GCC has the potential to become a global powerhouse

The Gulf nations now seek to operate on a global scale as a united bloc, and the future looks promising for the region

By Mohammed Karim

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Published: Tue 10 May 2022, 11:04 PM

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has grown into a robust inter-governmental union between the six Gulf nations - the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. These countries are influencing global affairs and have hosted major events like Expo 2020 Dubai. The UAE is also set to host COP28 in Abu Dhabi next year, while the Fifa World Cup this year will be held in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain, meanwhile, have each strategized new visions for growth with an eye on a future that is less dependent on oil. These countries are also actively finding solutions among themselves despite the challenges they face in the Middle East. Recently, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar resolved their political differences for stability in the region. This agreement has paved way for a Gulf railway transit system that connects all six nations.

The Gulf nations now seek to operate on a global scale as a united bloc, and the future looks promising for the region. Just as the European Union (EU) is one of the main political and economic unions of the western world, the GCC has the potential to become an economic and strategic powerhouse in the Middle East and globally. The leaders of these nations realise economic openness could generate tremendous benefits for their citizens in the long term.

The UAE was selected to host the international Expo 2020 in Dubai, the first such trade fair hosted in the Middle East. This was an international collaboration of 192 countries. With an emphasis on innovation, growth, opportunity, mobility, and sustainability, the event brought together innovators from around the world to exchange ideas to solve real-world challenges.

The UAE is now set to host the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in 2023. Almost 200 nations will assemble to address the economic fallout of climate change and explore solutions to the problem. This year, Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup 2022, where 32 nations will compete for honours at the event. The country sees this as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Middle East and the Western world through sport.

Saudi Vision 2030 has also revolutionized the development model in the Kingdom, and the social benefits are already evident. The Kingdom is the subject of all conversations in the Middle East. Moreover, top global companies like Pepsico, PWC and others have begun setting up their regional headquarters in Riyadh. Similarly, Oman Vision 2040, and Bahrain Vision 2030 could propel these countries onto the world stage.

Dubai’s and Bahrain’s handling of the pandemic have also come in for praise, and the world is looking to the GCC for a new model of development. By choosing the GCC nations to host these global events, other countries have shown their rising trust and confidence in these nations’ abilities to coordinate, plan, and organize international galas. This is, therefore, the time for greater Gulf unity. Just as the 27 nations of Europe formed the EU in 1993, the six nations of the GCC could be headed in the same direction.

With Saudi Arabia and the UAE lifting their blockades against Qatar this is the dawn of a new era of cooperation. Kuwait and Oman also played a huge role in the success of this peace treaty by pushing for change in the status quo. By doing this, these three nations shifted from their individual interests to collectively supporting the GCC’s greater interests under one political agenda.

One of the most exciting developments for the region is the proposal for a Gulf railway to connect all six nations. With an expected length of over 2,000 kilometers, this railway will unite the GCC with opportunities for open trade and travel.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that he believes the Middle East will become the new Europe. Mergers and consolidation of businesses is not a distant reality under the new vision for a unified future. State-owned energy companies like Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC, Kuwait’s KPC, QatarEnergy, Bahrain’s BAPCO, and Oman’s OQ could, therefore, work together in an open economic landscape. Another important facet of this relationship could be the development an educational system unique to the GCC. A Gulf Ivy League university could go a long way in higher education. Such a union could enhance citizens’ rights vastly and improve the media landscape in the Gulf. An integrated and unified media and news platform to connect all GCC nations on a social level is in the realm of possibility.

By strengthening trust with the rest of the world, each of the six Gulf nations has become global leaders in their own right. Similarities in culture and a common language in Arabic bind them in the Gulf Cooperation Council. I will go further and say a ‘United States of the Arabian Peninsula’ is not hard to envisage in the future.

Mohammed Karim served as a diplomatic protocol official at Expo Dubai 2020. He holds a Masters in Government and Diplomacy from Harvard University

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