Country Profile
Industry, finance, energy, transport & tourism key sectors Politics dominates international coverage in 2011 Land area expanding due to ongoing reclamation efforts Home to a diverse, multicultural population of 1.23m



The country has long pursued a policy of economic diversification

An island of commerce
Leveraging natural strengths and strategic advantages
As the Arabic word for “two seas”, Bahrain’s name refers to the sweet-water springs that fill the Kingdom’s aquifers and the salty seas that surround the island. HISTORY: The Kingdom of Bahrain is home to one of the region’s oldest civilisations, the Dilmun civilisation, which dates back nearly 6000 years. Throughout history, Bahrain attracted the attention of empires and nations due to its strategic position in the Gulf. Consequently, the country was influenced by a number of powers including the Persians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Arabs, Babylonians, Portuguese and the British. Bahrain was important to ancient Mesopotamia because it connected the lands of the present day Middle East and established sea lanes. Thus, the country thrived as a commercial centre where merchants founded settlements that formed the backbone of the economy. GOVERNMENT: Bahrain declared independence from the British in 1971. Between 1961 and 1999, Bahrain was ruled as an emirate by the late Sheikh Isa bin Hamad Al Khalifa. On his death in 1999, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, his son, became the island’s ruler and set in motion a reform programme. In 2001, the National Action Charter was published, setting out key principles for the government of Bahrain, including the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, parliamentary elections, and universal suffrage for men and women. The charter was ratified by a national referendum with 98.4% of voters in favour of transforming the hereditary emirate into a constitutional monarchy, thereby establishing the current Kingdom of Bahrain ruled by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The executive government is headed by the prime minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who has been in place since 1971, making him the world’s longest-serving prime minister. Executive authority is vested with the King and the Council of Ministers (the cabinet), which is appointed by the King. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa is the deputy supreme commander of the Bahrain Defence Force as well as the chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board

(EDB), a state body tasked with formulating the country’s long-term development strategy. The National Action Charter modernised the legislative side of government, and the parliament that was suspended in 1975 was reconstituted. The Bahraini parliament, known as the National Assembly, is made up of a lower house, the Council of Representatives, which is elected by universal suffrage, and an upper house, the Shura (consultative) Council, which is appointed by the King. The National Assembly consists of 80 seats; 40 elected members sit on the Council of Representatives and 40 appointed members sit on the Shura Council. The upper parliament has the power to block legislation from the lower parliament. Elected members of the lower parliament serve four-year terms. The most recent elections were held in October 2010. Special elections were held in September and October 2011 to fill the 18 seats vacated by members of the Al Wefaq party, resulting in the largest number of women ever to be elected to the Council of Representatives, with four women now part of the 40 members. Al Wefaq did not participate in the elections. The Kingdom also announced in May 2012 it would join Saudi Arabia in a closer political union, with the two states collaborating on foreign, security and economic policy. POLITICS: Protests flared up throughout the Kingdom in February and March of 2011, and demonstrations continued for the remainder of the year and into 2012. In response to the earlier political unrest, a National Dialogue was held on July 1, 2011 to engage the different factions of Bahraini society and to discuss further political, economic, social and legislative reforms. This concluded with a number of recommendations for restructuring, including recognising the importance of further diversification; encouraging the role of the private sector; evaluating options for redirecting subsidies; placing new levies for indirect and corporate taxes; resolving the issue of the high increase of guest workers; and supporting innovation programmes. One outcome of the dialogue was a set of constitutional



