“SCO Space has Become Even More Attractive"
- Mr. Norov, how do you assess the present level of development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)? How important has the role of the Organisation become in regional security?
- In a short span of time, the SCO has clearly been able to demonstrate an effective mechanism for multilateral cooperation and has succeeded as a solid platform of trust-based dialogue and equal partnership.
Today, the SCO covers more than 60 percent of the territory of Eurasia with a population of over 3.2 billion people and jointly, the SCO member states produce almost a quarter of the global GDP.
It is impossible to achieve sustainable development in the region without ensuring security. The SCO is working comprehensively in this area and has fairly become a significant factor in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
A legal framework allowing for consistent and systematic joint efforts is the bedrock of the security cooperation of the SCO member states. Practical measures taken by the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure demonstrate considerable progress in countering terrorism, separatism and extremism; namely, to identify, prevent and suppress manifestations of these “three evil forces" in the SCO member states and eliminate the causes and contexts that triggered and let them spread, as well as to prevent their ideology and propaganda from being disseminated.
The SCO attaches the utmost importance to combining efforts to confront the attempts to involve young people in the activity of terrorist, separatist and extremist groups. Special consideration is given to combating the spread and propaganda of a terrorist ideology, as well as recruitment through the Internet.
The SCO makes a significant contribution to global counter narcotics as well. The 2018-2023 SCO anti-drug strategy, its Action Programme, as well as the Concept to Prevent the Abuse of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances adopted at the SCO Summit in Qingdao in June 2018, are key tools for coordinating the efforts of member states of the organisation.
I would like to note that over the past five years, the competent authorities of the SCO member states seized about 40 percent of the total heroin and marijuana seized throughout Eurasia, which is illustrative of the great opportunities and potential of the SCO in combating drug trafficking. Moreover, the SCO places special emphasis on the development of anti-drug cooperation with international and regional organisations, primarily with the UN, its agencies and institutions, in particular with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
The SCO is also working to further the inter-Afghan dialogue. In this respect, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group has scaled up its activity. Over the past year, group meetings have been held in Moscow, Beijing and Bishkek. The Roadmap for the further actions of the Contact Group is currently being developed.
I would also like to note that one of the most significant manifestations of the effective SCO security cooperation is the peaceful mission antiterrorist exercises, which have been regularly held in the SCO countries since 2003.
All in all, it is safe to say that today the SCO region has sustainable stability thanks to effective security cooperation.
- For many years, the expert community has had an opinion that the economic component of the SCO is much inferior to the level of security cooperation. Can we say today that the SCO is becoming more and more economically oriented?
- All SCO member states are certainly interested in the harmonious development of the Organisation. I believe that the political and security predominance at the first stage of cooperation was explained by the need to maintain stability and security; it was the effective interaction to counter the “three evil forces," drug trafficking and other challenges and threats that largely guaranteed sustainable development in the region.
Today, the SCO region has a large consumer market, is rich in natural resources, as well as advanced production facilities, and is promising in terms of the implementation of large cross-border projects and new ideas, as it offers stability, dynamic development and constantly emerging new opportunities.
The total size of the national economies of the SCO today is more than 20 percent of the world GDP. The International Monetary Fund projects that by 2020 it will be 35 percent. With such an impetus, the economies of the SCO member countries may increase to 38-40 percent by 2025. This pace is impressive given today's mixed trends in the global economy. These facts show the enormous potential of our Organisation. Taking into account the unfavorable situation in the world market and the globally growing protectionism, the need to take concerted efforts in the SCO becomes more evident.
At the SCO Summit in Qingdao, the leaders of the member states expressed unanimous support for creating a favourable climate for trade and investment in order to gradually ensure the free movement of goods, capital, services and technology within the SCO framework.
In this regard, a Joint Communiqué on Simplifying Trade Procedures was adopted. The package of documents of the Qingdao SCO Summit also included solutions to stimulate small and medium-sized businesses, customs cooperation, tourism development and food cooperation.
Currently, work is underway to develop a new version of the comprehensive programme of multilateral trade and economic cooperation. Its key tasks will include the issues of further intensifying the processes of creating favorable climate in trade, investment, construction of infrastructure, transport, agriculture and communications.
Fostering interaction between the regions of the SCO member states will become a new vector. To this end, a Programme for the Development of Inter-Regional Cooperation between the SCO member states is being drafted and a Forum of heads of regions of the SCO member states will be created.
- How closely is the SCO economic component related to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative?
- The history of the Great Silk Road has been shaped by the peoples of modern Eurasia for centuries. It included the traditions of multinational cultures and strong trade relations that contributed to the building of the transcontinental trade corridor and the joint development of all peoples living along it.
There is no doubt that even today the role and importance of the Silk Road in the development of world civilization can hardly be overestimated. This is a whole layer and the richest experience of human relationships and mutually beneficial cooperation, which is very relevant and in demand today. That is why the initiative of President of China Xi Jinping, as part of the Belt and Road concept, is of great interest and actively supported throughout the globe.
