The GCC Summit has opened against the backdrop of a world undreamed of when the organization was founded. In fact it is a completely different world from that of only 10 or even five years ago. The meeting is a crucial one at which cooperation and a unified political stand will guarantee stability and, security for the people of the region. We are today at the very door of the 21st century, a century of challenges and opportunities which no man is capable of enumerating. What is required, then, is a clear vision and a realistic view of how these challenges and opportunities can be met and dealt with. The first prerequisite is frankness and dialogue and that is what the GCC leaders will focus on.
The GCC began its life with the best of intentions and the most creditable of goals. Along the way, problems inevitably occurred the most obvious one being Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The organization showed what it was made of at that trying time by uniting and standing as a single entity. Today, however, there is another problem facing the region and neither is it of the GCC's making. The fall in oil prices poses a risk for the region's economic well-being with the question being how the GCC will respond. No magic wand is available to wave at the problem and produce a solution. This is where brainstorming and improvising in a carefully considered and balanced manner can help. Many other related issues have to be taken into account as well. Formerly, these did not exist as there was no cash-flow problem.
What are these issues besides oil prices which loom large on our horizon? A growing population with a large number of young people is set to enter the work force. What jobs can they do? What are they able to do? What jobs are available for them? There is also the question of water. Do we have enough to be sure of our supply for 10 or 15 years? And after that? What are we doing to conserve what we have and use it to the best advantage?
The question of quality education is surely on the minds of us parents. Are our educational institutions capable of graduating our sons and daughters and equipping with the knowledge and skills to find gainful employment in a sophisticated and highly technical job market? Perhaps the GCC ought to adopt a new approach from the present one and a new syllabus that is more in line with changing global requirements and the role we want to play.
Up to now, the GCC countries have fortunately enjoyed secure and stable governments. The time has come when this security and stability must be translated into progress. Thus, there is a most pressing and urgent need for cooperation and cohesion. The needed infrastructure has already been built and is in place. To maintain it must be our priority. Many unified GCC laws have been passed but there are still vexing questions that arise: a GCC common market, a customs union, taxation...
The present economic situation a weak oil demand and a corresponding fall in oil prices should make planners search for the causes of problem and see that they are corrected and do not occur again. The GCC should push for oil to be included as a commodity of the World Trade Organization. In terms of defense, the GCC countries have adopted a realistic policy. They have made clear their commitment to combat terrorism. As Muslims, the GCC must stand for tolerance and peace. During the last decade, the GCC has consistently promoted and striven for Arab rights. Support for the Palestinian people in the struggle for their rights has been constant and unwavering.
Concerning Iraq, the GCC has said that respect for international law is obligatory. Implementation of all resolutions and compliance with international law will put an end to the sanctions. As for Iran, senior GCC officials have said that they hold nothing but goodwill for the Islamic Republic and the recent efforts at rapprochement between Iran and the GCC states are surely a positive sign. The GCC states have good intentions toward Iran; however, the issue of the three islands needs to be resolved to the satisfaction of both the UAE and Iran.
One of the important factors that will ensure the success of any constructive program in GCC countries is the human element. The positive relationship between citizens and authorities has created an environment of mutual respect. It is important that this relationship is maintained to ensure our future progress and continued prosperity.