amendments that make it easier to question and remove ministers and withdraw confidence in the Council of Ministers. According to a televised speech by the King, the purpose of the these amendments, ratified in May 2012, is to increase dialogue on reform. Following the conclusion of the dialogue, the King launched the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) on June 29, 2011 to investigate the political unrest of earlier that year. The commission’s aim was to determine if the events that began in February 2011 had involved violations of international human rights law and to provide recommendations for political stability. The commission was directed to issue a comprehensive account of the events and describe any acts of violence that occurred by highlighting all the parties involved and investigating allegations of police brutality and violence by demonstrators. The official BICI Report was released on November 23, 2011 with numerous recommendations, and the National Commission that was tasked to follow up on the suggestions released its final report on March 20, 2012. Nevertheless, the opposition has claimed that the government’s reform measures are taking too long to implement. ECONOMIC OVERVIEW: Bahrain has set many regional precedents; among others, it was the first country in the Middle East to discover oil in 1932. This sparked a major economic overhaul as the petroleum industry developed, catalysing a process of modernisation that diverted the Kingdom’s economy away from traditional mainstays such as pearl diving and fishing. Mindful of its finite hydrocarbons reserves, Bahrain pursued an early policy of economic diversification. This policy formed the basis for the Economic Vision 2030, a development plan to improve Bahraini living standards. The campaign’s framework, the National Economic Strategy, highlights the path to a stronger economy through growth in the private sector as the government continues to invest in infrastructure and human resources. Bahrain has successfully developed its industrial and downstream sectors, and is home to one of the largest aluminium smelters in the world, Aluminium Bahrain (Alba). In 2011, overall GDP at constant prices had an annual growth rate of 2.2%, with the oil sector growing at 3.4% and non-oil sector growing at 2.1%. The Kingdom ranked 38th in the World Bank’s 2012 “Doing Business” report, and for the third time ranked 37th in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Report” in 2011. Bahrain was also notably ranked the 12th freest economy in the world and first in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom. ENERGY: Bahrain’s energy sector is a major source of government revenue. In 2011 oil accounted for approximately 13% of GDP and 75% of government revenues. Onshore reserves discovered in the Awali Bahrain Field yielded some 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) at its peak in the 1970s. Output has since declined, falling to some 32,000 bpd in 2010. Forecasts suggest that by 2015, Bahrain will account for 0.6% of Middle East regional oil demand while providing 0.2% of supply. Gas production in Bahrain totalled some 552bn cu ft during 2011.

From Islamic finance to offshore banking, financial services is a major contributor to the local economy

FINANCIAL SERVICES: The financial services sector has been a great beneficiary of the economic diversification programme. Sector assets amounted to $195.5bn as of January 2012, contributing 25% of GDP. There were 415 registered financial institutions operating in the Kingdom as of February 2012, up from 409 in 2011, demonstrating that the regulatory system in place helped to sustain the industry in 2011. As of 2009, the sector employed roughly 15,000 people, 34% of whom were foreign nationals. Bahrain is also a major centre for offshore banking and funds in the region, with 2789 authorised funds registered as of February 2012. ISLAMIC FINANCE: Bahrain is a major centre for Islamic finance, and the sector’s assets totalled $24.4bn as of January 2012. The Kingdom is home to a number of regulatory agencies and institutions that help to develop standards and guidelines for the Islamic finance industry, including the Accounting & Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM), the Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA), and the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI). As of January 2012, the country was home to 26 Islamic banks as well as 18 takaful firms, which provide sharia-compliant insurance. TRANSPORT: Given its strategic maritime location and proximity to Saudi Arabia – the largest market in the Middle East – Bahrain has successfully established itself as a transportation hub for the northern Gulf region. The country’s new Khalifa Bin Salman Port, the Bahrain International Airport and the overland route to Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway helped establish the nation as a focal point for transport and logistics. Expansion of the international airport, ongoing infrastructure improvements and the planned Qatar-Bahrain Causeway will serve to further boost the Kingdom’s competitiveness as a transportation hub. TOURISM: Bahrain has a thriving tourism industry that attracts visitors from both the region as well as further abroad. Tourists are drawn to Bahrain’s traditionally libTHE REPORT Bahrain 2012



