The SCO has come a long way in 10 years and the Astana summit will set out strategic plans for the journey ahead
On June 15, a summit meeting commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The presidents of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will join together to discuss major issues concerning the development of the SCO. This is a historic meeting, as the leaders will review the SCO's journey over the past 10 years and draw up a blueprint for its future development. It will leave an indelible imprint in the annals of the SCO.
Ten years ago, the international political and economic order was on the eve of profound adjustment. Terrorist, extremist and separatist forces became the biggest menace to regional security and stability. Countries in the region shared a growing desire to enhance mutual trust, carry out mutually beneficial cooperation and address challenges through joint efforts. It was against this background that the SCO came into being.
Over the past 10 years, the SCO member states have signed more than 100 important cooperation documents and established multi-tiered, wide-ranging consultation mechanisms. They have made considerable progress in their cooperation. From the Declaration on the Establishment of the SCO to the Treaty of Long-term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, from the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism to the Agreement on Intergovernmental Cooperation in Ensuring International Information Security, from the Program on Multilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation to the Agreement on Intergovernmental Cultural Cooperation, SCO cooperation has been broadening and deepening, covering political, security, economic, cultural and other fields.
The SCO takes fighting terrorist, extremist and separatist forces as its most important mission. The member states stated their determination to fight the three forces at their very first summit. Since then, they have worked hard to maintain the security of the member states and the entire region. Over the last 10 years, they have conducted more than 10 joint counter-terrorism exercises, jointly fought against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime and expanded their cooperation to include combating money laundering and ensuring security during major international events.
The SCO is committed to advancing regional economic integration and endeavors to promote region-wide common prosperity. The parties have engaged in practical cooperation in finance, energy, transportation, telecommunications and agriculture, made concerted efforts to counter the financial crisis and address challenges brought by globalization, and made substantial progress in trade and investment facilitation and connectivity. China has pledged a total of more than $12 billion in concessional loans to other member states.
The purposes and principles of the SCO are widely recognized by the international community. An increasing number of countries and international organizations have expressed the hope of establishing cooperative ties with the SCO and it now has four observer states, namely India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, and two dialogue partners, namely Belarus and Sri Lanka. It has established cooperative relations with the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and so on. The SCO is also actively engaged in the efforts to address the issue of Afghanistan and has contributed its share to speeding up Afghanistan's reconstruction process.
Weathering a decade of trials and tests, the SCO has established itself as an important pillar of regional security and stability, providing strong support for the peaceful development of the region. Its extraordinary journey over the past decade provides us with much food for thought.
The SCO embodies a spirit, that is the "Shanghai Spirit" whose essence is mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and seeking common development. It reflects the member states' fresh perspectives on security, development, cooperation and civilization. An inspiration to the world, it is a major contribution to efforts to foster a new type of state-to-state relations and build a harmonious region.
The SCO represents a banner that guides the countries in the region toward cooperation, peace and development. The idea of "enduring friendship and lasting peace" has been written into the SCO's legal documents, and seeking consensus has been recognized by the member states as an important guideline in promoting the development of the SCO and handling their mutual relations. This marks a new chapter in the relations among the member states and has greatly enhanced their mutual political trust. The new type of cooperative relations advocated by the SCO conforms to the trend of peace, development and cooperation in the world today and meets the shared interests of SCO member states and other countries in the region.
The SCO constitutes a positive force for democracy in international relations. The SCO follows the principle of non-alliance, non-confrontation, not targeting other countries and organizations, and openness. It is willing to carry out cooperation with other countries and international organizations.
At this new historical starting point, the SCO faces both opportunities and challenges, and a more arduous mission and further tasks lie ahead. At the Astana Summit, SCO heads of state will take stock of the SCO's valuable experience in the past decade and, on this basis, set out strategic plans and arrangements for the decade to come.
In the next decade, the SCO will remain true to the fundamental principle of good-neighborliness, and strengthen mutual trust and support for one another on issues concerning their core interests. It will step up efforts to combat the "three forces", as well as drug trafficking and transnational crime, and build up its capacity to tackle immediate security threats. It will fully implement the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation, promote intra-regional connectivity of transportation, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, and advance free trade arrangements to lend greater impetus to economic development of the member states. It will consolidate the foundation of people-to-people exchanges and enhance collaboration in education, culture, health, disaster relief and other areas to bring extensive benefits to the people of the member states. It will pursue external cooperation in an incremental manner and build a broad-based network of partners in which all will work together for regional stability and prosperity. It will be actively and constructively engaged in international and regional affairs, work for a more just and reasonable international order, and safeguard the common interests of the member states.
We have every reason to believe that, with the commitment and contribution of all sides, the SCO commemorative summit will be crowned with success. The significant decisions to be taken by the heads of state at the summit will enable the SCO, as a new type of regional cooperation organization, to move ahead with greater unity, fulfill its responsibilities more efficiently, and make new contributions to the win-win cooperation and common development of its member states and the peace and stability of the region.
The author is China's minister of foreign affairs.
(China Daily 06/15/2011 page8)