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The founding of the GCC

The founding of the GCC
Over the four decades since it was founded, the members of the GCC have not always seen eye to eye. (National Archives)
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Updated 02 May 2020

The founding of the GCC

The founding of the GCC

The union of six Gulf states has accomplished a lot of what it set out to do

Summary

On May 25, 1981, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf was created at a conference in Abu Dhabi, bringing together the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait in the conviction that “coordination, cooperation and integration between them serve the sublime objectives of the Arab Nation.”

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as it came to be known, was formed primarily as an economic bloc, but its creation also reflected growing concern for the stability and security of the region in the wake of the Iranian Revolution.

Over the four decades since it was founded, the members of the GCC have not always seen eye to eye — in 2014, for example, a rift opened between the GCC and Qatar, which other members accused of failing to uphold mutual security agreements.

But the raft of economic, legal, security and political agreements, securing collaboration across fields ranging from energy, agriculture and telecommunications to customs, education and judicial cooperation, stand as testament to the value of an organization that, in the words of its original charter, continues 'to effect coordination and integration between member states in all fields, leading to their unity.'

RIYADH: When, in January 1968, Britain announced its intention to leave the Gulf by 1971, it sent shock waves throughout the region. The search intensified for a new and more reliable security architecture. It took several steps, ending with the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on May 25, 1981.

Key Dates


  • 1

    The charter of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf is signed by the heads of state of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait at a conference in Abu Dhabi.


  • 2

    GCC leaders sign a unified economic agreement at their second summit in Riyadh


  • 3

    Peninsula Shield, a joint GCC defense force, is established at headquarters at Hafr Al-Baatin in the northeast of Saudi Arabia.

    Timeline Image Oct. 15, 1985


  • 4

    A GCC customs union is created.


  • 5

    Introduction of the GCC common market.


  • 6

    Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdraw ambassadors from Doha, accusing Qatar of failing to abide by the agreement not to support “anyone threatening the security and stabil¬ity of the GCC whether as groups or individuals.”


  • 7

    The GCC announces the formation of a regional police force, based in Abu Dhabi, at its annual meeting.

    Timeline Image Dec. 8, 2014


  • 8

    Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of collaborating with Iranian-backed terrorist groups.

    Timeline Image June 5, 2017


  • 9

    Following an extraordinary meeting of all six health ministers in Riyadh, the GCC issues a coronavirus statement introducing preventive measures at all borders.

The first step was the formation of the UAE. During the three years between the British announcement of its impending withdrawal and the actual termination of its protectorate and military presence in the Gulf on Dec. 16, 1971, six emirates succeeded in forming the United Arab Emirates, which was founded on Dec. 2, 1971. Ras Al Khaimah, the seventh emirate, joined a few months later. Bahrain and Qatar contemplated joining the union for a while, but in the end bowed out, despite efforts by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Britain to persuade them.

“Optimism expressed recently about the goals and achievements expected to accrue from the deliberations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) during its summit in Riyadh has proven to be well-founded.”

From an Arab News editorial on Nov. 12, 1981 after the second GCC summit in Riyadh

The search continued for a larger framework to include the rest of the Gulf states. Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait championed the renewed efforts. In May 1976, he formally called for the establishment of the GCC during a visit to the UAE, whose President Sheikh Zayed strongly supported the idea. In November 1976, in Muscat, a security framework that would have also included Iraq and Iran was discussed but abandoned because of fundamental differences over the concept, especially between Iran and Iraq.

Efforts continued to establish the GCC without those two countries. Saddam Hussein of Iraq tried to hinder those efforts and the Soviet Union was also opposed, but progress continued, especially after the revolution in Iran in February 1979 produced a clerical regime explicitly seeking to export its brand of revolution and undermine the security of its neighbors. The new regime in Tehran formed armed groups in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to carry out its agenda, making it imperative to close ranks to meet the new threat.

Some favored focusing on security and military integration, while others wanted the new organization to emphasize soft power and economic integration

Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

In October 1979, in a meeting held in Taif, Saudi Arabia, the general framework of the GCC was agreed, but differences remained on some issues. Some favored focusing on security and military integration — even a formal military alliance — while others wanted the new organization to emphasize soft power and economic integration. In 1980, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal was given the task of bringing the different views together and leading the exercise of drafting the charter, supported by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah (the current emir of Kuwait), Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak, and others. A flurry of meetings of ministers and experts took place in the early months of 1981, in Kuwait, Riyadh and Muscat, to finalize the draft, which was adopted by the heads of state on May 25, 1981, in Abu Dhabi, in the first formal meeting of the new organization.




