Saudi Arabia hosts 32nd session of GCC higher council (1)

Comprehensive report shows GCC achievements

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on December 19-20 hosted the 32nd session of the higher council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and welcomed a proposal by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia for transition from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union.

The Saudi monarch, who is also current chairman of the GCC, had made the proposal in his opening speech to the 32nd session of the supreme council of the GCC on Monday in Riyadh.

A statement issued by the General Secretariat of the GCC on Tuesday said: "Stemming from the faith of the GCC leaders in the importance of this proposal and its positive impact on the peoples of the region, as well as in line with the provisions of Article IV of the GCC Statute on coordination, integration and interdependence among Member States in all fields reaching up to unity, and after the exchange of views on the proposal.

"The leaders have given directives to the Ministerial Council to form a specialized body comprising three members from each state. The body will be mandated to study the proposal in all its aspects in the light of the views exchanged among the leaders. "The meetings of the board will be held at the headquarters of the General Secretariat, which will provide all necessary administrative, technical and financial support to facilitate this."

The member states are to name their respective representatives no later than the 1st February, 2012. The board will present a preliminary report in March 2012 to the Ministerial Council at its first session in 2012 in preparation for putting it up it to the heads of GCC states. The board will also submit its final recommendations to the 14th Consultative Meeting of Their Majesties and Highnesses the leaders of the Cooperation Council.

Stress the importance of standing united

The Riyadh Declaration issued at the end of the 32nd Summit of the GCC leaders earlier this afternoon has emphasized their understanding of the changes, challenges and dangers which threaten the re-drawing of the situations in the region and which target the bonds that brings them together. This calls for closing the ranks, unifying the visions and mobilizing their joint energies, the Declaration said.

The GCC leaders also reiterated their full commitment to seriousness and credibility in order to achieve the objectives of the Statute of the Council, including coordination, integration and interdependence among Member States in all fields in their quest to unity. The need for keeping abreast with the aspirations of the people of GCC states to accelerate the pace of joint action and to strengthen the concept of Arab and Islamic identity of the member countries as well as to achieve greater coherence and unity, strength and well-being was also emphasized.

The Riyadh Declaration stated that while the leaders of the GCC countries declare their determination to strengthen and expand the role of citizens of GCC countries in order to achieve a bright future that meets the aspirations of younger generations, they assert to:

1- Adopt the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to move beyond cooperation to the Union to transform the GCC into a single entity in order to achieve good and ward off evil, in response to the aspirations of the citizens of GCC countries and the challenges they face.

2- Speed up the process of development and comprehensive reform in their countries so as to achieve greater participation of all citizens, men and women and opens vast prospects for the future, at the same time maintaining the security, stability and national cohesion and social welfare.

3- Fortify the home front and the consolidation of national unity based on the equality of all citizens before the law and in their rights and duties; and confronting the attempts by the troubled foreign entities who try to export their internal crises through sedition, division and incitement of sectarian sentiments.

4- Work hard to achieve the highest degree of economic integration among the GCC countries and overcome the impediments that obstruct the march to achieve the customs union, monetary union and the common market of GCC states.

5- Develop defense and security cooperation to ensure rapid, effective, united and collective encountering of any dangers and emergencies.

6- Activate GCC diplomacy to serve the national, Arab and Islamic issues; unify group communication with all regional and international powers and safeguard the common interests of the GCC countries in all international forums.

7- Deepen the collective belongingness in the minds of the youth in GCC states, fortify its identity and protect its gains by intensifying communication, cooperation and convergence among them and by employing educational, informational, cultural, sports and scout activities to achieve this goal.

The General Secretariat of the GCC will follow up and report to the Supreme Council.

During the past 32 years of its life course, the GCC Countries managed to prove being a model to be followed by regional and international organizations, some of which aged already, while GCC is still young and active. The privileges of GCC were clear in coordination, consultancy, and harmony among its members concerning local and international issues.

This was achieved via work mechanisms, communication channels, a regional and international coordination of policies and action on different levels through summits, periodical meetings of the ministerial council, or on the margin of Arab and International gatherings, and through the meetings between the council's representative abroad and in international arenas as well as other bilateral and collective communication channels.

Herein below are some of the achievements of the GCC along the past 32 years since its inception:

Utilization of Foreign Policy to Serve Issues of the Nation:

Coordination of foreign policy represented one of the important aspects of the GCC work, as highlighted in the introduction of its Articles of Association:

"Member countries of the council agreed on its establishment based on their belief that coordination, cooperation and integration among them serves the sublime objectives of the Arab nation, and for directing their efforts to supporting and serving Arab and Islamic issues.

