SCO Summit 2022: Activities and Improvement

Daniyar Kurbanov writes about SCO Summit 2022: Activities and Improvement.

During the 21 years of its existence, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has successfully gone through the institutional building and formation of multilateral cooperation mechanisms in priority areas.

At the same time, the Organization approaches the Samarkand summit with a clear demand for reform and improvement.

The June 2002 SCO Summit in St. Petersburg saw the signing of an SCO Charter that outlined the Organization’s goals and principles, structure, and major activities. Permanent SCO bodies were later established, namely the Secretariat in Beijing and the Regional Antiterrorist Structure in Tashkent.

Ministerial meetings were formed in the political, security, trade and economic, cultural-humanitarian, and other fields.

A system of partnerships between the SCO and other international and regional organizations, including the UN, CIS, ASEAN, CSTO, CICA, and other bodies, was further developed based on signed memorandums of understanding between the Secretariats.

As enshrined in the Charter, the principle of the Organization’s openness facilitated the development of forms of interaction with other countries interested in joining the SCO. In 2004, at the SCO summit in Tashkent, Mongolia was the first country to be granted observer status.

In 2009, at the Yekaterinburg summit, Sri Lanka and Belarus were the first countries to be granted the status of a dialogue partner.

In 2017, the SCO summit in Astana concluded the process of joining the Organization in the capacity of member states of India and Pakistan.

The SCO’s institutional development has promoted its transformation into an important platform for multifaceted interaction among member states, observers, and dialogue partners and an influential actor in international relations.

However, SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming believes that entering its third decade, and the SCO faces new conditions and challenges. Today’s world is undergoing complex and profound changes. The international political and economic order and security architecture are faced with various crises, posing very serious challenges to peace and development.

In addition, the Organization’s activity in previous years has accumulated a number of organizational and other problems that need to be addressed, including the need to expand mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas, increase the level of regional connectivity, and strengthen the effectiveness of the standing bodies – the Secretariat and the RATS.

It should also be noted that the process of the Organization’s expansion is associated with a whole range of technical and more complicated issues of mutual adaptation of the Organization’s old and new members.

For example, currently, the official working languages of the SCO, in accordance with the Charter, are Russian and Chinese. Since 2017, discussions have been underway to include English as well.

Even more complex problems may arise in the process of deepening practical cooperation and developing business ties with the organization’s new members.

For example, experts in South Asia are raising issues of mutual study and harmonization of legal systems, especially in the area of commercial law, as well as the regulatory framework for trade, investment, financial and other ties.

Finally, like all countries of the world, SCO member states are facing the impact of the latest technologies (artificial intelligence, quantum computing, etc.), digital transformation and the global challenges of climate change, increasing technological threats and biological security issues, etc.

In this “multilayered” context, questions about improving the activities of the Shanghai Organization have been increasingly raised in recent years.

First, the strengthening of mechanisms and tools for the development of practical cooperation is becoming an increasingly urgent task. The development of trade, financial and investment, transport and logistics, and other commercial ties is necessary not only to address the development objectives of member states but is also becoming an important factor in their convergence and strengthening of SCO cohesion.

In this regard, Uzbekistan and other partners favor creating such structures as the SCO Development Bank, developing mechanisms to promote interregional connectivity, stimulate infrastructure growth and implement major multilateral projects.

Secondly, measures are needed further to enhance the effectiveness of interaction in the security sphere. For example, Uzbekistan supports the most rapid start of the negotiation process for establishing the SCO Universal Center on Threats and Challenges to Security based on RATS.

SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming offers to “increase attention to the Afghan issue, to make efforts to make Afghanistan a constructive factor in the region. Likely, the existing mechanisms of interaction between the countries on the issues of Afghanistan should be improved for this purpose.

Thirdly, reform of the Secretariat is long overdue. According to the SCO Secretary General, at the July meeting of the SCO Ministerial Council in Tashkent, he put forward the relevant proposals, which could be studied and discussed at the Samarkand summit and the next stage of the SCO activity.

Thus, the issues of improving the SCO’s activities have been put more and more firmly on the agenda, acquiring concrete forms and directions. This demonstrates that the Organization in its development, faced with the challenges of growth and transformation of the international system, is confidently striving to overcome them in the process of reform and self-improvement.

In this regard, the supposed discussion and adoption of a decision on the improvement of the Organization’s activities at the summit could be one of the most important achievements of the Samarkand summit, opening up a new stage of institutional development and active adaptation of the SCO to the increasingly complex realities of our time.

*The writer is Acting Director of the Center for International Relations Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan


**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues. The views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Diplomatic Insight and its staff.


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