x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A more united GCC benefits the region

THe GCC is increasingly showing unity, assurance and conviction in its policies relating to recent unrest in the Arab world.

The true mettle of a country, or a union of nations, is revealed in times of unrest. And amid the recent turmoil engulfing the Arab world, the Gulf Cooperation Council has shown its maturity in facing these collective challenges.

As we reported at the weekend, the six-nation alliance announced that it now considers Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Libya illegitimate and has put its full support behind the Libyan rebels. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait also urged Arab League foreign ministers, who met in Cairo yesterday, "to shoulder their responsibilities in taking necessary measures to stop the bloodshed".

Regional unrest has long been a source of concern for Gulf leaders, but rarely have they spoken with such unity of voice. Established in 1981 as a response to the breakout of the Iraq-Iran war, the intent of the GCC was to provide political and economic security for its member states. In both aspects, the union has had its ups and down over the last three decades.

While a GCC common market was established in 2008, and followed a year later by a monetary council, initiatives such as a shared Gulf currency are no nearer now than when first advocated, despite initial estimates of its implementation by 2010. At the same time, several member states have pursued their own individual trade agreements with other countries, bypassing the GCC's own 2003-established customs union. Even on the collective security front, the GCC's original mandate, progress has not exactly sprinted ahead.

However, in addition to the unified stance against Col Qaddafi and pledge of support for the rebels, the GCC is showing increased conviction in its recent decisions relating to unrest in the region. Members have also just announced plans to provide a $20 billion (Dh73bn) aid package to be shared equally by Bahrain and Oman, in order to stabilise the volatile situations in both countries. The measure aims to generate jobs as well as upgrade housing and infrastructure over a period of 10 years.

As the GCC approaches its 30th birthday this spring, the signs are that it is finally finding its feet on the international arena. The UAE, and the region, stand to benefit on every front.