Greater Integration and Unity: The New Motto of the GCC

Greater Integration and Unity: The New Motto of the GCC

The 42nd Gulf Summit was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in mid-December under the auspices of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who chaired the annual event. As regional tensions are escalating, the GCC leaders called for enhanced unity and stability. Security, economic and political issues were on the event’s agenda.

This summit was extraordinary in many ways. This was the first summit held since the signing of the Al Ula Agreement in January 2021, which formally ended a rift with Qatar that had lasted three and a half years. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt had cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in 2017 over its support for extremist groups.

The leaders of the six GCC Member States also called for further economic and regional integration, demonstrating a shared will for a strategic renewal of the organisation created in 1981.

Before arriving in Riyadh, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who led the UAE delegation, said: “We need a strong start for the fifth decade of the Gulf Co-operation Council. We are looking forward to economic integration. We are looking for real and deep co-operation.”

During the summit, the Member States collectively reiterated the importance of economic diversification in the hope of limiting dependence on the oil industry, a necessary condition for building a prosperous and resilient economy. The importance of the role played by women and youth was also emphasised during the summit, which indicates a strong political commitment to integrating more sections of society into the development of a new economy. All Member States also stressed the importance of working together to create sustainable economies to tackle the threat of global warming by implementing the circular carbon economy approach launched at the G20 Summit.

Security issues also featured on the event's agenda. Tensions with Iran owing to its nuclear ambitions were debated at length as well as the security situation in neighbouring countries, including Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Sudan. The GCC leaders reiterated the importance of working collectively towards regional stability and emphasised their preference for lasting political solutions to end conflicts in the region.

Finally, the press release published at the end of the summit stressed the importance of establishing a joint defence, yet another sign of a shared will to work towards security integration. By coordinating their economic, security and political positions, the Member States of the GCC intend to limit the risk of conflict and increase the stability of the region to face common challenges together. The security integration will also include a stronger coordination of the foreign policies of the Member States “to crystallise a unified and effective foreign policy that serves the aspirations of the people of the Gulf states and preserves their interests and gains,” the communique said.