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Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. The GCC  was established in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May 1981. The purpose of the GCC is to achieve unity among its members based on their common objectives and their similar political and cultural identities, which are rooted in Arab and Islamic cultures. Presidency of the council rotates annually.

 

Origin and Development 

The Kuwait government formulated a proposal for an organisation to link the six Arabian Gulf  States which have special cultural and historical ties. Accordingly, the Riyadh Agreement was issued which proposed cooperative efforts in cultural, social, economic, and financial affairs. A  Constitution was initiated in March 1981 and was signed by the Gulf Heads of State (Bahrain,  Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) on May 25-26, 1981 at Abu Dhabi, the UAE. Consequently, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) came into existence.

Structure 

The GCC consists of the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council, the Cooperation Council, the  General-Secretariat, and various Committees on economic, social, industrial, and trade and political affairs.

The highest authority is the Supreme Council, consisting of heads of the member-states. It meets annually and determines the policies of the organisation. The Ministerial Council comprises foreign ministers of the member-states. It meets every three months to prepare for the meetings of the Supreme Council and draw up policies, recommendations, studies, and

projects aimed at developing cooperation and coordination among member-states. The  Cooperation Council has a commission, the Commission for the Settlement of Disputes, which is attached to the Supreme Council. The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General,  appointed by the Supreme Council for a renewable three-year term. The Secretariat, consisting of several specialized sectors, implements the recommendations given by the Supreme Council and the Ministerial Council.

Objectives Of GCC 

The aims of the GCC are “to achieve coordination, integration, and cooperation among the member-states in all fields to bring about their unity; to deepen and strengthen the bonds of cooperation existing among their peoples in all fields; to draw up similar systems in all fields…  and to promote scientific and technical progress in the fields of industry, minerals, agriculture,  sea wealth and animal wealth for the good of the peoples of the member-states”.

Why was the blockade imposed on Qatar? 

  • Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt have imposed an air,  land and sea blockade on Qatar since June 2017.
  • Among the four, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are the GCC  countries.
  • The blockading quartet has accused Qatar of supporting “terrorism”.
  • Qatar has denied the charges and said the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.
  • Kuwait did not take part in the blockade.
  • Kuwait’s government maintains smooth relations with Doha and has made several attempts to mediate between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours to help quell the conflict.

What are the recent developments? 

  • In October, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to have ordered the  Khashoggi hit, surprised observers by praising the Qatari economy.
  • The personal invitation to the GCC meet from King Salman bin Abdulaziz to the Qatari  Emir followed the Crown Prince’s remarks.
  • Qatar stayed away from the recent Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh.
  • After the summit, the GCC issued a customary statement, emphasizing regional stability and economic challenges.
  • This shows the growing disunity among the Gulf countries.
  • Doha has also announced its decision to quit OPEC, the first Arab nation to do so since the cartel was formed in 1960.

What are the implications of the blockade? 

  • The blockade has triggered tensions among other GCC countries as well.
  • Saudi Arabia is upset that Oman and Kuwait did not join the embargo.
  • Kuwait was trying to mediate between the rivals camps.
  • However, the act of mediation hasn’t gone down well with Riyadh.
  • Oman continues to be independent of Saudi influence by keeping ties open with both  Qatar and Iran.
  • The blockade has made Qatar only more independent in its foreign policy decisions.
  • It has stepped up assistance for Hamas in Gaza, accelerated a plan to allow Turkey to set up a military camp in the country and resisted calls to cut ties with Iran.
  • The decision to quit OPEC and its absence at the GCC meeting, point to an increasingly confident Qatar.
  • But the intra-Gulf quarrels have dampened hopes for the integration of the region.

Economy 

Internal market 
  • A common market was launched on 1 January 2008 with plans to realise a fully integrated single market. It eased the movement of goods and services. However,  implementation lagged behind after the 2009 financial crisis.
Monetary union 

In 2014, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia took major steps to ensure the creation of a  single currency. The implementation of a single currency and the creation of a central bank is overseen by the Monetary Council.

There is currently a degree to which a nominal GCC single currency already exists. Businesses trade using a basket of GCC currencies, just as before the euro was introduced, the European  Currency Unit (ECU) was long used beforehand as a nominal medium of exchange. Plans to introduce a single currency had been drawn up as far back as 2009, however, due to the financial crisis and political differences, the UAE and Oman withdrew their membership.

Infrastructure 

The GCC launched common economic projects to promote and facilitate integration. The member states have connected their power grids, and a water connection project was launched with plans to be in use by 2020. A project to create common air transport was also unveiled.

The GCC also launched major rail projects to connect the peninsula. The railways are expected to fuel intra-regional trade while helping reduce fuel consumption. Over US$200 billion will be invested to develop about 40,000 kilometres (25,000 mi) of rail.

Politics and Governance 

Supreme Council 

The GCC Supreme Council is composed of the heads of the member states. It is the highest decision-making entity of the GCC, setting its vision and goals. Decisions on substantive issues require unanimous approval, while issues on procedural matters require a majority. Each member state has one vote.

Ministerial Council 

The Ministerial Council is composed of the Foreign Ministers of all the member states. It convenes every three months. It primarily formulates policies and makes recommendations to promote cooperation and achieve coordination among the member states when implementing ongoing projects. Its decisions are submitted in the form of recommendations for the approval of the Supreme Council. The Ministerial Council is also responsible for preparations of meetings of the Supreme Council and its agenda. The voting procedure in the Ministerial Council is the same as in the Supreme Council.

Secretariat General 

The Secretariat is the executive arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It takes decisions within its authority and implements decisions approved by the Supreme or Ministerial Council. The  Secretariat also compiles studies relating to cooperation, coordination, and planning for common action. It prepares periodical reports regarding the work done by the GCC as a whole and regarding the implementation of its own decisions.