Despite small in size, the Gulf Cooperation Council possesses an insurmountable amount of power in the Middle East as its members are the influential and richest nations in the Gulf. With the GCC acting as a political and economic union, other nations and even the international community is seeing the Union as a potential leader in enacting the Millennium Development Goals in the region. However, there are some studies that see GCC as a still fledgling organization that still does not have claws and fangs in influencing its member countries, especially in other concerns like political, economic and social policies it has already set as its objectives. In order to understand the role the GCC portrays in the application of the MDGs, it is crucial to understand how experts see the GCC on implementing or monitoring its policies. This literature review would review available studies directly and indirectly portraying GCC’s role in its domain, whether or not it is seen as a capable entity in the member countries, which would illustrate whether or not its current capacity can sustain the MDG application.
Al-Khouri (2010) and Partrick (2011) stated that the GCC, as a political and economic union, has been true to its objective in creating a cooperation between its members and the formation of a “Gulf Society”. In an economic perspective, the GCC’s implementation and monitoring of its Unified Economic Agreement of 1981 had enabled the GCC member countries to see the necessity to undermine the lapses it needs to take into consideration for the sake of an economic integration. In 2003, the GCC Customs Union had immediately met support from all member countries as it would create a common tariff to external trade and open a free trading agreement between member countries and the EU. While the GCC framework is still incomplete in terms of having a mechanism to transfer information and revenues, the union has already been implementing the creation of technical, finance and economic committees that would make the recommendation to the Supreme Council. These committees have grown in number since the discussions to the common market had begun, addressing issues like health, agriculture and education. GCC policy is sustained by these new sectors and in support of this, national policy is easily combined with the GCC policy in preparing the member countries and its people. A GCC Standardization Committee was founded to ensure the creation of centralized set of standards for all aspects of society.
Notably, Partrick had noted that most of the GCC committees assigned to implement and monitor its economic progress and integration have discursive or administrative power, but it still would need to get the approval of the Supreme Council before it could pass discussions. Regardless of these gaps, the GCC is slowly showing the capacity of being a supra-governmental actor in the economic scene as members continuously meet-up in discussions, such as in the meetings of the Gulf Chambers of Commerce and Industry, to further secure economic agreements and monitor their progresses. True to its intensions on making a flawless common market like the EU, the GCC is also implementing structural developments like an interstate traveling line throughout the GCC and to Europe, and a common GCC electricity grid under the GCC Interconnection Authority. As a response to the growing need of globalization is also influencing the GCC, the union is utilizing its power to impose programs such as the National Identity Management Systems to balance growth and development with the challenges of globalization coming from the increase of population and crime. It could be seen that the economic policies and objectives of the GCC is actively being developed to ensure economic integration.
In a political aspect, the GCC has its advantages and disadvantages in sustaining a common policy. On a positive level, the GCC mirrors that of the EU and the UN as the Secretariat representative of GCC member leaders on what must be done for the policy responses in several issues within the region. It is also active in creating its own model of development which is different with the western-model, which concentrates on retaining national sovereignty and regional institutionalization or cooperation. It is also seen that the GCC policies serves instrumental purpose for the member states by allowing them to act on issues that would normally contradict with their individual state policies. On the other hand, the political power of the GCC is also lacking because of the lack of power within the GCC’s major agencies and committees as governments can still decide upon the nature of discussions and policies before they can agree on an action. The conflicting belief of member countries on creating foreign policy also poses a problem with the GCC’s influential power because of the lack of leadership and compromises between member countries.
In terms of implementing and monitoring a security and defense framework region, Koch (2010) and Felsch (2013) stated that although it is now ready to reach a consensus to enforce defense mechanism, the GCC is still unable to monitor its decision given the lack of supporting policies to discuss security issues and strengthen its agenda regionally. Upon its establishment in 1981, the GCC was mostly concentrated on “co-ordination, integration, and cooperation among the member state in all fields (economic, political, educational, and informational)”. Security and defense had also been taken into consideration, however, given the lack of a commonalities between the member countries and the still unorganized framework, the idea was shelved to concentrate on other factors. Koch stated that even if the GCC was created due to the deteriorating security environment around the region, it did not take into consideration security.
The GCC mandate did not define a “greater security cooperation” or a concern over the existing need to create a powerful defense to future conflicts. Felsch also added that the GCC would not be able to just implement its power in the region with just a deep regional cooperation and must reach out to external relations with countries like the United States. As the years progressed, the GCC attempted to put up some arrangement to foster regional security and defense through the creation of the Peninsula Shield Forces in 1986. While the idea of the Shield Force is a breakthrough for the region, it was unable to utilize its power in 1990 when it face off with the Iraqi forces in the territory of Kuwait, a GCC member state. The UN had to even intervene to release Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s forces. Koch had also stated that upon external intervention, the GCC has no stable power to defend the region and can only serve as a negotiating body.
Koch stated that the GCC’s inability to collectively impose its security policy against the Iraqi aggression and the need for them to rely to the West causes many questions if whether or not it can indeed have the power to impose such policies to its members. It became clear, in his assessment, that each GCC member state has a different conception on how this joint action and policy on security should be done, which then influences how they make policies and implement them. Saudi Arabia, for example, had hoped that the Peninsula Shield would be a competent force that could enforce conflict management policies of the GCC. Another proposal had been raised in 2006 by Saudi to create a principle of “centralized command and de-centralized forces” to replace Peninsula Shield. However, the members did not meet with a decision for this proposal, instead replacing it with a joint force for immediate intervention in 2009. Despite this, each GCC state still maintains its own security and defense policy on its own accord without the GCC monitoring because it is visible that they could still not uphold a unified defense policy. Each member states’ status at the period also hinders GCC monitoring of its collective action such as the time when Qatar became an influential actor in the Arab uprisings despite its population size.
It is visible in the analysis provided by these scholars that the GCC has its strengths and weaknesses in implementing and monitoring several important aspects to make it an influential organization to its member states. However, it is also clear that for the GCC to sustain its already impressive framework as a powerful and influential entity within its member countries, there is a necessity to create a framework that would take into consideration the different positions and perspectives of all member countries, and the capacity of GCC agencies to implement a common voice to represent its members. Considering these lapses and advantages, the GCC may find it difficult to consolidate the varying ideas of member countries to the application of the MDGs. However, its framework and intent on aiding each other to foster integration would enable the GCC to have an influential role to apply the goals to its members as it would improve their development.