eral atmosphere, rich history and culture. The Kingdom offers a wide range of attractions, including historic monuments like the Al Khamis Mosque, which dates back to 692 CE, and the modern Bahrain International Circuit, host of a 2012 Formula 1 race. The tourism sector was adversely affected by the political environment in 2011 with a major decline in visitors and the cancellation of that year’s Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix. However, tourism numbers improved in 2012, and the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions segment is back on track. Bahrain was designated Capital of Arab Culture in 2012 and Capital of Arab Tourism in 2013. Both should give the sector a boost as visitors arrive for the scheduled fanfare. GEOGRAPHY: The total inland area of Bahrain is constantly expanding thanks to land reclamation projects. In 2011, Bahrain grew to 765.3 sq km, up from 759 sq km in 2010. The national archipelago consists of 33 islands, and the four main islands are Bahrain Island, Al Muharraq Island, Sitra Island and Umm An Nasan Island, which make up approximately 95% of the total land area. These islands are connected through a series of causeways, while more remote islands can be reached by boat. Saudi Arabia is Bahrain’s closest neighbour to the north-west and across the Gulf of Bahrain, and they are linked by the 25-km King Fahd Causeway. Qatar lies 28 km off the south-eastern coast. The two countries will eventually be linked by a causeway, which will be the world’s longest fixed link, extending some 40 km.

The capital Al Manamah, colloquially known as Manama, sits on the northern portion of the main island, with a population of roughly 200,000. Muharraq is the second-largest island and is home to the country’s second-largest city, which bears the same name. Other significant cities include Riffa, Sitra and Isa Town. At 122 metres, Jebel Al Dukhan is the Kingdom’s highest point. Most of the islands are low-lying desert, and agrarian land is scarce, with only 2.82% arable. CLIMATE: Bahrain has two seasons: a hot and humid summer and a mild winter. Summer begins around April and continues through October. The average temperature in the summer is 36°C, with highs reaching 48°C. Sandstorms are not uncommon during the mid-summer months. Winter is from November to April with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 24°C, and coolest between December and March when the northerly winds prevail. Average annual rainfall is 77 mm. NATURAL RESOURCES: Oil, gas, fish and pearls are Bahrain’s most abundant natural resources. Due to the desert climate, agricultural production is limited. Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, traditional industries such as fishing and pearling have contributed significantly less to overall output but remain important areas for employment and due to their traditional cultural significance. Although the Kingdom was the first of the GCC states to discover hydrocarbons, it has smaller quantities of oil and gas than its neighbours. The government has accelerated exploration efforts and is



preparing to boost refining capacity. In 2010 production from the onshore Bahrain Field was raised for the first time in 30 years thanks to enhanced oil recovery techniques. The Kingdom recently awarded a tender for deep gas exploration, and drilling has begun in offshore blocks alongside an increase in onshore exploration. Bahrain also shares the yield from the offshore Abu Safa field with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Water is a limited and dwindling resource in Bahrain. The main aquifer, Dammam, is becoming saline from overuse. As a result, Bahrain relies on desalination plants to provide most of its potable water. POPULATION: The country’s population is diverse and multicultural and home to a variety of different ethnicities. The 2010 census puts the total population of the Kingdom at 1.23m, with 568,400 nationals and 666,200 non-Bahrainis, who make up 54% of the total populace. Approximately 51.1% of the population are Bahraini citizens, GCC citizens or hail from other Arab countries; 45.5% are from Asia or Oceania; 1.6% are from Africa and the remaining 1.3% are from Europe and the Americas. Males account for around 62% of the total, which can be attributed to the sizable expatriate workforce. An estimated 88.7% of the population live in urbanised areas, with 329,510 individuals residing in the Capital Governorate, home to the capital, Manama. LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language of Bahrain, and Bahraini Arabic, similar to Khaleeji (Gulf) Arabic, is the most common spoken form. English is widely used and is often the de facto language of business given the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the country’s population. Road signs are usually in English and Arabic, and most documentation is available in both languages. English is a compulsory second language in local schools, and Bengali, Farsi, Hindi, Malayalam, Tagalog and Urdu are also well represented in society. RELIGION: Islam is the official religion of Bahrain. Some 98% of Bahraini nationals are Muslim of either Shia or Sunni following; however, the approximate percentage of each sect is widely disputed as there are no statistics readily available. The Kingdom is one of the most religiously tolerant states in the Gulf region and allows for religious freedom, evidenced by the presence of mosques, churches, temples and synagogues throughout the country. According to the 2010 census, 70% of the total population, including non-nationals, are Muslim. Of the non-nationals, 54% are non-Muslim including Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. Bahrain is also home to a small indigenous Jewish population that is represented in the government. WOMEN: Bahrain also values the role that women play in society. Women have actively contributed to the country’s development since the late 1920s when they were allowed to attend schools, receive formal education and vote in municipal elections. Women’s rights were further supported with the establishment of the National Action Charter and the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) in 2001. The SCW promotes the status of women, awareness of their capabilities, ensures their rights are protected and helps tackle various problems in society. Bahrain was the first GCC state to allow

