Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates heads of state signed the charter on 4 February 1981 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which still remains the headquarters of the GCC.

 

The charter was then officially signed by the heads of state of these countries on 25 May 1981 in Abu Dhabi, at which time the Gulf Cooperation Council formally came into being.

 

The GCC is seen as a practical answer to the challenges of security and economic development in the Arabian Gulf. It is also a fulfilment of the aspirations of its citizens towards some sort of Arab regional unity.

 

The six GCC states already have strong religious and cultural ties and strong kin relations prevail among their citizens.

   

Objectives

 

The GCC's aim is to coordinate resistance to outside intervention in the Gulf.

 

A Unified Economic Agreement was signed in November 1981 and ratified in 1982. Its aims include free trade among member states in all agricultural, animal, industrial, and natural resource products of national origin.

 

It also seeks to strengthen cooperation among its six members and regulate areas such as economic affairs, commerce, customs and communications, education and culture, social and health affairs, information and tourism, and legislative and administrative affairs.

 

The GCC also works towards stimulating scientific and technological progress in various fields, to establish scientific research centres and implement common projects, and to encourage cooperation with the private sector.

 

Structure

 

The Supreme Council: Composed of the heads of state. Provides policy direction, reviews reports and recommendations submitted by subsidiary bodies, appoints the secretary-general and approves the budget of the secretariat-general.

 

The GCC aims to promote tourism,
trade and agriculture

Ministerial Council: Proposes policies and prepares recommendations, studies, and projects aimed at developing cooperation between member states.

 

Advisory Commission for the Supreme Council: A 30-member body with seats equally distributed among the six member countries composing the GCC. Established in 1998, it provides advice on any subjects referred to it by the Supreme Council.

 

Commission for Settlement of Disputes: This commission is formed separately for every case, based on the nature of the dispute. The commission submits its recommendations to the Supreme Council for consideration.

 

GCC Commercial Arbitration Centre: This settles trade disputes between GCC citizens, and between them and foreigners.

 

Other components of the GCC include the Secretariat-Genaeral, the Patent Office, Gulf Standards Organisation, Gulf Investment Corporation, The Gulf International Bank.

 

Criticisms

 

Critics have said the GCC's accomplishments have been modest, but progress towards economic integration was slow during the 1980s due to an economic downturn in the region.

 

Critics also say the GCC is taking a long time to gain closure on important pan-GCC matters of substance such as a common market, a customs union, a common currency and a common passport.

 

Strengths

 

In their defence, GCC supporters claim that such downbeat evaluations lack perspective. They say the critics fail to recognise the importance of patience and perseverance in the pursuit of goals that, from the beginning, were recognised and agreed as long-term.

 

The GCC countries have half the
world's known oil reserves

The GCC countries hold one of the world's richest natural resources, promising the region a strenghthening economic future.

 

Beneath the GCC region lie half of the planet's known and extractable oil reserves: the lifeblood that powers the world's economies.   

 

The GCC region also possesses impressive amounts of gas. This resource, together with the member-states' petroleum deposits, both of which are the world's cheapest in terms of costs of production, are increasingly important to the international petrochemical industry.

 

GCC member-states have annually occupied the top three niches of the world's most charitable countries and peoples in terms of the percentage of a country's annual gross economic productivity and country's charity per capita.

 

Timeline and achievements:

 

1981 In November the member states, reached a Unified Economic Agreement aimed at easing free movement of services and capital.

 

1983 The Gulf Investment Corporation was set up in Kuwait to invest in a wide range of industrial and agricultural projects in the GCC countries.

 

Abolition of customs duties on domestic products.

 

1984 GCC member states agreed to form the Peninsula Shield Force for rapid deployment to counter any external aggression.

 

1985 Supreme Council adopts common industrial strategy for the Gulf States; adoption of a unified agricultural policy.

 

1986 Common minimum customs levy and creation of a framework whereby citizens of any GCC member state may engage in retail activities in any of the GCC countries.

 

1987 Governors of central banks agree to coordinate their exchange rates.

 

The GCC members also declared that an attack on a member state is tantamount to an attack on all the member states of the group.

 

1989 Approval by the Ministerial Council of a Unified GCC Foreign Capital Investment Regulations.

 

1992 Revelation is made for plans to establish of common market; adoption of Patent Regulation to facilitate scientific and technical research.

 

1993 Establishment of a Joint Banking Supervisory Committee.

 

1994 Establishment of a Joint Military Committee.

 

1997 Interior ministers agree on a unified passport system to ease movement of persons between the countries.

 

1999 Agreement concluded to establish customs union by 2005 which was re-scheduled for 2003.

 

2000 Endorsement of a Joint Defence Pact aimed at enhancing the defence capabilities of the GCC member states.

 

2001 Endorsement of plans to institute a single currency by 2010.

 

2003 Launching of the GCC customs union.