Opening Keynote Address at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting

By His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom

August 16, 2016

Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Saqer, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you once again for inviting me to this beautiful city and allowing me to say a few words. My friend Dr. Abdul Aziz, I speak on behalf of all of us gathered here when I say how grateful we are to you and your staff for organizing this annual event to debate matters of such importance and urgency in an atmosphere of academic calm.

H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani with National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani with National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

This is now the sixth year that I have spoken here and in preparing for today I reflected on the intervening years. Despite some of the most challenging times, there is a consistent strand, namely that we are always striving to make our region a better and more secure place for all our citizens – we are looking at where we want to be.

Here, I think that the GCC vision that sums it up is: “To achieve and maintain prosperity in the widest sense of the word.” In other words, economic wealth for each nation and citizen; opportunities to satisfy personal aspirations; equal opportunities for health, education, employment, and social services, all within a safe and secure environment; and political stability.

This, with one important addition – which is “and to live in harmony despite differences in philosophy and ideology” – is surely the vision for the whole region? The citizens of the region are crying out for an end to violence and a return to normality, peace, and security – so why is this so elusive? Your workshops are wide-ranging, and all in one way or another will impact on this important question. Today, I will look at some of the social, economic, and political factors involved but concentrate mainly on security, with the hope of adding focus to your discussions.

Firstly, there are social issues where there are huge challenges, but probably the greatest social challenge for all of us is our youth – because they are our future. Without appropriate education, employment, and guidance they will be lost souls, easily manipulated, and prone to being turned into a destructive element in society. It is for this reason that the nations of the GCC place youth at the top of the social priority list. But I ask you to give thought on what can be done in a proactive way to consider helping the youth in the region’s trouble spots. They are a seriously endangered species!

Probably the greatest social challenge for all of us is our youth – because they are our future. Without appropriate education, employment, and guidance they will be lost souls, easily manipulated, and prone to being turned into a destructive element in society.

With regard to economy and future prosperity, I am confident that the diversification plans of our member states will stand us in good stead, especially as we recognize the importance of working together. The latest example of such a plan is “Saudi Vision 2030” in which the overall stated vision is “Saudi Arabia: the Heart of the Arab and Islamic World, the Investment Powerhouse, and the Hub connecting Three Continents.” This is a powerful national statement of intent but in many ways it sums up the future for all GCC states. Geographically we are central; historically, culturally, and through religion we are influential; and in terms of investment we have the resources to stimulate growth for ourselves, for the region, and globally.

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Remarks from the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting

The National Council is pleased to share remarks from specialists who participated in the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

For the many who are unaware of the Annual Gulf Research Meetings (GRM) in Cambridge, it is a gold mine of information, insight, knowledge, and understanding regarding the Gulf. Among the many yearly international conferences that focus on Arabia and the Gulf, arguably at once the world’s most strategically vital yet least understood region, few if any come close to this one.

Certainly, no comparably focused international forum is known to match the timeliness and context, or the nature, background, and preparation, that go into the planning and administration of the GRM’s annual three-day event, which is held in one of the loveliest, liveliest, and most intellectually stimulating settings imaginable.

Participants at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting at Cambridge University. Photo: Gulf Research Center.

Participants at the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting at Cambridge University. Photo: Gulf Research Center.

In this regard, the Seventh Annual GRM was no different. Included were eleven separate and simultaneous workshops. And, as in each of the previous years, 300 participants, among whom again were fewer than 20 Americans, actively engaged in the give and take of the discussion periods and the question and answer sessions integral to the proceedings. 

Each of the presentations at the annual GRMs occurs only after nearly an entire year’s preparation.The brainchild of the GRM is Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, founder of the Gulf Research Center (GRC), with offices in Jeddah, Geneva, and Cambridge (About whom, see more below).

The National Council is proud to be a partner with the GRC as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding entered into in 2015.

