Friday, 10 June 2011

Gulf Cooperation Council Constitutional Framework

In my article Patents: Gulf Co-operation Council of 20 Jan 2011, I discussed the objectives of the Gulf Cooperation Council ("GCC") and mentioned the GCC's Patent Office ("GCCPO") and Patent Regulation. In this article I explore the constitutional framework of the GCC.

The official name of the GCC is the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. It was established by the governments of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on 25 May 1981. The instrument establishing the GCC is called The Charter. The objectives of the GCC mentioned in my previous article are set out in art. 4 of the Charter.

The Institutions
Art 6 of the Charter establishes the following institutions:
  • a Supreme Council with a Commission for the Settlement of Disputes attached;
  • a Ministerial Council; and
  • a Secretariat General.
Supreme Council
Art 7 declares that the Supreme Council is the highest authority of the GCC. It consists of the heads of state of the member states with a rotating presidency. This body meets at least once a year though extraordinary meetings can be convened at the request of any two members. Art 8 lists the Supreme Council's functions as follows:
  • to review matters of interest to the member states;
  • to lay down the higher policy for the GCC and the basic lines it should follow;
  • to review the recommendations, reports, studies and joint ventures submitted by the Ministerial Council for approval;
  • to review reports and studies, which the Secretary-General is charged to prepare;
  • to approve the bases for dealing with other states and international organizations;
  • to approve the rules of procedure of the Commission for the Settlement of Disputes and nominate its members;
  • to appoint the Secretary-General;
  • to amend the Charter;
  • to approve the Supreme Council's internal rules of procedure; and
  • to approve the budget of the Secretariat General.
Each member state has one vote. Resolutions on substantive matters require the unanimous vote of all the member states while resolution on procedural matters may be carried by a simple majority (art 9). The Supreme Council is quorate if two thirds of the member states are present (art 7).

Commission for the Settlement of Disputes
Art 10 provides for a Commission for the Settlement of Disputes to be attached to the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council establishes the composition of the Commission on an ad hoc basis whenever a dispute arises. The Commission reports to the Supreme Council which takes such action upon the Commission's advice or recommendations as it thinks appropriate.

Ministerial Council
The Ministerial Council consists of the foreign ministers of each of the member states (art 11). It meets at least once a quarter and is chaired by the foreign minister of the member state that chairs the Supreme Council for the time being. The Council's functions, which are listed in art 12, are as follows:
  • to propose policies, prepare recommendations, studies and projects aimed at developing cooperation and coordination between member states in various fields and adopt the resolutions or recommendations required in this regard;
  • to endeavour to encourage, develop and coordinate activities existing between member states in all fields;
  • to refer resolutions adopted in such matters to the Ministerial Council with recommendations to the Supreme Council;
  • to submit Council for further submission, with recommendations to the Supreme Council for appropriate action;
  • to submit recommendations to the Ministers concerned to formulate policies whereby the GCC's resolutions may be put into effect;
  • to encourage means of cooperation and coordination between the various private sector activities, develop existing cooperation between the member states' chambers of commerce and industry, and encourage the movement within the GCC of workers who are citizens of the member states.
  • to refer any of the various aspects of cooperation to one or more technical or specialized committees for study and presentation of appropriate recommendations;
  • to review proposals related to amendments to the Charter and submit appropriate recommendations to the Supreme Council;
  • to approve rules of procedure of both the Ministerial Council and the Secretariat General;
  • to appoint assistant Secretaries-General, as nominated by the Secretary-General, for a renewable periods of 3 years;
  • to approve periodic reports as well as internal rules and regulations relating to administrative and financial affairs proposed by the Secretary-General, and submit recommendations to the Supreme Council for approval of the budget of the Secretariat General;
  • to make arrangements for meetings of the Supreme Council and prepare its agenda; and
  • to review matters referred to it by the Supreme Council.
Secretariat General
Art 14 provides for a Secretariat General consisting of a Secretary General and a number of assistants charged with:
  • preparing studies related to cooperation and coordination, and to integrated plans and programmes for action by member states;
  • preparing periodic reports on the work of the GCC;
  • following up the implementation by the member states of the resolutions and recommendations of the Supreme Council and Ministerial Council;
  • preparing reports and studies requested by the Supreme Council and Ministerial Council;
  • preparing the draft of administrative and financial regulations commensurate with the growth of the GCC and its expanding responsibilities;
  • preparing the budgets and closing accounts of the GCC;
  • making preparations for meetings and preparing agendas and draft resolutions for the Ministerial Council;
  • recommending to the Chairman of the Ministerial Council the convening of an extraordinary session of the Council when necessary; and
  • any other tasks entrusted to it by the Supreme Council or Ministerial Council.
The current Secretary General is Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani of Bahrain who assumed office on 1 April 2011 (see the news report of 31 Match 2011 by the Bahrain News Agency for the announcement of his appointment and his curriculum vitae).

Related Articles
GCC Secretariat General "The Organizational Structure"

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