The SCO countries cannot keep out of the large-scale economic initiative unfolding in the region. Accordingly, many member states have taken measures to bridge their national development strategies with the Belt and Road concept and advocate for using the potential of the countries of the region and forming a broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal partnership in the SCO area. Kazakhstan was the first among the SCO member states in terms of the number of implemented Belt and Road projects.
All in all, cooperation in bridging the Belt and Road Initiative with national economic development strategies offers a significant opportunity for Central Asian countries, being the SCO core, to achieve the strategic objective to ensure direct access to seaports and transform the region into the largest intersection of transcontinental highways from East to West and from North to South.
- The SCO summits in Astana, Qingdao and Bishkek were particularly extensively covered by international media. How would you explain the increased attention to the Organisation from both the international media and the international community?
- I will respond briefly and simply! This is due to the growing credibility and attractiveness of the Organisation.
SCO Summit. Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). 14 of June 2019. Akorda.kz
The SCO's fundamental principles are clear and transparent and embody the “Shanghai Spirit" based on mutual trust, equality, mutual benefit, equal rights, mutual consultations, respect for cultural diversity and the desire for common development.
All this affects the SCO attractiveness in the region and in the world, the growing number of countries willing to join the Organisation or raise its status in it and greater interaction with other international associations.
Clearly, the role of the SCO on the international scene will only grow, since the SCO member states cover a significant part of the world population, territory and natural and economic resources.
- The SCO has definitely become stronger after India and Pakistan joined the Organisation. How do you consider this expansion?
- The SCO has consistently implemented the principle of openness and accepted India and Pakistan as its members. The Organisation has in all respects become the largest trans-regional association in the world; the SCO space has become even more attractive in terms of new opportunities for implementing specific economic projects and promoting new ideas.
India and Pakistan have common ground and similar priorities in the SCO, which are to ensure sustainable socio-economic development of the SCO countries and maintain stability and security in the region, as well as jointly counteract complex challenges and threats.
It must not be overlooked that for 12 years India and Pakistan have been actively participating in the activity of the Organisation as observers and their membership in the SCO was preceded by a rather long preparatory stage.
A substantial set of documents and decisions adopted at the historic Summit in Qingdao in June 2018 is a specific outcome of the joint and effective work of the SCO in a new format.
- How do you see the future development of the Organisation's dialogue with regional associations: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), League of Arab States (LAS), Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and others?
- We maintain close partnerships with ASEAN and OSCE based on existing cooperation instruments. We have a close dialogue on security, the fight against terrorism and extremism and arms and drug trafficking.
We show mutual interest in the work of standing bodies, share experience and study the modus operandi of our partners.
This February, I visited the ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta. SCO and ASEAN are the largest regional organisations geographically close to each other. The visit demonstrated a similarity of positions and views on countering new challenges and threats, ensuring regional stability and security and promoting the deepening of trade and economic interaction.
SCO and OSCE have similar goals and objectives; both organisations counter terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime and monitor presidential and parliamentary elections.
In March, I held a meeting in Vienna with OSCE Secretary-General Thomas Greminger, who confirmed OSCE's interest in strengthening cooperation with the SCO, given the common challenges and threats in the vast Eurasian space.
Senior executive officers of the SCO, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) met in Moscow on April 23. During the trilateral meeting, the sides had extensive discussions in the following areas: security and countering traditional and new challenges and threats, trade and economic interaction and cooperation in the humanitarian and cultural domains.
The issue of a partnership with LAS based on mutual interests and prospects of interaction is being considered.
- The SCO adopted the Organisation's Development Strategy until 2025. Could you tell us more about this strategy and how effectively is it currently being implemented?
- The SCO Development Strategy until 2025 determines the benchmarks and parameters for the future development of the Organisation. The document takes into account the projected development of the international and regional situation, as well as the assessment of the performance of the SCO itself, its role in the region and the world and the relationship with other international actors.
The strategy identifies the following objectives:
- strengthening mutual trust and good neighbourliness among member states;
- strengthening SCO as an effective full-scale regional organisation;
- ensuring regional security and counteracting the challenges and threats to the security of member states, including preventing and eliminating emergency situations;
- deepening trade, economic and investment cooperation, as well as joint project efforts in priority areas of cooperation, for the sustainable development of member states and improving the prosperity and living standards of people;
- expanding cultural and humanitarian relations, including in science and technology, health care, environmental protection and education, as well as developing people-to-people contacts;
- consistently implementing the openness principle of SCO in accordance with the charter and other regulatory documents of the organisation;
- increasing cooperation with the UN and its specialised agencies, as well as with CIS, CSTO, ASEAN, Economic Cooperation Organisation, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and other international organisations and associations.
Today, all the SCO activities are based on the need to achieve these goals and the relevant work is underway in the framework of the 29 existing mechanisms of the Organisation.
- Mr. Norov, thank you for the in-depth and interesting interview and we wish you successful and efficient work at the helm of such a “big ship" of regional integration!
Interview by Gulsana Tulepbergenova
ABOUT AUTHOR. Vladimir Norov – Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Cand.Sc. Law
Over the years, he held high offices in the Government of Uzbekistan, including the Director of the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan; Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, the Benelux countries, the European Union (EU) and NATO and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
He has the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
He was awarded the Mehnat Shuhrati Order of the Republic of Uzbekistan (in 2003).
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