A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on Nov. 12, 1981.

The GCC Charter was a compromise between the different formulations discussed for the new group. It did not privilege a particular emphasis, but called for “coordination and integration between member states in all fields, leading to their unity.” The reference to unity as a goal was important to guide the work of the organization. The reference to “all fields” gave the impetus for the formation of institutional structures dedicated to different branches of integration, including political, economic and security.

Today, the GCC Secretariat employs more than 1,000 staff from the six member states and hosts the main policymaking divisions of the organization. Its work is aided by about 30 specialized entities that deal with specific issues. There are economic organizations such as standards, patents, intellectual property and investment, as well as military and security organizations.

Since its inception in May 1981, the GCC has undoubtedly accomplished a lot of what it set out to do four decades ago. Economic tools, such as the free trade area, which was set up in 1983, the customs union (2003) and the common market (2008), have created great synergies between member states that have led to improved efficiencies and wide and dynamic markets. In 1981, the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the six member states was just shy of $200 billion, and most GCC states were performing poorly in economic and social indicators. At that time, most GCC states had just shaken off British rule, which had lasted more than 200 years for some, impoverished their economies, and ossified their political and social development. As a result, they were underperforming economically and needed the solidarity and support of other GCC members. Today, the combined GCC GDP is about $1.6 trillion — an eight-fold increase over 1981. Other significant achievements were also made, including the establishment of the unified military command in November 2018 and the GCC police force in 2014.

However, a lot remains to be done to reach the goal of “unity” cited in the charter. The 40th summit, held in Riyadh last December, identified several areas that need to be re-energized to enable the organization to reach that goal. One area that was referred to in the 40th summit was the reform of the GCC’s institutions, including the GCC Secretariat and the 30-odd other entities in its orbit. Governance in particular needs to be overhauled to provide more transparency, accountability and efficiency. The emerging and almost existential challenges that the region faces require new ways of doing things. Business as usual is no longer adequate. King Salman’s vision for the GCC, which was adopted by all leaders in December 2015, started that process, but the pace of change has not been fast enough.

  • Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent GCC views. Twitter: @abuhamad1


Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
Updated 20 min 34 sec ago

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
  • The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter

RIYADH: Egypt’s unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent of the total labor force in the first quarter of 2021 — up from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter.
The new data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), reflects the impact of the second wave of the pandemic.
The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter, representing a decrease of 2.3 percent, Al Arabiya reported.
The labor force in urban areas reached 13,034 million, with 16,250 million living in rural areas.
Gehan Saleh, economic affairs adviser to Egypt’s prime minister said in April that the second stage of the country’s economic reform program would be launched soon.
She said the plan aims to improve the quality of life of citizens and tackle unemployment through job-creating investments.


Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
Updated 43 min 10 sec ago

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
  • It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods

DUBAI: Indian customs have foiled an attempt to post gold from Dubai disguised in containers of the popular Tang drink.

After sieving the contents of the drink mix, Chennai customs officials discovered it had been mixed with gold granules, according to a statement from the Commissioner of Customs at Chennai International Airport.
Officials probing the racket found that the address of the receiver had been misused.
It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods.
Earlier this year officials at Chennai airport also nabbed two men trying to smuggle gold through the airport underneath their wigs.
The hapless pair were nabbed after their unusual hairstyles caught the attention of officials.

They were found to be carrying two gold paste packets weighing almost 700 g


Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Updated 58 min 20 sec ago

Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)

CHENNAI: British actress Kate Winslet has dabbled in period pieces, rom-coms, dramas and everything in between, but in her latest outing in “Mare of Easttown,” a series streaming on OSN in the Middle East, she absolutely dazzles as a detective in a small, conservative town in Pennsylvania.

In bleak, deprived small-town America, everybody knows everybody and working as a cop is not easy for Winslet’s character Mare Sheehan.

Mare, who rarely smiles but is not grumpy or snappy, carries her own demons. She is tired and weighed down by grief over a family tragedy. Add to the mix a wayward ex-husband (played by David Denman) and a cagey daughter (Angourie Rice), and it seems her personal life is enough to fill a drama series on its own.

