In recent years the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have emerged as major global actors engaged in reforming the international financial system, frameworks of energy governance and climate change discourse. This article maps the motivations and objectives that lie behind this global engagement, and the mechanisms through which it is operationalised. It finds that the GCC states prioritise economic globalisation while resisting political and cultural globalisation, and that regional discourse focuses on the practical implications of global engagement in order to shape the governance of globalisation. Nevertheless, scepticism toward theoretical or normative concepts of global governance does not distance the GCC states from acting as global players or from participating in the rebalancing global order. This holds important implications for the continuing evolution of global institutions in a polycentric environment with multiple centres of influence and policy objectives.

Policy Implications

  •  The GCC states will become further embedded in the global system of power, politics and policy making and perspectives on global engagement will continue to evolve.
  •  Conceptual clarity over Gulf states’ perceptions of global governance can enhance policy formulation that incorporates and accommodates diverging viewpoints and objectives.
  •  Policy makers in the GCC states are more receptive toward practical measures relating to the governance of globalisation than to normative concepts of global governance.
  •  Emerging linkages between the GCC states and major developing nations are creating new coalitions of convenience with a shared interest in reshaping frameworks of global engagement, particularly in financial and energy governance and the international politics of climate change.
  •  Integrating Gulf states’ discourse on global engagement with other non-western teleologies reflects this global realignment and addresses the broader rebalancing of global geo-economic power.