On 15 June 2006 the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, one of the youngest international organisations, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. And before the anniversary session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State that will take place in Beijing I would like to share my ideas on how the Organisation works as well as its future prospects and tasks.
The SCO was established in 2001 and quickly took on momentum and became an influential regional organisation. Today the SCO plays a significant role in ensuring stability in the vast Eurasian territory. Today the SCO is a reality both in regional and global politics. And it is not by chance that other states and multilateral organisations are increasingly interested in how the SCO functions and its forums.
Let me remind you that creating this regional organisation was the result of lengthy efforts towards strengthening mutual trust. And if we consider that we still have to solve other serious problems in parallel then we can truly be proud of the persistence, commitment and endurance shown by all participants. After difficult negotiations parties resolved border disagreements. Suffice to say that there are no such precedents, both regarding the extent of the problem and the participants, in Asia.
Already in the 1990s when the Shanghai Five started to cooperate it became obvious how important it is for our countries to join forces to meet new challenges. Along with this we recognized that it is only through multilateral partnership that we can ensure peace and economic development in our vast region.
This was all the more true since the situation at the time required urgent, coordinated efforts. A number of Central Asian states have been threatened by international terrorism. Its ideologues have tried to kindle new centres of separatism as well as national and religious extremism in the region.
The idea of establishing an antiterrorist coalition is often linked to the international community’s reaction to the 11 September 2001 tragedy. Yes, this was a unique crisis both in people’s consciousness and in international politics. But we must recognize that states established the SCO even before these dramatic events took place. Moreover, they did not just talk about the importance of fighting terrorism together but actually worked towards this. So the states members of the SCO became trailblazers in this regard because in June 2001 they took the initiative to form a regional antiterrorist organisation.
Now we already have effective ways to fight together against what our Chinese partners call the ‘three evils’ – terrorism, separatism, extremism.
The next logical step was coordinating cooperation to prevent drug trafficking and this led to close cooperation between our countries’ power agencies.
The states members of the SCO constantly give issues concerning the region’s stability all due attention. And we are open to the very widest cooperation. In the SCO’s opinion we must act to coordinate our efforts and develop common approaches towards guaranteeing security in the Asia-Pacific region. First and foremost this must be done by establishing close relations with the regional organisations and structures that are already functioning.
Such a network of partners will allow us to avoid unnecessary duplication and operating in parallel, and to act in the common interest without creating exclusive clubs or divisiveness. In 2004 in Tashkent the SCO put forward an initiative about this kind of cooperation and the initiative has been met with a largely positive response.
In connection with this I would like to point out something new for the SCO – cooperation with observer countries. Now India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia have the status of observers and are participating in the SCO’s work. The Organisation established a Contact Group with Afghanistan. We are accumulating experience in cooperation. This will undoubtedly increase the organisation’s authority, the authority of an organisation in which the population of the member countries amounts to slightly less than half of the earth’s inhabitants. I repeat that the SCO is open for dialogue and ready to work together to promote peace, stability and development.
It is obvious that the Organisation’s wide range of activities is not limited to the political sphere. We have a full economic agenda. Economic cooperation is becoming more and more important for the SCO. In the region there are huge possibilities for effective, mutually advantageous cooperation that would significantly improve the population’s living standards and transform Central Asia into one of the most developed regions of the world.
I believe that these mechanisms of regional integration will allow us to effectively implement the SCO’s members natural competitive advantages. They include energy, natural resources, transportation and developing both traditional and more innovative branches of industry, science and technology.
It is obvious that there are many possibilities for activities and initiatives in the business and banking circles. It is not by chance that during our next summit the constitutive session of the SCO Business Council will take place. At that session we will establish a coordinating centre for the business circles of the SCO member states. We have high expectations concerning its capacity to establish projects in which concrete cooperation takes place. These efforts should also be supported by the participants in the inter-bank agreement that was adopted in October 2005 in Moscow.
Cooperation in the spheres of culture and education is becoming more and more pronounced within the SCO. Undoubtedly, work in this direction will enrich the Organisation and provide it with creative energy from academic, cultural, youth and human ties. We have a strong basis for such a dialogue; the peoples of our countries established unique civilizations and have made an enormous contribution to universal cultural heritage. The interest in studying these riches will only grow.
We have accumulated wide-ranging experience in cultural contacts and exchanges as well as dialogue between academic circles. We are preparing documents on cooperation in the sphere of education. It is necessary to transform the existing bilateral ties between SCO partners in the fields of tourism and sports into multilateral ties.
I am convinced that parliamentarians from SCO countries will play a significant role in strengthening cooperation between SCO member states and their first meeting took place at the end of May in Moscow. And the SCO Forum that was created not long ago and unites representatives from various professional and academic circles will also play an important role. It is destined to become a unique nongovernmental mechanism that unites experts from the Organisation’s member states .
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The model for cooperation that we developed, the Shanghai spirit, is increasingly in demand. Our organisation is founded on precise and clear principles. Among them are mutual trust, discussing any problems openly, resolving problems without exerting any kind of pressure, and consultations. In practice, these already constitute the SCO’s prominent features, features that we hope will increase the Organisation’s appeal in the eyes of the international community.
Today, when statements about ostensibly insuperable cultural and civilizational divides between states are reviving, the Organisation offers an excellent example of an equal rights partnership in Eurasia. A partnership whose strategic purpose is to strengthen regional security and stability and to assist economic development and integration processes by preserving the national and cultural specificities of each state.
The tasks that were formulated five years ago in Shanghai are really being implemented. We have created a strong base so that the SCO will not only cooperate on new levels but that it will considerably increase its contribution towards resolving today’s global problems. And the fact that the participants of the Organisation really aspire to solidarity and working together bears witness to this.