The GRM has quickly established itself as an extraordinary example of what can transpire if the visionaries are extraordinary, the topics exceptionally timely and relevant, and the workshops carefully organized to exhibit the best of existing scholarship on the region from scholars from throughout the world, especially younger scholars, analysts, and academics among tomorrow’s emerging leaders. In all, more than two thousand scholars have participated in the seven GRMs to date. Some forty books produced and distributed by some of the world’s most prominent publishers have been but one among others of the remarkable results of the yearly proceedings.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses a meeting organized by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and its U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee on September 18, 2015, in Washington, DC. Seated to the right of the Secretary General is H.E. Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to the U.S., and seated to the left of the Secretary General is National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses a meeting organized by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and its U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee on September 18, 2015, in Washington, DC. Seated to the right of the Secretary General is H.E. Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to the U.S., and seated to the left of the Secretary General is National Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

In order to place the GRC and the GRM in context, three short, incisive pieces follow. The first is extracted from the Council Chronicle, the periodic newsletter of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. The second is the GRM’s introductory address by Stuart Laing, former Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Kuwait and Oman, Cambridge University Deputy Vice Chancellor, and Master of Corpus Christi College. The third, which will follow separately, is the keynote address at the opening session of the Seventh Annual Gulf Research Meeting by H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Dr. John Duke Anthony
Founding President and CEO
National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
Washington, DC

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“Envisioning the GCC’s Future: Prisms for Perspective” – Remarks from GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Al Zayani

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Seldom is one able to gain insight into the foreign policy issues and objectives of any grouping of nations through the mind of one of its leaders. Even rarer is one introduced to the analyses and assessments of a leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). [The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.]

Such is the occasion in this instance. The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to publish an address by GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani. On August 24, 2015, Dr. Al Zayani addressed a capacity audience at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, convened for the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM).

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani addresses the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo: Gulf Research Center.

Dr. Al Zayani’s remarks covered a broad range of topics. Principal among his focus were the implications for regional peace, security, and stability of the extraordinary trends and indications confronting the GCC in the past year. These included the domestic and international dynamics of violent extremism, Iran, Syria, and Yemen, together with other issues and challenges as well as opportunities.

Dr. Al Zayani, a native of Bahrain, is the fifth head of the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based GCC Secretariat General. He has held the post since December 2010. He holds a doctorate from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Of particular significance is that this was the fifth time for Dr. Al Zayani to address this annual meeting. The hundreds (fewer than twenty of whom were Americans) that he briefed and met with represented no ordinary assemblage. They encompassed what, by any standard, is the foremost yearly gathering of Arabian Peninsula and Gulf specialists known to convene anywhere.

Included among the international scholars, academics, researchers, analysts, authors, consultants, and other foreign affairs practitioners was a growing number of young researchers from the GCC region, Yemen, and Iraq, who represent the emerging generation of those destined to lead and manage the region’s future. Each of the participants came together this year, as on every previous occasion, for three full days of meetings, discussions, and debates. In so doing, beyond examining the present and coming state of affairs with regard to a virtual smorgasbord of topics, they also proposed and recommended solutions to some of the most vexing geopolitical, cultural, socio-economic, and foreign relations issues of the contemporary era.

What entices all who engage in the GRM’s exceptionally well-selected and choreographed seminars is their abiding interests and involvement in a variety of issues anchored in Arabia and the Gulf. This is the exact same focus of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ recently concluded academic seminar for its Annual Washington, DC University Student Summer Internship Program in association with 22 sister organizations and the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. 25 interns, out of an applicant pool of 125 candidates, participated in this summer’s program.

None of the GRM’s presenters and other participants needed reminding of the extraordinary impact that this region has had and continues to have upon all of humankind. Nor, despite this, are they unaware of how the region’s peoples, cultures, economies, governmental structures, foreign relations, and systems of political dynamics constitute for millions worldwide the most often misunderstood and unfairly maligned of any on earth. Enter the Gulf Research Center, the GRM’s host convener.