Infrastructure upgrades should cement the country’s status as a transport hub for the northern Gulf

women to participate in national elections, both as voters and candidates. It was also the first state in the Gulf to elect a female member of parliament, and there are currently four elected female members serving in the Council of Representatives. EDUCATION: As a leader in the field of education, Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf to open a public school for males in 1919 and the first to provide schooling for females in 1928. Compulsory elementary education for children was introduced in 2001. The World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Report 2011-12”, issued in October 2011, highlighted Bahrain’s high rates of both primary and secondary enrolment (97.3% and 96.4%, respectively) as well as the quality of education and availability of research and training services. Tertiary enrolment has increased threefold over the course of the last decade, and women account for 70% of total students. The government pays all educational costs for Bahraini citizens, and 11% of total government expenditure is earmarked for education. Bahrain’s literacy rate, which is approximately 91.4%, is one of the highest in the region. Recent government programmes meant to further improve education include teacher training schemes, a new polytechnic college, improvement of upper-secondary vocational programmes and a quality assurance initiative to raise the accreditation standards. HEALTH CARE: Bahrain has played a vital role in developing the region’s health care. The Kingdom is home to the region’s oldest hospital, the American Mission Hospital (AMH), established in 1902. Until the late 1940s, AMH provided health care for both Bahrainis as well as neighbouring populations, including Saudis, who would travel to the island nation by boat for care. Health care is completely subsidised for Bahraini nationals. There are 13 private hospitals and 11 government hospitals, including the recently opened King Hamad University Hospital in 2012. Health care continues to be a central focus as the government strives to keep up with the significant growth in population.
THE REPORT Bahrain 2012



King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa

Our highest objective
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)
The BICI Report deals with controversial matters of importance. The commission has sought to establish the true facts of a period of painful unrest, which has affected all of Bahrain. The commission understood the unprecedented challenges faced by our authorities. They have recognised the need for our authorities to re-establish public order in the face of violence and intimidation against ordinary people as well as against the nation’s essential institutions. At the same time, they have also identified serious shortcomings on the part of some organs of our government, particularly in failing to prevent instances of excessive force and of the mistreatment of persons placed under arrest. Some may wonder why we asked a commission of foreign experts to examine the events of February and March 2011 and their subsequent ramifications. The answer is that any government which has a sincere desire for reform and progress understands the benefit of objective and constructive criticism. There are many examples of this around the world. For example, in Europe, we see that leading national governments are routinely criticised by external institutions which they have themselves created. Yet the governments of these countries do not denounce the European Court of Human Rights. They do not protest or boycott the judges who criticised them. To the contrary, they are grateful to the court for having identified the ways they must improve if they are to be in harmony with international law and morality. Nor does the international community conclude that these are oppressive governments. They are seen to follow a path of wisdom, acknowledging they benefit from neutral investigations and from trusting their own capacity to use criticism constructively in their people’s interest. We are determined to ensure that the painful events our beloved nation has experienced are not repeated, but that we learn from them, and use our new insights as a catalyst for positive change. Even before receiving the BICI Report, we have introduced proposals to amend our laws to give greater

