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Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental international organization founded in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 by six countries: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its member states cover an area of over 30 million km2, or about three fifths of Eurasia, with a population of 1.455 billion, about a quarter of the world's total. Its working languages are Chinese and Russian.

There is a shared belief, or vision, held by many SCO members, that the age of American domination, and of West-dominated global institutions, is coming to an end and that new global institutions should be developed with a much stronger Asian influence [and possibly African and Latin American as well], at least in parallel with the Western order, and in some areas in defiant competition. Founded in 2001, the SCO was created as a forum to resolve border and security issues, but increasingly in recent years Moscow and Beijing have used it as platform to counter American and Western influence in Central Asia. The June 2018 SCO summit was a calmer summit than the simultaneous meeting of the G-7, but drew far less Western media attention than the fractious G7 gathering in Canada, which ended in disarray in an escalating dispute over trade and tariffs. Half a world away at a carefully choreographed annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao, China, there were no death-grip handshakes, personal jibes or Twitter skirmishes between the leaders of Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Russian leader Vladimir Putin offered an oblique commentary on the G7s disarray, noting the combined purchasing power of the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is greater than that of the G7. And Putin didnt hesitate to note growing friction between the U.S. and Europe. It is a theme he has pressed repeatedly in recent weeks, notably during a recent trip to Austria, revealing a growing confidence in trying to drive a wedge between Washington and its Western allies. At the summit in Uzbekistan in June 2016, the SCO leaders signed memorandums on the accession of India and Pakistan to the organization. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization will cover 60 percent of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the global population after India and Pakistan became members in June 2017. "India and Pakistan will finish the procedure of accession to the SCO and will become SCO official members at the upcoming summit. It will expand the prospects of the SCO development as well as its international influence," Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Huilai said at a special briefing dedicated to the SCO summit held on June 8-9.

SCO's predecessor, the Shanghai Five mechanism, originated and grew from the endeavor by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to strengthen confidence-building and disarmament in the border regions. In 1996 and 1997, their heads of state met in Shanghai and Moscow respectively and signed the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions and the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions. There after, this annual meeting became a regular practice and has been held alternately in the five member states. The topics of the meeting gradually extended from building up trust in the border regions to mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, security, diplomatic, economic, trade and other areas among the five states. The President of Uzbekistan was invited to the 2000 Dushanbe Summit as a guest of the host state. As the first meeting of the five heads of state took place in Shanghai, the cooperation mechanism was later known as the "Shanghai Five".

On the fifth anniversary of the Shanghai Five in June 2001, the heads of state of its members and the President of Uzbekistan met in Shanghai, the birthplace of the mechanism. First they signed a joint declaration admitting Uzbekistan as member of the Shanghai Five mechanism and then jointly issued the Declaration on the Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The document announced that for the purpose of upgrading the level of cooperation to more effectively seize opportunities and deal with new challenges and threats, the six states had decided to establish a Shanghai Cooperation Organization on the basis of the Shanghai Five mechanism.

In June 2002, the heads of SCO member states met in St. Petersburg and signed the SCO Charter, which clearly expounded the SCO purposes and principles, organizational structure, form of operation, cooperation, orientation and external relations, marking the actual establishment of this new organization in the sense of international law.

Iran appeared increasingly interested in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and form a powerful axis with its twin pillars, China and Russia, as a counterweight to a US power "unchained". The SCO was initially set up as an open and nonaligned organization and it was not initially targeted at a third party. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will not take in new members before its six members make serious studies. The organization is still very young and the six SCO members need to have further discussions before deciding whether or not to accept new members, Li said 01 June 2004.

Mongolia's demand to participate in the organization as an 'observer' was approved at the June 2004 summit. Guidelines on the status of observer nations were approved and it was decided to award Mongolia this new status.

On 17 June 2004, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held its annual Summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Attending this conference was Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akayev, Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmonov, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. Much of the pre-summit media attention included what Russian President Putin and Chinese President Hu hoped would facilitate the development of economic relations between the SCO countries. This appeared to have been successful. At the conclusion of the summit, the leaders signed a document titled the Tashkent Declaration. The declaration summarized the outcome of the SCO's work since it was set up, evaluated the activities of the organization's agencies and set new goals. They also signed agreements on cooperation in fighting drug trafficking and on the protection of secret information in the framework of the SCO anti-terrorist agency, whose headquarters were opened in Tashkent.

Several meetings were conducted on the sidelines of the Summit. Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Afghanistan Transitional President Hamid Karzai, who was a guest of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and they discussed Afghanistan's attempts to locate and bring to justice the terrorists who attacked Chinese workers there. In other meetings, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev handed over to Hu Jintao a written document to confirm Kyrgyzstan's stance to recognize China' s full market economy status. Hu said the move by Kyrgyzstan will "greatly push forward China-Kyrgyzstan bilateral trade and economic cooperation." Hu made a four-point proposal in meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov on strengthening cooperation. Hu said the two sides should support each other on major issues, enhance law-enforcement cooperation to fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well improve economic relations and cultural exchanges. Rakhmonov said he agreed with Hu's proposals. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited China last month and the two sides signed a number of agreements to cement cooperation primarily in oil and natural gas as well as in other areas. Russia and Uzbekistan signed a strategic-partnership treaty, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek President Islam Karimov hailing it as a new stage in long-term relations.

India, Iran, and Pakistan gained observer status in the organization at a July 2005 SCO summit in Kazakhstan.

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Page last modified: 20-06-2018 14:32:13 ZULU