May 25 marks the 42nd anniversary of foundation of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The anniversary constitutes a moment during which the member states ponder about the great strides made in implementation of the goals set by the GCC Articles of Association. The statute provides for consolidating economic and political cooperation, enhancing regional development and establishing stronger ties among member states in various fields.
The establishment of the GCC on May 25, 1981 took place during exceptional circumstances emanating from regional tensions that prevailed at that time, posing political, security and economic challenges to the countries of the region. This prompted the GCC states to unify efforts, cement cooperation among them and enhance economic, political and security integration to realise stability and address the challenges.
Besides achieving coordination, integration and interdependence among member states, the Articles of Association stresses the need to boost ties and establish similar regulations in economic, financial, commercial, customs and transportation fields. It calls for cooperation among member states in educational, cultural, social, health, media, tourism, legal, technical, scientific and industrial areas.
It also covers measures to expand cooperation in the fields of industry, mining, agriculture, water and livestock resources, in addition to establishing research centres and encouraging private sector cooperation.
In this regard, Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al Busaidy, Foreign Minister, said that, on this anniversary, GCC people recall with great pride the foundation of the GCC way back in 1981, which gave rise to the march of prosperity, security and stability of its peoples.
In a statement to Oman News Agency (ONA), Sayyid Badr said: “In his first speech after assuming the reins of power, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik affirmed his strong backing to the GCC.”
Sayyid Badr quoted His Majesty the Sultan as saying, “We will continue joining hands with our brethren, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, to contribute to the progress made in the march of cooperation, realise the aspirations of our peoples and upscale the GCC accomplishments.”
Sayyid Badr pointed out that, on the occasion of the 42nd GCC anniversary, it is time to highlight the GCC’s remarkable achievements and development indicators in member states in all fields. This, he added, “gives us all more confidence and strong will to move forward with the blessed march of cooperation.” Sayyid Badr stressed that the ‘GCC citizen’ constitutes the cornerstone of the GCC’s comprehensive development and the very objective of decisions issued from time to time by GCC leaders.
Sayyid Badr said that the GCC current session, which is chaired by the Sultanate of Oman, is inspired by the directives of the GCC leaders, aimed at preserving the gains made in the past four decades, maintaining security and stability in the region and contemplating further economic integration with all its programmes, projects and goals.
Meanwhile, Idris bin Abdul Rahman al Khanjari, Permanent Representative of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations and International Organisations in Geneva, said that the 42nd anniversary of the establishment of the GCC embodied the bonds of cooperation among member states during the past four decades.
Al Khanjari added that GCC countries have achieved remarkable progress in various fields, while at the same time enhancing the spirit of solidarity. He pointed out that this served as a source of inspiration for all GCC countries, which, he said, put their economic and human resources and potentials at the service of their people, while also promoting regional and international status of the cooperation council.
Al Khanjari affirmed that the Sultanate of Oman, acting in its capacity as chair of the current GCC session, plays an important role in boosting the process of joint Gulf action and highlighting the GCC’s presence in the international arena.
This, he said, enhances the status of the GCC in the global arena and highlights its unified positions on various issues that are floated for discussion during international forums.
In view of its presidency of the 43rd regular session of the GCC, Oman began, this May in Muscat, to host meetings of GCC ministerial committees. These meetings seek to enhance cooperation between GCC states in various political, economic, trade, security and defence fields.
In the political aspect, Gulf efforts led to the development of a unified and effective foreign policy that serves the aspirations of Gulf peoples. Gulf efforts focused on establishing unity in economic, defence and security policies and achieving the GCC common goals and aspirations.
GCC states have contributed to resolving many regional issues, the most important of which is the crisis in Yemen, where the GCC capitalised on dialogue and consultation between the parties concerned and on initiatives to support a political settlement and provide humanitarian aid. GCC states also worked hand in hand with the United Nations by supporting the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Yemen.
On the Palestinian issue, the positions of the GCC countries were and still are consistent that the Palestinian cause constitutes the prime concern of Arabs and Muslims. The GCC also supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The GCC calls for ensuring that the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people should be guaranteed. They also reject the displacement of Palestinian people and the creation of settlements on the occupied Palestinian lands.
The GCC states also played a prominent role in the return of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Arab League by means of a diplomatic solution. The efforts culminated in Syria’s participation in the 32nd Arab Summit held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The GCC urged the Lebanese people to stick to their unity and to elect a president in accordance with the Lebanese constitution.
The developments in Sudan received the attention of the GCC, which expressed its firm stance in support of the country’s security, safety and stability. The GCC called upon all political leaders in Sudan to exercise restraint and give priority to dialogue and wisdom. It urged all to join ranks and overcome their differences and focus on fulfilling the aspirations of the Sudanese people.
On the global arena, the GCC occupied centre stage and earned international and regional respect, thanks to the fact that it succeeded, during the past four decades, in endorsing dialogue as an approach to deepen common understanding as a basis for resolving issues.
Major GCC joint economic projects during the past 40 years include the Gulf Common Market, the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority, the GCC unified smart card, the Customs Union, the Gulf Payments Company, the GCC railway project and the customs information centre.
The GCC states endorsed, in 2002, the “Security strategy for combating extremism accompanied by terrorism”. In the same year, they issued the "Muscat Declaration on Combating Terrorism". In 2004, the GCC states signed the GCC agreement on combating terrorism. Most of the member states ratified the agreement, which became binding under Article (46), for countries that deposited ratification documents at the GCC General Secretariat.
The education sector has received the attention of the Cooperation Council during the past 42 years. Many achievements were made in this sector, including equality in general and technical education and the promotion of the values of Gulf citizenship. GCC states endorsed a guide for equality among GCC citizens who are resident in each other’s countries in terms of treatment at universities and government higher education institutions.
In the health field, GCC states demonstrated their cooperation through the exchange of expertise and medical technologies during the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The experience showed the member states’ ability to work jointly to stem the spread of the virus through quarantine measures and application of preventive standards regulating international travel and trade.
In fields of culture, tourism, antiquities and museums, the GCC achievements include the establishment of the Centre for Translation and Arabization. The members states also endorsed the new “GCC Cultural Strategy 2020-2030”, as well as a guiding law to regulate antiquities and a programme for cooperation to protect antiquities in conjunction with the countries of the world.
YOUTH AND SPORTS
In the field of youth and sports, the GCC states have maintained achievements such as the Gulf Cup, a strategy for developing joint action in the sports field, regulations for the technical committees of the youth and sports ministers committee, a website for information bases on youth activities and a strategic plan devised by the committee of ministers of youth and sports.
GCC states also accorded attention to innovation and invention. To this effect, a GCC Patent Office was established at the General Secretariat of the GCC in October 1998. Also, an awarded was dedicated to talented people. The GCC states participated in regional and international exhibitions on inventions and hosted similar events.
GCC states took keen interest in elevating the status of women by supporting them and encouraging their active participation in all activities at the local, regional and international levels. Women’s representation in senior administrative positions and board of directors of companies stood at 50 per cent. Women’s contribution to economic activities in some GCC states amounted to 65 per cent. The percentage of females in university education stood at 59 per cent, while the percentage of their participation in the legislative bodies reached 50 per cent. - ONA