Forming a Common Foreign Policy:

In this concern many factors participated in facilitating and supporting the process of coordinating and unifying political stances, and enabling GCC countries of forming a common foreign policy toward several basic issues based on the fact that the GCC countries form a socially and politically harmonized texture unified by historical experience, geographical location and common borders.

Such factors were reinforced by the unanimous agreement of the GCC countries to adopt fixed principles in international dealings based on the United Nations Convention, assuring in their dealings on good-neighbor policy, mutual respect of sovereignty, illegality of acquiring territories by force, respecting the dominance of each country over its sources, adopting discussion and negotiation as an effective method of settlement of dispute among nations, in application of the principle of peaceful coexistence announced by the United Nations and adopted by international laws.

Forming a Unified Gulf Stance:

Forming a unified Gulf stance enables GCC to achieve several successes in the field of foreign policy, represented in short in forming a harmonized Gulf stance toward political and security issues of concern to its states on the regional, Arab and international level.

GCC proved through the years that followed its establishment that it is able to take diplomatically effective collective action as upon the tyrant Iraqi aggression on the brotherly State of Kuwait, and dealing with the world as one gathering that expresses unified views, discusses mutual interests of the member countries with other countries, groups and international organizations.

Adopting the Joint Defense Policy:

The military cooperation among the states of the GCC was crowned with a joint defense agreement signed by their Majesties and their Highnesses the leaders of the GCC states in the twenty first session of the Supreme Council meeting, which was held in the Kingdom of Bahrain on 31/12/2000.

Military cooperation includes coordination in different military fields, exchange of experiences, support, benefiting from available capabilities in the fields of training and education, and unifying basics and concepts in a manner that enforces cooperation and provides for its growth and development.

The most outstanding achievement in this field is the formation of Peninsula Armor force, its continuous development and reinforcement, As well as connecting the armed forces via a secured communication network, special early warning system for the air-defense operation centers in the member countries.

The proposals of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud for developing the Peninsula Armor Forces were referred the Supreme Council, in its twenty sixth session held in December 2005 in Abu Dhabi, to the Joint Defense Council to study it and submit its recommendations to the following session of the council.

Security Agreement; An Outstanding Gulf Achievement:

In 1987, the GCC countries approved a comprehensive security strategy, in the form of a general frame for cooperation and security organizing. It covers cooperation in the multi-aspects security field, including traffic, punishing and rehabilitating organizations, immigration, passports, airport security, drug fighting, weapons, explosives, border guards, coastal guards and civil defense. Specialized committees were formed for discussing and reinforcing cooperation in all fields.

Among the most outstanding achievements materialized in this respect is the project of the security agreement for the GCC countries, which was approved by their Excellencies and Highnesses the Ministers of Internal Affairs in the GCC countries in their thirteenth meeting held in Riyadh in Jumada Al-Akhera 1415, corresponding to November 1994, and was approved by the Supreme Council in its fifteenth session held in Bahrain in December 1994.

Among those achievements also is the cancellation of entry and residence visa for GCC citizens in the countries where they were applicable. The GCC countries took several other steps and works on their development for facilitating the transportation of citizens among member countries.

On the internal level, the decrees of the GCC Supreme Council, its directives, and the new issues in the field of common work reflected a deep understanding of the importance of economic and commercial work, as well as its flow across borders, resulting in the customs union, the common Gulf market, the economic union, the developmental integration among GCC countries, projects on transportation, communication and infrastructure, and finally the development of human resources and cooperation in the field of scientific and technical research.

The common work style witnessed a great qualitative development where it did not confine to encouraging cooperation and coordination between the member countries but passed this to expressly cite economic cooperation among GCC countries via the adoption of specific programs and executable mechanisms.

The Customs Union as a Unique Step:

In the beginning of January 2003, the GCC countries realized a considerable achievement within the common Gulf work by adoption of the customs union, and specifying the unified custom tariff of 5% on all the foreign goods imported from any country not a member in the customs union.

All procedures were applied to foreign goods in the first entry point of any of the GCC countries, where inspection is performed, documents are checked, items searched for illegalities, custom fees paid, and then the goods can move freely within GCC countries. Based on this, transportation via transit of foreign goods was cancelled among GCC countries as one unified customary area.

