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SCO reaches a historical starting point

By Gulnar Shaimergenova | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-21 07:20


The document adopted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at its 20th summit reads: "Today the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has firmly established itself as an authoritative and influential multilateral association, whose activities are aimed at ensuring peace, security and stability, jointly confronting new challenges and threats in the space of the Organization, strengthening trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian relations between the SCO countries."

Looking at the participants at the SCO summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, one has to agree with the SCO's claim, because in addition to the leaders of the SCO member states, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko also took part in the summit.

Open platform for political dialogue

The SCO has indeed become a platform for political dialogue among countries from across regions-from Central Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States to South and East Asia and the Middle East.

A major result of the Samarkand summit was Iran's accession to the SCO as a full member with the approval of all SCO member states.

The SCO leaders also signed the Samarkand Declaration and adopted 21 documents, which include the Comprehensive Action Plan for 2023-27 for the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty on Long-term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation of the SCO Member States, as well as plans for the gradual increase in the share of national currencies in trade among SCO members.

Among important things, the summit decided to start the procedure for granting Belarus the status of a full member of the SCO. The growing popularity and acceptance of the SCO is evidenced in the fact that Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives and Myanmar all want to join the organization. Turkiye, a major Middle East country, is also striving to become a full SCO member.

Members welcome signing of MOUs

The SCO member states welcomed the signing of the memorandums of understanding by the SCO Secretariat and the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States, UNESCO, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and vowed to continue seeking common ground on foreign policy issues.

Thanks to its wide membership, the SCO brings together about 3.5 billion people and discusses global issues and challenges to sustainable development, such as climate change, the lack of adequate water and natural resources, the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions in the global supply chains, and the energy and food crises.

Against this backdrop, and given the growing global need to develop mutual trust and solidarity and deliver justice, it has become even more necessary to continue open and constructive dialogue. And the SCO has shown the world that such a dialogue is possible.

Firmly committed to the principle of openness, the SCO has strengthened mutually beneficial relations among member states and helped deepen global cooperation.

SCO working to overcome threats

I am confident that the SCO, as a responsible and influential organization promoting development and helping maintain peace, will continue to take coordinated steps to overcome the growing threats and challenges in Eurasia.

The transformation of the geopolitical space in the region has created new conditions for the SCO's development, and unexpected sharp trends and ambiguous international processes have created new responsibilities for the SCO, which will affect the dynamics and format of cooperation among its member countries.

During the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that SCO member states are working to transform it into a global economic platform. And given that the SCO represents countries with the largest reserves of oil and gas, and are among the largest energy consumers, it is not difficult to see the reason behind the Kazakh president's suggestion.

In fact, the SCO has huge potential and all the necessary economic mechanisms to become a global economic platform-the SCO members have to just implement the measures needed for the transformation.

Boosting cooperation within the organization

The SCO Summit also approved the plan to boost cooperation among member states to develop efficient transport corridors. This is an important development, because transportation is critical to the implementation of the strategy of conjugating Central Asia, Russia and China, linking the Eurasian European Union, the SCO and the Silk Road Economic Belt using new economic initiatives.

The Eurasian European Union is an international economic union and free trade zone comprising countries in North and Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Established by Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in 2014 and functioning from January 2015, the EAEU also has Armenia and Kyrgyzstan as members.

While Kazakhstan, due to its geographical location and economic and political weight, can play a key role in the development of transport corridors, there is a need to initiate negotiations under the SCO framework on the adoption of common approaches to transportation, including unifying tariffs. In fact, the implementation of the project will prompt neighboring states to become part of the SCO's transport infrastructure, and thus end the "transport isolation" of Central Asian countries.

Bringing regional markets closer

The new economic geography of the SCO will bring closer the markets of Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, helping shift the SCO's development pattern from geopolitical to geo-economic fields and paying more attention to Central Asia as a crossroad for the diverse Silk Road Economic Belt projects.

Importantly, the summit's final declaration reflects the special role of Central Asia in the SCO. The declaration says that "the member states consider Central Asia to be the core of the SCO and support the efforts of the countries of the region" to promote prosperity and peace, sustainable development, and create the necessary space for good neighborliness, trust and friendship.

The SCO members are in favor of further strengthening the organization's role in maintaining the stability and promoting the socioeconomic development of the region, and holding regular consultative meetings of the heads of state of Central Asia.

The SCO's development will stimulate the search for new approaches to cooperation and influence the international agenda, but for that, the organization must generate new development concepts.

Building a common security environment, interconnected infrastructure and developing common standards and rules for working under the SCO framework can boost trade and economic cooperation, and set a new collective goal for the SCO's work (security through joint development).

The SCO retains its main purpose of providing a platform for maintaining constructive dialogue and cooperation among Central Asian countries, China, Russia, India and Pakistan, and a wide range of Eurasian partners.

Taking into account the SCO's expansion, it is important to pay special attention to both old and new member states and the need to formulate a new unifying mission for the organization, in order to prevent the erosion of the SCO mission and the Shanghai Spirit of cooperation, and to ensure the right lessons are learned from the experiences gained over 21 years of the organization's existence.

The author is the director of China Studies Center, Astana, Kazakhstan. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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