But this is a murder mystery, and soon our protagonist is faced with the unsolved case of a 19-year-old missing girl and more. The girl had been gone for a year, and her mother is a friend of Mare’s, which makes it difficult and personal for the detective. And it seems like a hard bolt from the blue when Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a single teenage mother, is found dead in the woods one night after townsfolk had gathered for a party.

The people of Easttown, used to leading uneventful lives, are not pleased with the ramped up police presence — including the intrusion of a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) who is brought in to assist Mare — and it is into this tense atmosphere that Brad Ingelsby, who created and wrote the series, tweaks the formula to add a romantic angle.

Mare meets writer and guest lecturer Richard Ryan (an intelligent, witty and charming Guy Pearce), who is visiting the town.

The writer turns “Mare of Easttown” from what could have been a dull and boring story into something that leaves us thirsting for more at the end of each twisting episode, where every detail matters.

It is a fantastic study in both police work and, more interestingly, the effect a brutal crime has on a community. The series is ably led by director Craig Zobel, who builds a convincing narrative style.

Of course, his eyes are on the star of the series, and it is remarkable to see Winslet so engaging.


Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians, US expresses concern

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians, US expresses concern
Updated 2 min 14 sec ago

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians, US expresses concern

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians, US expresses concern
  • Aboul Gheit called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence
  • The Muslim World League has strongly condemned the attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque

CAIRO: The head of the Arab League condemned on Tuesday deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as “indiscriminate and irresponsible” and said Israel had provoked an earlier escalation in violence by its actions in Jerusalem.
“Israeli violations in Jerusalem, and the government’s tolerance of Jewish extremists hostile to Palestinians and Arabs, is what led to the ignition of the situation in this dangerous way,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.
The attacks in Gaza were a “miserable show of force at the expense of children’s blood,” he said.
Aboul Gheit called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence, saying continuing “Israeli provocations” were an affront to Muslims on the eve of the Eid holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Arab League foreign ministers are holding a virtual meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Muslim World League has strongly condemned the attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque, it said in a statement.
The organization, issued Tuesday went on to say that it rejected the escalations against worshippers.
Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League further denounced all acts of violence that undermined the dignity and rights of the Palestinian people, as well as provoking the feelings of Muslims around the world.
Al-Issa called on the International community to put an end to the violence, preserve the right of the Palestinian people, provide the necessary protection of civilians, guarantee their right to practice their religion, and stop all violations and attacks.
He also reiterated the affirmation of standing by the Palestinian people. He said he supports all peace efforts to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.
He also said the solution should allow Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as their capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Health officials in Gaza said at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed.


US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Updated 50 min 16 sec ago

US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US actress and business mogul Jessica Alba showed off a pair of dainty heels by Lebanese designer Andrea Wazen and accessories by part-Arab jewelry designer Ana Khouri while out and about in New York last week.

The actress — who is also the co-founder of the billion-dollar home care business The Honest Company — was in New York to visit NASDAQ headquarters for the IPO of her company.

Later, she was spotted walking in Manhattan and even appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” wearing a pair of dainty rose-colored mules by Wazen.

Alba showed off the Denver mesh mules in pink, which feature a translucent upper, thin ankle strap and elegant pointed toe shape. The heels complemented a dark sage green bag by Celine and a greige trench coat-and-sheath dress combination.

The entrepreneur and actress wore a pair of pink heels by Andrea Wazen. (Getty Images)

Wazen isn’t the only Arab designer Alba flaunted while out and about in New York. She attended the IPO of her company wearing chunky gold statement earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. 

New York-based Khouri has seen her pieces worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron to Karlie Kloss and Alicia Vikander.

Wazen is also no stranger to celebrity fans, and has seen her designs sported by the likes of actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, model Ashley Graham, Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez during her “It’s My Party World Tour” in 2019.

The shoe designer is fresh off a win at the Footwear News (FN) Achievement Awards in December, nabbing the Emerging Talent prize.

“What a feeling… I cannot explain the joy and satisfaction I am feeling,” she wrote at the time, before thanking Michael Atmore, chief brand officer and the director of the event, for recognizing her as this year’s emerging talent, stylist Jill Jacobs for presenting her with the award and her team, who she said she couldn’t have “accomplished any of this” without.

“Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful city, my source of inspiration and my home Beirut,” she wrote.