and coordination among member states to fight the spread of the virus, tackle the challenges of the pandemic, implement preventive measures, and regulate international travel and trade.
One of the most important infrastructure projects approved by the GCC is the electrical interconnection between member states. The benefits of this project include reducing the reserve required in each country, mutual coverage in emergencies, utilisation of surplus electricity, and reducing the cost of electricity production.
The Supreme Council also approved the media strategy, aiming to enhance co-operation and unity among GCC countries, solidify the Gulf, Arab, and Islamic identities of the GCC states, deepen Gulf citizenship, support the cohesion, security, and stability of the Gulf society, raise public awareness among citizens and residents, and support the council’s journey and co-operation and integration between official and non-official institutions in member states.
In its 33rd session, the Supreme Council adopted the petroleum strategy for member states, recognising the global political and economic importance of the GCC countries, their leadership role in the petroleum industry, and their significant oil reserves, making them the largest region for oil production and export.
The GCC is a reliable economic player internationally, representing a large market for exports from around the world. The member states play a crucial role in supplying global energy markets with oil and gas, which are the main drivers of the global economy and account for about 60% of the energy consumed worldwide.
GCC countries co-operate extensively in all environmental sectors and work with organisations focused on environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. They have joined numerous regional and international agreements and treaties on the environment, wildlife protection, natural resource conservation, biodiversity, ozone layer protection, climate change, desertification combat, and international trade in endangered species.
In terms of foreign policy, the GCC has worked to formulate joint and unified stances on political issues affecting its six member states within Arab, regional, and international frameworks. The council acts as a single entity in the world based on principles of mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs, and consideration of common interests, safeguarding the interests of member states, enhancing their security, stability, and prosperity. On this path, the GCC has succeeded in strengthening its regional position and confirming its presence on the international stage, becoming a reliable and active partner in establishing global security and stability.
Since its inception, the council has aimed to expand its strategic partnerships and dialogues with many countries and blocs, engaging in free trade negotiations with international economic groups to achieve common interests. The GCC countries have signed numerous free trade agreements with other nations worldwide to facilitate the movement of goods, enhance interregional trade, expand investment opportunities, and foster strong trade relations.
Thus, the journey of the GCC continues with determination and confidence from its leaders and people, looking forward to a bright future and more achievements, and implementing ambitious developmental plans in each member state to achieve comprehensive and sustainable development goals. These plans focus on the Gulf citizen as the central axis of development, its main objective, and its primary driver. The advanced global indicators reflect the economic status of the GCC countries, which have become a pioneering model not only nationally but also regionally and globally.