The GRC, founded by Saudi Arabian Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, organizes and administers these Annual Gulf Research Meetings in association with Cambridge University. (The National Council entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the GRC this past year). No stranger to Washington, DC, Dr. Sager has addressed several National Council Conferences and Capitol Hill Seminars for Members of Congress, Congressional staff, media representatives, members of the diplomatic corps, and the broader U.S., Arab, and other foreign policymaking communities.

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, welcomes participants to the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM). Since the first GRM in 2010, over 1,200 papers have been presented in 86 workshops and scholars from 86 countries have participated in the event.

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, welcomes participants to the Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM). Since the first GRM in 2010, over 1,200 papers have been presented in 86 workshops and scholars from 86 countries have participated in the event. Photo: Gulf Research Center.

The GRC has catapulted into one of the foremost of its kind in a very short period. Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with regional offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and Cambridge, United Kingdom, the GRC, in addition to its association with the National Council, has partnered with dozens of research and academic institutions in virtually every corner of the globe.

By special arrangement with Dr. Al Zayani, the National Council is privileged to share this edited version of his remarks to this year’s GRM.

Dr. John Duke Anthony
Founding President and CEO
National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations
Washington, DC

 


“Envisioning the GCC’s Future: Prisms for Perspective”

His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Remarks to the Gulf Research Center’s Sixth Annual Gulf Research Meeting at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

August 24, 2015

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you once again for giving me the chance to return for the fifth occasion to this beautiful city to say a few words about some of our common concerns. In preparing for today, I looked back at my previous four talks. Reading them showed me clearly how the global and regional situation has worsened. Old tensions remain. New challenges abound. Two things struck me. The first was the optimism with which I spoke in 2012 about Yemen and my hopes for success of the GCC Initiative. The second was the pessimistic tone of my speech last year. I called then for a total realignment of thought to break the cycle of regional instability. In seeking solutions, my parting words were “do not be afraid to think what in the past would have been the unthinkable.”

Then and Now

So where are we today? Da’ish (Arabic for what many loosely refer to as the “Islamic State”) continues as the single greatest challenge for us all. Syria awaits, amid unabated devastation and bloodshed, a solution. The stubborn violence in Libya is ongoing. The so-called Middle East Peace Process is all but dead. Uncertainties over Iran’s destabilizing ambitions linger. Yemen is in the throes of a serious conflict. Our region continues to be the single worst breeding ground for extremism and harboring terrorism. At the same time, it has become the greatest importer of foreign fighters. Add to this the steep drop in oil prices, which has done nothing to enhance stability. Not a happy story, is it?

And yet in a strange sort of way, within all these dynamics, “the unthinkable has been thought!” There has been a clarification on certain issues. For instance, the initial stages of a final agreement on the Iran nuclear program, which is probably the best possible political solution for this thorny issue, has been signed. The unlikely alliances countering Da’ish are bonding more closely. The full impact of extremism is forcing the global community into a more cohesive counter stance. Lastly, the situation in Yemen is worse in terms of violence than it was last summer, but at least something is being done about it. It is these topics – the macro implications of the nuclear agreement, Da’ish and extremism, and the micro implications of the situation in Yemen – that we will consider.

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“A Window onto the Gulf Cooperation Council” – Remarks by His Excellency Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani

“A Window onto the Gulf Cooperation Council,
Together With a View Regarding Its
Involvement Of Late With Yemen”

Remarks by

His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani,
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

to the

Gulf Research Center’s Third Annual Gulf Research Meeting,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

July 11, 2012

Introduction by Dr. John Duke Anthony,
Founding President and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations

 

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to publish the remarks made earlier today by H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who has granted his permission.   The occasion is the three-day Third Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM) presented by the Gulf Research Center (GRC) with offices in Jeddah, Geneva, and Cambridge, UK.   Founded by Dr. Abdalaziz Sager less than two decades ago, with the overriding strategic maxim of “Knowledge for All,” the GRC has rapidly become a leading institute specializing in research, education, seminars, workshops, publications, and consultancy.

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