The SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) held its second Public Diplomacy Forum on 11 May 2022, in Tashkent. The event took place in a hybrid format, with participants joining both physically and online.

The event was held under the framework of Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the SCO with the theme “Public Diplomacy – Mutual Understanding for the Sake of Development”. It was organized by the SCO Centre for Public Diplomacy in Uzbekistan, along with the Senate of Uzbekistan and Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The conference attracted an audience including leaders and representatives of parliaments of the SCO member states, international organizations, non-state structures, and scientific and analytical centers. Pakistan was represented by the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies- IPDS at this important forum.

SCO Centre for Public Diplomacy

The forum seeks to achieve aims including strengthening interstate and interregional contact and supporting interethnic, interfaith, and inter-civilizational harmony and dialogue.

Likewise, it aims to develop mutual trust and friendship among the SCO states by employing the best practices of public diplomacy.

Another idea driving the forum is to use the potential of NGOs to provide an incentive for integration processes within the SCO and expand cultural & humanitarian cooperation, including in science, education, culture, sports, tourism, & city-to-city cooperation.

The initiative was presented by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan at the Astana Summit in 2017.

The first such forum was organized in 2021 at the initiative of President Xi Jinping, which took place in Wuhan.

The event was held in a hybrid format
Agenda of the Event

The forum comprised of two plenary sessions: “Role of Public Diplomacy in International Cooperation” & “People’s Diplomacy–an Important Element of Modern Interstate Communication: Experience of SCO Member States,” held on 11 and 12 May respectively.

The second session was held to discuss the promotion of people-to-people ties among SCO countries and the relevance of public diplomacy in the contemporary world.

The event focused on the enhancement of development and humanitarian ties through public diplomacy. It sought to create a friendly environment for people-to-people interaction, focusing on civil society institutions, youth, and women’s organizations.

In addition, the event included discussions on the role of inter-parliamentary ties, non-governmental organizations, and public organizations in maintaining peace and harmony.

During the event, the participants discussed the experiences, features, achievements, and practices of the SCO countries in the spheres of public diplomacy, the role of women’s leadership in ensuring peace, and other topics related to public diplomacy.

Additionally, the participants also discussed Uzbekistan’s efforts in developing the institution of public diplomacy in the activities of the SCO. Also, they addressed the issue of promotion of the rich tourism potential and cultural diversity of the member countries.

Speakers and Participants
Participants gather for a group photo

Tanzila Norbaeva, Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan started the conference with her opening remarks. She proclaimed that the modern world evolved with the emergence of new challenges in the way of sustainable & inclusive development.

She highlighted that global issues such as xenophobia, racism, terrorism, radicalism, and extremism require international and regional collaboration and the collective adoption of effective prevention and reaction measures.

Moreover, she expressed that the deterioration of confidence among the leading stakeholders in the global system, the challenges of post-pandemic development, climate change, and many other global issues need a joint international response.

Furthermore, the Vice-Chairwoman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and Chairperson of the Chinese SCO Committee on Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship, and Cooperation, Shen Yueyue; SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming, and the Head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, Natalia Gherman, joined the conference through an online video link.

Whereas, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Vladimir Norov, General Secretary of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly Andrey Belyaninov, and the Chairperson of the Committee for Interethnic Relations and Friendly Ties with Foreign Countries under the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan, Rustambek Kurbanov, joined in-person.

Furthermore, the Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Assembly of Peoples of Kyrgyzstan, Zukhra Shidakova, the head of the department, Ainagul Cholova, and the Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to Uzbekistan, Musa Dzhamanbaev, represented Kyrgyzstan.

A delegation from Tajikistan also took part in the forum. It included the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Uzbekistan; academician Abdujabbor Rahmonzoda, rector of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan; director of the SCO Friendship and Cooperation Center in Tajikistan Abdukhalil Gafurzoda; former head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan and ex-secretary general of the SCO Rashid Olimov; and the Deputy Director of the SCO Friendship and Cooperation Center in Tajikistan, Shukron Radjabova.

Director of the SCO friendship and cooperation center Abdukhalil Gafurzoda spoke during the forum on the topic of ‘Interethnic dialogue of cultures – an important factor in the development of public diplomacy of the countries of Central Asia: the experience of Tajikistan.’

Shen Yueyue, the Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, and Chairman of the SCO China Committee for Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation also gave her remarks in an address.

Recalling the 20th anniversary of the signing of the SCO Charter, she said, “It is necessary to firmly protect the fundamental interests of the SCO member states, remain true to the original goal, observe the goals and principles of the Charter and the Treaty, strengthen contacts and mutual trust based on mutual respect and equality.

It is necessary to properly use the channel of public diplomacy, strengthen traditional friendship and intimacy, and jointly protect the peaceful and secure situation in the region.”

Natalya Gherman, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Central Asia and the Head of the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, focused on the importance of public diplomacy, especially in times of crisis.

She proclaimed that it does not have the barriers that official diplomacy has and it continues to run when all arguments have been exhausted and the dialogue is terminated.

Andrey Belyaninov, the Secretary-General of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly, introduced the work of the Eurasian People’s Assembly as a strong platform of public diplomacy comprising NGO representatives from over 50 countries.

He said, “The Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly is being actively formed as an international platform that affirms the ideology of peace, benevolent good neighborliness between peoples through multilateral cooperation and people’s diplomacy.”

