What is the GCC?

Al Jazeera explains why the GCC was formed, its structural bodies and key security agreements among the six states.

Gcc flags in Kuwait
The GCC promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states [Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP]

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Established in 1981, the GCC promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states and holds a summit every year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.

Due to their geographic proximity, similar political systems and common sociocultural stances, the immediate goal was for these countries to protect themselves from threats after the Iran-Iraq War.


The GCC comprises six main branches that carry out various tasks, from the preparation of meetings to the implementation of policies.

The Supreme Council is the top decision-making group that meets once a year and is made up of the GCC heads of state. For important matters, decisions taken must be unanimous.

The Ministerial Council is formed of foreign ministers or other ministers, who meet every three months to propose policies and execute decisions.

The Secretariat-General is an administrative body that organises meetings and observes the enactment of policies.

The Consultative Commission advises the Supreme Council and is composed of five representatives from each member state.

The Commission for the Settlement of Disputes is formed to look for diplomatic solutions to problems among member states.

The Secretary-General is appointed by the Supreme Council for three years. The term can be renewed only once. The current role has been filled since 2011 by Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, a retired Bahraini lieutenant general.


Together, the GCC countries possess almost half of the world’s oil reserves. However, a swift depletion of oil and gas reserves, coupled with population increases in many GCC countries in the last decade, has resulted in attempts to expand beyond the energy sector into other fields, such as tourism, construction and finance.

The International Monetary Fund has projected a stronger growth outlook in 2018, although low oil prices are expected to continue hamper the Gulf states’ GDP growth. According to a report published this year by the World Bank, Bahrain is the most vulnerable GCC country due to low oil prices, limited savings and high debt levels. 

In 2009, a monetary council was established to take the necessary measures for issuing a single currency, but this was dropped after the UAE pulled out and Oman stated it did not want to be part of it.

Main security agreements

In 1984, the GCC established a standing coalition land force, the Peninsular Shield Force, tasked to defend the six nation states. It is composed of infantry, armour, artillery and combat support elements from each of the states, numbering 40,000 in total.

The 1994 GCC Security Agreement explicitly prohibited illegal arms trading and promoted using the newest technologies to combat arms trafficking.

The 2000 Joint Defence Agreement was signed to develop a joint military industry for arms manufacturing.

The 2004 GCC Counter-Terrorism Agreement was adopted, and two years later, a permanent committee on “terrorism” was founded.

In November 2012, Kuwait became the last member state to ratify the Internal Security Pact at the GCC summit in Bahrain. It called for closer coordination of internal security and surveillance policies, in addition to greater information sharing and unified plans for joint actions.

The pact was initially introduced in 1982, then again in 1994, when it was approved by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. Qatar and the UAE later followed suit.

Source: Al Jazeera