Despite the fact that the customs union represents the second phase of the process of economic integration, the GCC countries went ahead in executing the third phase, which is establishing the Common Gulf Market in 2007, which requires in addition to the free transportation of goods, the removal of restrictions on the transportation of production factors, particularly individuals and capitals.

Humans are the Objective of Development:

Common work in the field of human resources seeks to set plans, programs and projects on the national and regional level, aiming at achieving the most possible benefits from available human resources through nationalization of employment in the public sector, replacement of expatriates with nationals in the private sector, achieving administrative development, training and development of work force, and developing relevant laws.

GCC countries also coordinate its stances regarding issues discussed in international circles regarding civil service, labor and labor force.

One of the most outstanding achievements in this regard is the decision of the Supreme Council in the year 1993 Regarding equality in treatment of GCC citizens working in other GCC members with the nationals of the hosting country during their service.

In 1995, the Supreme Council took the decision of facilitating the employment and transportation of national labor in GCC countries. In this regard, the policies, plans and procedures necessary for employment of nationals and facilitating their transportation among GCC countries were applied.

Reform and Development of Education:

Education in the GCC countries received special interest, where the Supreme Council of the GCC countries approved a lot of decisions along his different sessions aiming at the reinforcement and support of the common educational course of GCC countries in a manner that copes with the needs and requirements of development.

The Supreme Council of the GCC countries issued several decisions, most outstanding of which is the approval of the common plan for development of general education curricula in Manama Summit of December 2000, the views of the consultative board in Muscat Summit of December 2001, the "views document" of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques king Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, and the educational directions in Doha Summit of December 2002.

The decisions of the Supreme Council in the field of education were crowned with the decision issued in Kuwait Summit in December 2003, and the Ministers of Education and Ministers of Higher Education were assigned the mission of setting a unified plan for the comprehensive development of education within the frame of a study performed by a team of experts, in addition to the viewpoints of the consultative board, the views document and the educational directions, along with continuous assessment of the common plan for development of educational curricula.

Gulf Citizenship:

The decisions of achieving economic Gulf citizenship are considered as a major step on the road of establishing the common market, and a considerable achievement within the frame of the objectives specified by the economic agreement which confirmed equal treatment of all GCC citizens in all economic fields, including transportation, residence, work in the public and private sectors, social insurance, retirement, practicing professions, practicing economic service and investment activities, ownership of real estates, transfer of capitals, tax treatment, trade in and purchasing stocks, establishing companies, education, health and social services.

In the field of establishing common entities, the GCC established Gulf Investment Corporation located in Kuwait with the capital of US$ 2,100,000,000, and the GCC Standardization Organization located in Riyadh, the Technical Office for Communications located in Bahrain, the GCC Commercial Arbitration, the Regional Committee for Electrical Systems registered in Qatar, the Electrical Network located in Dammam, and the GCC Patient Office.

Obtaining Better Conditions of Gulf Products in International Markets:

On the level of international economic interactions, GCC countries draw their collective polices and economic relations with other countries and regional entities and organizations, seeking for better conditions and terms.

Gulf Electrical Connection Project:

Gulf electrical network project comes on top of the achievements. The idea was discussed since the first meetings of the officials of the electrical sector in GCC countries as one of the main priorities within the field of electrical coordination and cooperation.

The decisions of the GCC Supreme Council along the period of a quarter century always confirmed the importance of this project, and sat the references and basics necessary for its execution.

Among the most important benefits of the GCC electrical networking project is the mutual coverage via electrical supply in case any of the members lost the power of one or more generating stations for any reason. At the same time, it provides possibility for decreasing the required generating reserve for GCC countries.

The decision of the GCC Supreme Council in its twenty fifth session in Manama in December 2005 concerning education called upon Ministers of Education to give priority to the programs and projects stated in the decisions of the Supreme Council concerning education, i.e. "the common plan, the views of the consultative board, the vision of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and the study on the comprehensive development of Education, and to take all the necessary steps for its application.

Media Cooperation:

Gulf media cooperation aims at unifying media policies of GCC countries, and reaching a unified form that considers GCC basic objectives. Common media work includes cooperation in the fields of radio and TV, press, news agencies, printed matter, and satellite media.

Through fostering coordination and connection between media organization, the council seeks to enable them achieve their objectives and fulfill their liabilities toward GCC citizens and states in a more comprehensive form, and utilize their efforts and media production for mutual interest.

In this concern, member countries approved the "Member States Charter" in 1986, which necessitates GCC media to be objective in their broadcasting and publications, to reject aggravation and personal offense, and to support development issues in member countries.