protection to the valuable right of free speech and to expand the definition of “torture” to ensure that all forms of ill treatment are covered by our criminal laws. Both of these proposals would place our laws in full conformity with international human rights standards. We have addressed issues of due process in criminal trials, in particular for the medical professionals. We have reviewed, and are continuing to review, the circumstances of job dismissals and expulsions from educational institutions. In addition to retrials and reinstatement, affected persons have access to many remedies, including the newly established Victims Compensation Fund. The BICI Report is lengthy and detailed. We must study it with the care it deserves. As the first step, a working group of government members conducted an in-depth reflection on the findings and recommendations. This working group will then urgently propose concrete responses to the recommendations. We intend to waste no time in benefitting from this report. It provides an historic opportunity for Bahrain to deal with matters that are both serious and urgent. Officials who have not been up to their task must be held accountable, and will be replaced. Above all, we must conceive and implement reforms that satisfy all segments of our population. That is the only way to achieve reconciliation and to heal the fractures in our society. In order to ensure there is no return to unacceptable practices once the commission has left Bahrain, we have decided to engage with international organisations and eminent individuals to assist and advise our law enforcement agencies, and to improve their procedures. We believe that the release of this report has opened a new page in history, which has been made possible by the grace of God and because we have had the confidence to resort to an objective and impartial body. Again, the nations of Europe are routinely held to account before the European Court in Strasbourg. That court, through its judgements, has set the standard for modern international human rights. The same is true of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa



Rica. The whole world benefits from the jurisprudence of these courts. This shows us there is something missing. Surely, the Arab nations, with our ancient transitions of fairness and justice, also have something to contribute. Surely, we too need to show that our officials are subject to a higher law, and that we can be proud of our traditions of respect for human rights. Bahrain was an immediate supporter of the Arab Charter of Human Rights 15 years ago, but in truth this text has not created a system like those of Europe and the Americas. I will propose to our fellow Arab states that we now move concretely toward the creation of an Arab Court of Human Rights to take its proper place on the international stage. Bahrain assumes its international responsibilities seriously. Indeed, it has taken the initiative to contribute to collective international action by providing facilities for multilateral organisations. In 2009, during the visit of Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, we dedicated a significant plot of land in our capital, Manama, to serve the community of the UN; it now houses a regional office of the UN Development Programme. We would welcome other UN agencies, perhaps, for example, by the establishment of a regional office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Such international cooperation will of course not replace national initiatives. We previously announced the establishment of the National Institution for Human Rights as an independent body possessing its own organic law, to operate in accordance with the Paris Principles, which embody international human rights standards relevant to functioning national institutions. As for the government response to the report’s findings and recommendations, I say again that they involve fundamental issues, and must be dealt with urgently. All of this being said, we cannot fail to extend our gratitude to our armed forces and law enforcement agencies who restored public order in the face of intimidation and violence; to our GCC allies who participated in helping protect key installations by deploying the

Peninsula Shield Force, without any confrontation with civilians; and to the multitude of ordinary Bahrainis who took a stand against the forces of violence and sectarian division in our kingdom. We have every sympathy for those who sincerely and peacefully seek reforms within a pluralistic society where the rights of all are respected, but not for those who seek to impose totalitarian rule. Our desire for liberal reform goes hand in hand with our deep disappointment, after having extended so many times the hand of friendship, towards the Islamic Republic of Iran, which with the around-the-clock broadcasts in Arabic given by Iranian state-controlled radio and television stations, incited our population to engage in acts of violence, sabotage and insurrection. Iran’s propaganda fuelled the flames of sectarian strife – an intolerable interference in our internal affairs from which Bahrain has suffered greatly. As the chair of the commission correctly said, the government of Bahrain is not in a position currently to provide evidence of links between Iran and specific events in our country. But this propaganda, an objective fact to be observed by all who have eyes and ears and comprehend Arabic, not only directly challenges our country’s stability and sovereignty, but also poses a threat to the security and stability of the GCC countries. We hope that the Iranian leadership will reflect and abandon this policy of enmity and discord. We affirm our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our nation and its people, and our commitment to reform and to the rectification of errors in all transparency. We urge all our people to reflect upon their own attitude and intentions, to address their mistakes and to do their civic duty to contribute to national unity within a community of tolerance. Our highest objective, after pleasing God, is to promote brotherhood, harmony and tolerance amongst our people, within the environment of a pluralistic, cohesive and prosperous society; a society guaranteeing the rule of law and human rights; a society ensuring the tranquil pursuit of opportunities and fulfilment for everyone.
THE REPORT Bahrain 2012



Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the King, and President, Supreme Council for Women

Ensuring equality
OBG talks to Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the King, and President, Supreme Council for Women (SCW)
How has the role of women in Bahraini politics progressed following the recent elections?
PRINCESS SABEEKA: Bahraini women’s progress in political life started in 2001, after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa announced reforms and a political modernisation process. Support for women from the leadership and the people is evident in the overwhelming 98.4% vote in favour of the National Action Charter, which ultimately led to an increase in the representation of Bahraini women internationally and locally in ministerial and decision-making posts. The charter was reflected in the constitutional articles that guaranteed the participation of women in political life and public service while preserving a balance between their familial roles and their work in society. It also emphasised the importance of ensuring the principles of equality and justice. The SCW was very aware from the outset of the need to launch special programmes to politically empower women, encourage them to exercise their rights and present them as a valuable and influential force in the decision-making process. The recent increase in the number of women in the legislative assembly (four women were newly elected to the Council of Representatives, and 11 women were appointed to the Shura Council) is considered a significant boost to women’s contribution to political life in the Kingdom of Bahrain. This rise further proves the amount of support that Bahraini women receive today and the trust they have earned in their capability to contribute to the national development in different fields, particularly in issuing legislation related to women, family and society as a whole. comprehensive programmes aimed at the economic empowerment of women to create new opportunities for them in cooperation with the concerned organisations in the Kingdom. We have recently launched several projects to assist low-income families to start their own businesses, taking into consideration the need to make new business choices that are compatible with market demand. Since then, we have succeeded in attracting a significant number of women from different areas of the country to participate in these economic empowerment programmes. Increasing the number of Bahraini women entrepreneurs in different areas is a great step forward towards economic empowerment; however, there are many other opportunities available to Bahraini women that can contribute to both personal gain and the economic development of the country. Opportunities in the field of medicine, law, architecture and consultancy are always available to women with the right level of education, training and guidance. Therefore, by developing long-term plans to offer the right tools and skills to Bahraini women, in accordance with the country’s economic vision, the SCW will be better able to empower women and simultaneously strengthen the economy of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Why is the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) important for creating opportunities for women?
PRINCESS SABEEKA: SMEs offer a certain type of economic independence for Bahraini women that allow them to play an important role in developing the national economy. These businesses can also further develop when the proper platform for growth is provided. In the Kingdom, many public and private organisations such as Tamkeen, Bahrain Development Bank, UNIDO and Ebdaa Bank are strategic partners in implementing economic empowerment programmes for women with the council. There are also a number of examples and success stories of women who managed their own

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for women to enter the workforce to further accelerate economic development in the Kingdom?
PRINCESS SABEEKA: As a result of specialised programmes, Bahrain has been able to decrease the rate of unemployment amongst women and men. The SCW is very keen to contribute to this effort by offering



businesses and, today, are regional businesswomen. Such projects, if sustained, should allow women to participate in developing the economy while controlling capital and managing their lives. The SCW is currently working on an economic empowerment programme using a comprehensive economic system, either by administering training programmes and providing qualifications in managing small businesses and projects, or by providing financing opportunities that can be facilitated through funds that offer capital entrepreneurs need subject to basic rules and regulations. In addition to establishing a fund, financing can be provided through the launch of economic incubators that offer a number of consultative services such as training, financing and promotion all offered under one umbrella called the “Bahraini Women Development Centre”, which is currently in its early stages. Being established by SCW in cooperation with the Bahrain Development Bank, the centre is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012.

contribute to the financing of different programmes and projects in efforts of implementing the national work plan of the Council. Today, the SCW is working on incorporating women’s needs into the government’s workplans to guarantee that the programmes set for women are implemented; especially those that are concerned with services provided to women and their status in the workplace.

