The Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC is a group of six nations in the Middle East with special economic, social and political relationships.
The GCC has six member states:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Stretching from the Red Sea in the west to the Arabian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz in the east, the GCC covers most of the Arabian Peninsula.
The states have a population of 47 million and a GDP of US$1.6 trillion, mainly based on drilling and refining oil and gas for export.
Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the GCC by area and population. The major cities are Riyadh, Medina and the Islamic religious shrines of Mecca.
Plans to expand
Oman is the second largest nation in the GCC, washed by the Indian Ocean to the south.
Third largest is The United Arab Emirates capital is Abu Dhabi, although the modern steel and glass skyscrapers of Dubai dominate the country.
Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain are much smaller states.
Jordan has applied to join the GCC and is a ‘pending’ member. Other countries seeking to join the GCC include Yemen, which is the only nation on the Arabian Peninsula that is not a member, and Morocco.
Iraq was an associate member, but was banished in 1990 following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
The GCC was formed in May 1981 to set up a union of nations with similar laws, customs and a joint military force.
Discussions are underway to develop a free travel zone for visitors and residents within the GCC border.
Besides being rich in fossil fuels, Dubai and Qatar in particular are diversifying into other industrial sectors.
Dubai has developed an important international air hub. Geographical position and the Middle East time zone make the UAE an attractive stop over for flights between Europe and the Asia Pacific.
Many multinational companies have regional headquarters in the UAE.
The GCC nations follow Islamic Sharia’a Law, even though Dubai is leading the way to a more relaxed regime to encourage closer ties with Europe and the USA.
Financial services are also an up and coming industry in Dubai and Qatar, which both have strict financial regulation.
Tourism is also an increasingly important sector for the UAE.
Qatar is set to become the first country in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, although the bid has been dogged with allegations of corruption and bribery.