GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
“GCC States Strategic Outreach in North Africa: The Role of Foreign Aid”
Paper Proposal Text :
The uprisings in North Africa and subsequent turmoil have major geostrategic implications for regional powers in the wider Middle East. Not only have they altered the domestic dynamics in North African countries; they are also helping to shift power balances within the wider Middle East. The fallout from these events will alter intra-regional relations within the Middle East and North Africa. How regional and external powers respond to these upheavals will determine their ability to influence the transitions, as well as secure their long-term strategic position in North Africa. Acutely aware of this, regional actors are seeking to shape events, to contain their impact at home, and make strategic gains.

The altered geopolitical balance in the Middle East and North, as well as concerns about the consequences of a US pivot to Asia, and concerns about the domestic impact of the Arab uprisings have prompted the Gulf States to attempt to shape developments in North Africa and to expand their influence. The inability of Syria, Egypt and Iraq to play their traditionally dominant roles has created a window of opportunity for states in the Gulf. Several Gulf States played a more assertive role both during and after the Arab uprisings. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular have actively sought to influence developments in the region since 2011.

While their general interests overlap, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have responding in different ways to events as a result of the specific domestic drivers of their foreign and security policies. Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s response to the transitions in North African countries has been more heavily sectarian, due to concerns about the domestic consequences of the rise of moderate forms of political Islam in North Africa, than that of Qatar. Yet, despite these differences, all GCC states have attempted to use foreign aid as a means of gaining influence in North African countries in transition.

This paper will examine how Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have used aid in North Africa to try to shape the trajectory of the transitions. It will look at the consequences of their activities for political and economic dimensions of the transition processes. And, finally, it will discuss the sustainability of GCC states’ leverage in North Africa.