Looking forward, what are the greatest challenges to the advancement of women’s rights in Bahrain?
PRINCESS SABEEKA: There are bound to be challenges in every work environment that serve as lessons to grow from. Furthermore, Bahraini women’s aspirations are continuously developing, which adds impetus to our goal of providing them with the tools necessary to pursue their ambitions. Perhaps one of the most significant challenges confronting women today is the issue of the availability of opportunities that will allow them to become valuable resources at the national level. It is equally important to guarantee the enforcement of the constitutional laws that ensure women, given their social roles as mothers, can balance between their family lives and continue working and contributing to the broader society. This matter requires a significant amount of work and a great deal of follow-up to ensure that women are given this opportunity in a way that preserves their role as an important part of the workforce today while also allowing her be a key player in ensuring family stability as a wife and mother. Further to ensuring equality and the empowerment of women, the Family Law in Bahrain remains a challenge that needs to be actively addressed and looked after, specifically because the law sets a standard to protect women’s rights within the court system. The fact that it has only been partially passed shows that, despite some very important and crucial progress, the journey towards the advancement of rights and opportunities for women in Bahrain is far from complete.
THE REPORT Bahrain 2012

How is the SCW working to increase training for women and further develop their skills?
PRINCESS SABEEKA: The SCW operates according to a national strategy approved by the King. Such a strategy has been translated into a practical workplan that includes programmes and projects that accomplish a great deal for Bahraini women, while at the same time empowering and developing their skills further so they can add value to the process of the development of the national economy. The council also introduced a number of initiatives and awards that encourage government and public sector organisations to empower Bahraini women in their organisations. These initiatives have managed to create a substantial impact on the status of women in the workplace and achieve the desired balance that ensures equal opportunities and eliminates discrimination against women. The council has also signed a number of memorandums of understanding with local and international organisations that



Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani, GCC Secretary-General,

Shared objectives
Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani, GCC Secretary-General, on regional development and security
Bahrain is an integral part of the GCC and experiences many benefits of membership. While all GCC member states have their own foreign policies, they nevertheless communicate closely with each other. It is difficult to find an example where, on important global or regional matters, the members speak with different voices. This is particularly important as we are an intrinsic part of the Arabic and Islamic world, with our home at the epicentre of a turbulent region. The main challenges we confront are not dissimilar to those faced by most nations and international groupings. Regionally, these include the Middle East peace process and other international cooperation initiatives. Internally, nations face sectarian and employment challenges, particularly among the youth; potential food and water shortages; and the security and conservation of oil and gas resources. These challenges are seen as opportunities and call for focus and the strengthening of cooperation between member states, and between the GCC and other nations and blocs. In particular, our leaders have the political will to rise above the national level. Our path to achieving this vision is set out across the GCC’s five strategic goals, all of which are interlinked and in some way or another impact on global dynamics. The recognition that security and stability are key to long-term success is reflected in our first strategic goal: to secure the GCC against all threats. This objective addresses threats (intentional malicious acts such as external aggression, terrorism and serious organised crime), as opposed to all other risks, which are covered under another goal. We regard the threat or use of force against any member state as a threat to all members and we believe that disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner, utilising political dialogue. The key to security is consultation, coordination and cooperation between members and fellow Arab states and allies, including on issues of terrorism and crime; rejection of regional or international control or domination of

