Conference of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Unity

Speech by Dr. Mohammed Sabah AlSalem AlSabah At the Conference of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Unity

January 24, 2011 Kuwait

In the name of Allah, and all praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon our Master Muhammad and upon his companions and followers. Let us cooperate in righteousness and piety, and do not cooperate in sin and aggression. Fear Allah, for indeed Allah is severe in punishment.

Esteemed attendees, my brothers and sisters, peace be upon you, and may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you. At the outset, I would like to express sincere gratitude to my brother Fahad Al-Badall and the organizers of this conference, which bears a title that is dear and close to our hearts, that is the Unity of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. It comes at a time when Kuwait celebrates three occasions: the first is the fiftieth anniversary of Kuwait's independence, the second is the twentieth anniversary of Kuwait's liberation from the brutal Iraqi occupation, and the third is the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was founded in 1981. Therefore, this initiative to hold this conference under this title and in this year is to celebrate these three events.

May Allah bless your brothers who have worked diligently, God willing, to ensure the success of this conference, which undoubtedly addresses the future of our nation and our country's future. While we celebrate, we are also aware of what is happening around us and in our wider Arab world, with challenges, severe disappointments, and risks surrounding our Arab nation. Countries are torn apart, peoples are rising up, factions are in conflict, and rights are being lost. The Arab citizen stands on the hill of history and wonders: Can this system address my struggles in my livelihood, health, education, and future? Can this system provide a decent life and human dignity for the Arab citizen? These existential questions are present in all the meetings attended by our leaders, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, may Allah bless them. These questions constantly haunt them and can be summarized in one question: How can we preserve and enhance the security, prosperity, and identity of our Gulf people? I say this while bearing the responsibility, and I see it with my own eyes, in all our meetings on how to preserve this entity, support it, and strengthen it, so that it can withstand the challenges. We gather in this seminar, which includes a select group of the sons of the great Gulf nation and from the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and our friends in Yemen. We are aware that the papers to be presented and discussed will take intellectual dimensions from which we hope to benefit as policy makers, and to address each other in the challenges we face in the future within this intellectual framework that raises issues at this seminar.

I would like to propose to my brothers, the presenters and researchers, three cosmic variables as I see them, as we in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries prepare plans to confront challenges that did not exist during the 30 years since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The first change is the change in the centrality of international powers. Since World War II, the world has entered a bipolar system between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, which continued from 1945 until the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the fall of this wall, we transitioned from a bipolar system to a unipolar system, and the United States of America has dominated since 1991 until our present day.

But now we see that the unipolar system cannot continue, but rather we see signs of the world entering a multipolar system, and we see this in three recent indicators. The first indicator is China, this Chinese dragon has begun to grow and has gained a strong hand on the reins of world leadership. We also see that the United States and President Obama and India have declared that the United States supports India's entry as a permanent member of the Security Council. This is a radical change in the concept of global leadership. Moreover, we are proud and honored that the world has recognized the great economic power of some of our countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been invited to be part of the Group of Twenty, or as it is called, (G20), and to contribute to shaping the economic future of the world. Therefore, we are beginning to see this transition from bipolar to unipolar and now to multipolar, and how we in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries can formulate our policies to benefit from this shift in the centrality of international decision-making. This is the first change.

Another issue is the change in the concept of national security and existential threat. Previously, and for the past 30 years when we held conferences, we used to talk about the existential threat, which was the nuclear struggle or military conflict, and the outbreak of a nuclear war between the two superpowers in the world, where humanity would perish or life as we know it would end. However, the concepts of existential threat have begun to change, and risks facing countries are no longer limited to nuclear conflict but now include risks of sectarian, religious, and ethnic conflicts, as seen in some countries. Rarely does an international conference on security take place without addressing the environmental threat, which could be existential. We know that in 30 or 40 years, there is an Islamic state that will disappear from existence, namely the Maldives, which will sink beneath the sea due to rising sea levels or what is called climate change. We in Kuwait also have a major concern about the Iranian nuclear reactor, if God forbid, it starts operating and there is a problem or malfunction in this reactor, resulting in a catastrophe as happened in Chernobyl. What will the situation be for us? Our marine environment will be destroyed, the sea will be poisoned, and we will face a serious threat. This is among the environmental challenges or risks. Moreover, among the concepts of danger to countries are diseases, may God forbid, such as AIDS and malaria. Also, what is now called terrorism, which is unconventional warfare. All of these are changes in the concepts of what constitutes existential threat and what is the concept of national security, which is now taking a form unlike anything it has taken before 30 years, and this is a new concept.

As for the third change, it relates to demographic change and the threat to national identity. We in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have become minorities due to excessive importation of foreign labor. However, this may pose a security threat rather than a threat to identity. But when we look at the numbers and see the percentage of Arab labor among the foreign labor force, we see it has decreased from 72% in 1975 to 32% in 2005, a tremendous decline over 30 years, which undoubtedly represents a cultural challenge to our Islamic and Arab identity. This requires all of us, as we discuss the issue of our Gulf unity, to discuss how we can formulate policies to address this threat to our Islamic and Arab identity in our broad Gulf environment.

My brothers, I was asked to deliver an opening and welcoming speech, but due to the intellectual presence in this hall, I wanted to share with you some ideas and concerns that haunt us as responsible members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. We ask for your help and support in crystallizing and shaping a better future for our countries and our people.

In conclusion, I wish you success and prosperity in the conference, God willing, and that it supports and assists official work. We want more of these conferences, and let there be ideas that may not be agreed upon by all, but it does not hurt to have open discussions because with the presence of these sincere faces believing in our Gulf unity, there can be no opinion directed from a sincere heart.

Therefore, brother Fahad Al-Badall, I want to conclude with what our poet, Mershed Al-Badall, may God have mercy on my parents, said: "Whoever does not know the truth has no conscience, pardon us and forgive us, O high ones." Peace be upon you, and may the mercy and blessings of God be upon you.

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