SCO: Astana summit agenda and new member country

Collage credit: Kazinform

Astana will host the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on July 3-4, 2024.The heads of SCO member states will consider a wide range of current issues of political, economic, cultural and humanitarian interaction. What is expected at the upcoming summit, which leaders will come and what is the role of Kazakhstan in this event, as the chairman, read in the article of the analytical observer of the Kazinform News Agency. 

Multidisciplinary and multifunctional organization

The SCO was created in 2011 (it was preceded by the Shanghai Five in 1996 - Editor's note). Over the years of its existence, the organization has gradually become multidisciplinary and multifunctional, where political, economic and humanitarian aspects of interaction are equally prioritized.

Currently, the population of the SCO region accounts for almost half of the world's population, its space occupies about a quarter of the earth's landmass, and its total GDP exceeds $23 trillion. At the same time, the number of participants is constantly expanding. According to experts, the world community’s interest in the organization has grown, including against the backdrop of a worsening international situation.

Currently, 9 countries are members of the SCO: Kazakhstan, India, Iran, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. However, this year Belarus will become a full member of the SCO at the organization's upcoming summit. The number of Member States will thus reach a historic double-digit breakthrough.

Collage credit: Kazinform

The SCO is engaged in ensuring diverse cooperation between member states in a wide range of areas: regional security, combating current threats, economic development, promoting relations of good neighborliness and mutual trust.

Leaders of observer countries and dialogue partners are expected to participate in the forum. Last year, five states joined the SCO as dialogue partners, including Bahrain, Kuwait, the Maldives, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates.

Collage credit: Kazinform

Kazakhstan's SCO Chairmanship

Kazakhstan assumed the SCO chairmanship in July 2023 and will lead it until June 2024. During the assumption of the chairmanship, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev presented the priorities of our country in the organization. He noted that, as part of its chairmanship, Kazakhstan will present the initiative “On world unity for a just peace and harmony.” This document will lay down the principles of strengthening confidence-building measures, maintaining stability and security. And the main task is to prevent a geopolitical fault between East and West.

As noted at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KazISS), Astana applies a practice-oriented approach to its chairmanship. The focus of efforts is aimed at strengthening mutually beneficial trade, economic and technological cooperation.

The member states unanimously supported Kazakhstan's initiative to declare 2024 the SCO “Year of Ecology”. In October 2023, a corresponding action plan was developed and approved by the SCO Council of Heads of Government.

Recently, SCO Secretary General Zhang Ming highly praised Kazakhstan's chairmanship in the organization. According to official data, since July 2023, when the presidency of the SCO passed to our country, more than 100 different events and meetings have been held, including energy, digital and tourism forums. More than 30 documents have been developed in various areas of cooperation.

Collage credit: Kazinform

Guided by the principle of “hot economics, cold politics,” Kazakhstan has put forward major initiatives to create the SCO Investment Fund and a base of economic preferences.

Astana summit agenda

In May, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting with the foreign ministers of the SCO member states. At the meeting, the Head of State expressed gratitude to the participating countries for their support of Kazakhstan’s initiatives and fruitful joint work. The President emphasized the importance of the SCO countries’ “Spiritual Shrines” project. He noted that the upcoming Astana SCO summit will be held under the slogan “Strengthening multilateral dialogue - the pursuit of sustainable peace and development.”

“The main leitmotif of the summit will be the SCO initiative “On world unity for a just peace and harmony” proposed by Kazakhstan. It is aimed at strengthening confidence-building measures and maintaining stable development of all countries of the world. This initiative reflects the sincere intentions and determination of the SCO countries to develop global and regional security,” commented Aliya Musabekova, the leading expert of the Asian Studies Department of the KazISS under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Aliya Musabekova
Photo credit: Aliya Musabekova's archive

The busy program of the summit will also include the adoption of a cooperation program to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism. In addition, a discussion of the SCO anti-drug strategy is planned.

Secretary General of the SCO Zhang Ming announced the approval of the list of topics and documents to be submitted for consideration at the SCO summit on July 3-4. Among other things, he mentioned the projects of the Astana declaration of the Heads of SCO Member States, the SCO Initiative “On world unity for a just peace and harmony”, the road map for the Development of cooperation with SCO dialogue partners, as well as several other documents.

UN-SCO cooperation

UN Secretary General António Guterres will take part in the upcoming SCO summit.

“For the first time, a meeting will be held in the SCO+ format with the participation of member states, observers and dialogue partners, as well as the UN Secretary General,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO countries.

For 20 years now, the SCO and the UN have been partner organizations. The SCO has observer status at the UN General Assembly; in 2010, a Joint Declaration on Cooperation between the UN and SCO secretariats was signed.

As noted at the KazISS, on the initiative of Kazakhstan, on September 1, 2023, during the plenary meeting of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, a resolution was adopted on “Cooperation between the UN and the SCO.”

“The participation of UN Secretary General António Guterres in the Council of Heads of SCO Member States this year looks quite natural. This fact is also confirmed by expert opinions that the upcoming summit in Astana will become a serious event of global significance. Issues of a global nature that affect the fate of millions of people will be raised at the SCO platform,” explains the leading expert of the Asian Studies Department of the KazISS.

New full member of the organization

It is known that Belarus has been participating in the SCO since 2010. At first, Belarus was a dialogue partner, and then received observer status. Joining an organization as a full member is a logical step. Belarus is interested in strengthening trade and economic cooperation and developing the common transport space of the SCO.

“Due to the fact that Belarus previously had established partnerships with the SCO, and the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko took part in seven previous summits of the organization, this official entry is unlikely to have a significant impact on its work,” notes expert Aliya Musabekova.

Some people believe that the SCO is an organization with predominantly Asian participation, but this is not the case. A variety of countries are showing interest in partnership with the SCO, from Saudi Arabia to Macedonia and Serbia. The organization is a convenient platform for dialogue and attracts with its stability, commitment to the principles of international law, creative and non-bloc character.

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