the Arabian Gulf; and an assurance of free maritime passage, particularly for oil and gas. Regional uncertainties and terrorism in the recent past have ensured that for military and counter-terrorism issues, the GCC has reinforced and tightened internal liaisons and cooperation with friends and allies. Advice on regional issues is given freely and at times member states have acted as useful intermediaries for discussion between parties. Nor have they hesitated to assist each other, as in the case of the GCC’s moral and practical support for the Kingdom of Bahrain during internal disturbances in early 2011. While our security is best protected through international links and agreements and we would like to think that unilateral action is unlikely, we nevertheless understand that we must be able to stand on our own in the event that GCC and external interests are not fully compatible. Consequently, steps are being taken to further strengthen joint capabilities such as enhancing our multi-national military formations and ensuring closer coordination over such issues as air space and CBRN protection. Additional measures are being taken to more closely coordinate efforts to counter organised transnational crime and thought is being given to establishing a GCC police force. Our next strategic goal is to sustain and increase economic growth. There is a huge amount of internal and international cooperation and participation in industry, commerce, finance and many other areas. Fortunately, the GCC has, through joint efforts, demonstrated economic resilience in weathering the global financial crisis and is one of the few economic groupings to maintain healthy growth. For this to be maintained and to preserve wealth for future generations, we must place less emphasis on our abundant – but finite – natural resources, and concentrate more on diversification. We see ourselves moving from being resource-fed economies to knowledge-based economies and welcome the attendant business opportunities for ourselves and our global partners.



As a bloc, we have promoted economic innovation. Internal investment has been encouraged and an easier crossflow of labour and a closer customs union have been provided for. Since the GCC Customs Union was launched in 2003, for example, trade between member states has increased by nearly 200%, or more than 20% per year, from $30bn in 2002 to over $90bn in 2011. Similarly, with the GCC Common Market launch in 2008, investors have equal access to markets across the GCC and have the right to engage in any economic activity within the council. As a result, intra-GCC investments have jumped by nearly 50% and the movement of people between member states has also increased significantly. Steps have been taken towards creating a tighter market and fiscal union and further integration is provided for through schemes like a trans-GCC railway system and interlinked power grids. We are moving toward achieving GCC economic citizenship. Our third strategic goal, to encourage and maintain a high level of human development, directly affects every other goal in a social, political, economic and security sense. It covers all aspects of improving standards of living: eradicating unemployment, creating opportunities for youth, and providing high-quality education, health care, housing and community services. Member states aspire to see development processes and political systems which serve to elevate and fulfil the wishes and needs of their people, with citizens from all levels of society feeling that they have been provided with unsurpassed advantages and benefits and a high quality of life. At the GCC level, under Common Market rules, social and welfare development has been expanded across borders. GCC citizens now have the right to equal treatment in all member states when seeking education and medical care or accessing social services. It is the human factor, linked to government processes, which often cause the most misunderstandings and questions to be raised. Let there be no doubt that good

governance is the top priority of each member state and each, in its own way, has democratic processes which allow the voices of citizens to be heard. With regard to Bahrain, there is optimism that the Kingdom has resumed its upward curve following the initiatives and efforts of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. These include the establishment of an Independent Commission of Enquiry, made up of international experts in human rights and criminal law, the recommendations of which has the full support of the GCC. The fourth GCC strategic goal is to improve public safety by developing strategies for risk awareness, risk management and crisis management. This goal, through close cooperation with national agencies, is the foundation for providing the bloc with a degree of resilience against all risks. It will be driven by a newly established GCC Emergency Management Centre, which, in addition to coordinating all aspects of risk management will also be responsible for an enhanced programme of GCC disaster emergency assistance wherever it may be required worldwide. Strengthening the international status of the GCC, which is at the heart of regional and international dialogue and cooperation, is the final key objective. It is through this goal that we hope to show the readiness of the GCC to contribute to solving regional and global challenges. Recent work includes donations for humanitarian and development aid throughout Africa and Asia; relief and reconstruction aid to various countries in the region and elsewhere; and development programmes in Yemen and the Gaza Strip. I hope that by learning a little more about the GCC, readers will see the present and future Kingdom of Bahrain within the context of broader horizons as a valued and integral member of the council. Whether one is doing business in Bahrain or any other of the member states, it is certain that investments are going toward a stable and growing region – one that gains strength from unity, mutual depth, support, resilience, shared forward thinking and a common vision.
THE REPORT Bahrain 2012

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