Today, the 33rd GCC summit will be held in the Bahraini capital Manama against the backdrop of drastic changes accompanied by numerous challenges. The security of the Gulf region is threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambition and the turmoil that followed Arab Spring uprisings have complicated the situation.
On the economic level, it could be seen that although the council is 33 years old, it is still in need of a stronger regional formula that enables member states to face arising challenges and hold on to acquired gains. The unified Gulf currency, which should have been approved in 2010, is facing a lot of challenges that made the materialization of the project quite hard. Several decisions have also been taken by GCC states but have not seen the light or at least have not been implemented in a way that benefits citizens of the region.
The initiative launched by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, and which is supposed to take GCC states to the union level, has seen little progress and is until this moment confined to closed meeting rooms.
This proposal, however, is a dream come true for a large number of Gulf citizens who see in the union the best means to secure a better future and grow stronger in the face of obstacles and challenges, be them political, social, or security-related.
I believe a lot is expected from this summit. Several pending issues need to be resolved in a way that achieves the objectives of the GCC and cater to the needs of the citizens of its member states. The GCC needs to prove that it is capable of facing the threats to which the region is subjected and to maintain security and stability in addition to embarking on grassroots development initiatives that are much needed by the people. Serious problems like poverty and unemployment need to be addressed and money needs to be made available.
It's also important to tackle the demographic imbalance resulting from the fact that foreign labor has exceeded native population in several member states. It's also important to open more channels for cooperation between GCC countries so that the council can eventually turn into an effective regional union that is capable of dealing with the social, political, economic, and security changes through which the region is going.
(Talal Al-Sheikh is the Editor-in-Chief of the Saudi Al Watan newspaper, where this article was first published Dec. 24, 2012)