GCC summit discusses regional challenges

GCC summit discusses regional challenges
GCC leaders are meeting to discuss the political, social, economic and security challenges facing the region in a summit in Doha.
3 min read
09 December, 2014
GCC leaders will discuss rising violence and falling oil prices [AFP]
Today's summit of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) in Doha got off to an unusual start. In a rare break with royal protocol, the meeting was opened by two young Qataris speaking on behalf of the region's youth. The host country's emir, who would normally be expected to speak first, waited his turn and spoke after them.

Officials hope the GCC summit will produce a direct action plan to improve the quality of life in the region.

     The summit will be opened by two young Qataris speaking on behalf of youth in the Gulf, instead of the Qatari emir.
Last year's summit was held in Kuwait and focused on regional issues including economic integration, a regional market, a customs union, and a single regional currency.

The Kuwait Declaration released after the summit outlined the importance of implementing all GCC resolutions, conducting a comprehensive review of resolutions not yet implemented, and establishing mechanisms for keeping Gulf citizens informed about the resolutions.

Gulf citizens, however, appear not to have noticed any difference in their daily lives, leading local intellectuals to reassess how the GCC makes and implements decisions. 

Abdul Rahman al-Ateya, a former secretary-general of the GCC, discussed the challenges facing Gulf countries at the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies this weekend. He called for governmental and popular support to improve the Gulf security system's capacity to confront terrorism.

Ateya argued the main challenges facing the region are identity issues, youth unemployment, the development of the GCC, reforming decision-making mechanisms in Gulf summits, political reform and development, and the need to reform and develop the GCC's institutional structure.

He also argued that the GCC needs to urgently address regional issues, especially Gulf-Iranian relations, and international double standards when dealing with regional issues.

Managing differences

In an interview with al-Araby al-Jadeed, Abdullah Baabood, director of the Gulf Studies programme at Qatar University, argued the most important issue facing the Gulf today was relations with Iran. He believes the global drop in oil prices will affect regional development, and force GCC leaders to resolve their differences - especially over foreign and security policies.

Baabood does not believe today's summit will vote to add Jordan and Morocco to the list of GCC members, but that the two countries will remain "strategic allies".

"It is understandable why Jordan was invited to join the GCC because of its geographic proximity and economic dependence on Gulf countries, and because it asked to join," he said. "However, it was strange Morocco was invited because it has not asked to join, and it considers itself to be part of Europe, not the Gulf."
     It was strange Morocco was invited because it has not asked to join, and it considers itself to be part of Europe.
- Abdullah Babood, Qatar University

Baabood believes the issue of transitioning from a "cooperation" group to a formal union of states will not be discussed. It remains too sensitive an issue and could lead to the GCC itself being dissolved, he said. "Something Oman has threatened will happened," he explained.

A GCC commission

Mohammad Ghanem al-Rumaihi, professor of political sociology at Kuwait University, called on GCC leaders to solve important regional issues including Syria, Iraq, Iran's nuclear issue, wider relations with Iran, and Egypt - especially relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, a topic that will most likely be discussed in closed meetings during the summit.

The academic argued disagreements between Gulf countries had weakened the Arab position. However, he explained that Gulf countries do not need to be united over Egypt or political Islam, and that plurality can be a strength. For example, EU members disagree on many issues but the European Commission represents a common EU position.

"The GCC must establish an independent political commission that plays a political role and makes decisions that Gulf countries implement," he told al-Araby.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.