GCC's 31st summit to open Monday

Ahram Online, Sunday 5 Dec 2010

The Gulf Cooperation Council will open its 31st summit tomorrow in the UAE's capital Abu Dhabi

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is set to open its 31st summit tomorrow in Abu Dhabi.

The summit could be a chance for the GCC to engage in regional political affairs despite its history in focusing primarily on economic unity. According to Gulf media, the council will raise security concerns in region.

The GCC could therefore be directing some attention to Iran, the bête noire of the Gulf, a far from stable Iraq and a chaotic Yemen, though these countries are not members in the council which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The first GCC summit was held in Abu Dhabi under the leadership of the late Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Despite notable achievements in the areas of education, information, research and cultural integration, the council is yet to achieve some of its original objectives such as the establishment of a monetary union, a railway connection, a conflict resolution committee and closer cooperation in the area of defence.

Meanwhile, activists on Sunday urged the Gulf states to work for democratic and social reform.

The activists said that the GCC leaders should "support the civil transformation in the GCC states by establishing and backing the state of law, separation of powers ... and adopting direct ballot to elect legislative, local and municipal councils," as quoted by AFP.

"We urge states that have not adopted the principle of popular participation and have not legalised civil societies in economic, social, cultural and political fields to take the necessary decisions in this regards," they said.

With the exception of Kuwait and Bahrain, public participation is virtually non-existent. The UAE and Oman partially-elect their legislatures, while Qatar and the KSA have no legislative elections.

Though Kuwait and Bahrain have relatively lively parliaments, in Kuwait, appointed cabinet ministers become parliament members with the right to vote. In Bahrain, the upper house, which is not elected, has the right to block parliamentary decisions.  

Approximately 50 activists signed the joint statement calling for the amendment of laws that, in their view, suppress freedom of expression.

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