Moreover, he proposed to organize the First World Public Summit of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly in Uzbekistan.

In his opening remarks, the acting Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Vladimir Norov, observed that public diplomacy founded on openness and impartiality is of key importance in the modern era.

In this context, he brought attention to the successful public diplomacy of Uzbekistan. He mentioned that Uzbekistan successfully incorporated the principles of public diplomacy, good neighborliness, and open dialogue in its foreign policy.

Furthermore, he said that within the framework of its chairmanship, Uzbekistan gives priority to the development of the SCO public diplomacy forum to strengthen mutual understanding, respect, and trust among the member countries of the Organization by increasing cultural and humanitarian relations.

On the second day, the breakout session on ‘the role of parliament and public organizations in consolidating public diplomacy’ was moderated by Ravshanbek Alimov, Chairman of the Senate Committee on International Relations, Foreign Economic Relations, Investments, and Tourism.

Moreover, Bakhtiyor Sayfullayev, the Chairman of the Senate Committee for Youth, Culture, and Sports of Uzbekistan; Svetlana Smirnova, the Chairperson of the Council of Assembly of Peoples of Russia; the First Deputy Secretary-General of the Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly; and Zhang Wai, Secretary-General of Chinese SCO Committee on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation spoke at the event.

Furthermore, Malika Kadyrkhanova, the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs and Gender Equality; Dilorom Faizieva, the Chairwoman of Legislative Chamber Committee on International Affairs and Interparliamentary Relations; and Bobur Bekmurodov, Chairman of “Yuksalish” Nationwide Movement – all of them from Uzbekistan – also participated in the session.

Kabuljon Sabirov, Director of the SCO Center for Public Diplomacy moderated the second breakout session. The speakers for this session included Sergey Sizov, Head of Division of the OSCE Project Coordinator’s Office in Uzbekistan; Abdukhalil Gafurzoda, Director of the SCO Centre for Friendship and Cooperation in Tajikistan; and Dr. Athar Zafar, Head of the SCO Study Centre and Senior Research Fellow of Indian Council of World Affairs.

In addition, Natalia Dementieva, the Deputy Chairman of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan; Zukhra Shidakova, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Assembly of People of Kyrgyzstan; and Farhat Asif, President of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and Chairperson of Pakistan-SCO Friendship Forum attended the session.

The Tashkent Communique

Importantly, the forum adopted the Tashkent Communique. The Communique presented the common positions and results reached by the participants during the event.

The participants highlighted that the SCO Public Diplomacy Forum has become a significant forum for debating ideas and initiatives to strengthen good neighborliness, friendship, and comprehensive dialogue among SCO states.

They also reiterated the ‘Shanghai Spirit’, that is, promoting mutual trust, equality, mutual consultations, cultural diversity, and common development.

Moreover, they expressed that the SCO is a positive force for peace and stability in the region. They noted that it supports sustainable development and partnership based on respect for the diversity of civilizations.

Furthermore, the participants expressed their full support and confidence in the institutions of public diplomacy in their potential to enhance regional integration.

They welcomed activities and initiatives taken by the SCO and its component institutions, especially the SCO Cultural Integration Center, the SCO Public Diplomacy Forum, China Committee for Good Neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation, and SCO Friendship and Cooperation Center.

Meanwhile, they recalled the ‘Wuhan Initiative’, which was adopted at the first SCO Public Diplomacy Conference in 2021 in Wuhan. The initiative called for the promotion of the use of public diplomacy for achieving SCO’s primary objectives.

The participants acknowledged the increasing importance of the role of public diplomacy in the light of current and emerging global situations.

In addition, they favored the development of inter-parliamentary ties and increasing civil society interaction between the SCO states.

Likewise, they also called for enhanced relations among the women’s and youth organizations in the fields of gender equality, sustainable development, and education.

They appreciated the role of the SCO Women Forum and the SCO Youth Council for making progress in this area through organizing successful events such as the Model SCO and the Startup Forum.

Additionally, the participants stressed the need for more formats of cultural and humanitarian dialogue, such as establishing ties between cities and regions and direct contacts in the realm of sports, education, science, health, environment, and media.

Moreover, they highlighted the role of sports in maintaining a healthy population, along with recreational activities like tourism and sports competitions.

Also, they expressed support for Uzbekistan’s proposal for establishing the institute of the ‘SCO Goodwill Ambassador’. They further supported Uzbekistan’s bid to hold the SCO film festival to promote tolerance, humanism, and friendship among the people of SCO countries.

Finally, the participants expressed gratitude to the Uzbek authorities for the exceptional organization of the event and for their hospitality.

Memorandums of Understanding

Moreover, four MOUs were signed within the framework of the forum:

  1. Memorandum of Cooperation between the SCO Friendship and Cooperation Center in Tajikistan and the International Union of Non-Governmental Organizations “Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly”

  2. Memorandum of cooperation between the Economic Assembly of Uzbekistan and the International Union of Non-Governmental Organizations “Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly”

  3. Memorandum of Cooperation between the SCO Public Diplomacy Center in Uzbekistan and the Assembly of the People of Kyrgyzstan

  4. and the Memorandum of cooperation between the “International Ibn Sino Foundation” and the International Union of Non-Governmental Organizations “Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly”.

Leave a Reply