The regular meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Forum, which became a key scientific and analytical event prior to the annual summit of the heads of the SCO member states, was held in Astana.
The SCO Forum annually gathers the leading representatives of the scientific and expert community of the countries of the "Shanghai family". Its participants analyze the problems of the Organization, give recommendations on how to proceed and which trajectory to choose. The results of the annual meetings become a significant intellectual contribution to the development and implementation of the practical activities of the SCO. As a result of the discussions, coordinated documents, which are sent both to the SCO Secretariat and to the authorities of the participating countries, are prepared.
This year, more than one hundred delegates and experts from the member states of the Organization, national SCO research centers, scientific centers of observer states and dialogue partners and the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS took part in the Forum.
Alexander Lukin, Director of the Center for East Asian and SCO studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, in an interview to InfoSHOS portal drew attention to the need to improve the effectiveness of the expert dialogue mechanism within the SCO framework. He noted that in the Rules of the Forum, adopted at the first constituent meeting, and its functions were seen somewhat wider than they look now. The expert explained that the creation of the expert track provided for joint research on current issues of the Organization's terms of reference, clarification of the tasks and principles of the SCO's activities, expansion of its links with the scientific and public circles, and encouragement of an exchange of views between scientists and experts in the fields of politics, economy, ecology, new technologies, humanitarian and other fields.
According to Lukin, official participation of India and Pakistan in the SCO Forum can significantly change and improve its work. These states have experience of working on international platforms, a strong expert potential and, most importantly, a great desire for their voice to be heard. This opens up new prospects for the development of the "second track" of the SCO.
The agenda of the meeting included two basic topics: positioning of the SCO in the context of growing uncertainty in the system of international relations and determining of the prospects for the development of the Organization after its expansion.
Aizada Subakozhoyeva, SCO Deputy Secretary-General, in her message to the delegates of the Forum, noted that during a relatively short historical period the SCO "demonstrated an effective model of multilateral cooperation."
"The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is developing, and its cumulative potential is also growing. The current difficult international situation, growing geopolitical tensions and instability and unpredictable factors, as well as the complex character of the threats and challenges, predetermine our need to build up joint actions to create a more just and polycentric world order model."
According to Subakozhoyeva, in this process, under the UN's priority role in preserving peace and security, the role of regional structures, in particular the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is growing significantly. She praised the role and importance of the SCO Forum that has proven to be an effective platform to discuss topical issues related to the SCO activities.
Within the framework of five plenary sessions of the Forum, an exchange of views on the role and significance of the Organization in the new geopolitical realities and prospects for its further development took place. Participants heard and discussed a number of reports on further promoting of cooperation in the field of security, as well as in trade and economy, investment, transport and tourism.
In his speech, Xu Jian, Vice President of the Chinese Institute of International Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, noted that at present the SCO is at a historical crossroads and it faces new challenges and opportunities.
"The internal and external environment of the SCO is becoming increasingly complex, which creates new prerequisites for development. Geopolitical competition of global powers is increasing, the international order is transforming. The overall external environment of the SCO can become even more complicated. In this context, the Organization is also getting new opportunities for its development," Xu Jian believes.
Yerzhan Saltybaev, Director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of Kazakhstan, mainly agreed with his Chinese counterpart. He noted that the June Summit of the SCO Heads of State will take place in the context of contradictory processes in the system of international relations and the world economy. "We are witnessing fierce sanctions wars and deepening of geopolitical confrontation. This sharply increases the uncertainty factor in the further development of the situation in the sphere of strategic stability and security in the world," Saltybaev emphasized.
Batyr Tursunov, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, presented his view of regional security problems and methods for their solution. According to him, the situation in Afghanistan, where the armed confrontation continues, is of particular concern to the Uzbek side. "It is time to look at Afghanistan not as a problem, but as an opportunity for strategic cooperation," Tursunov said. According to the expert, the overall activities of the SCO states in involving Afghanistan in the system of trade and economic, transport and communication, cultural and humanitarian ties with neighboring countries will make a significant contribution to the process of normalizing the situation.
To date, international terrorism, radicalism and violence have become an unprecedented, global threat. They concern all countries, regardless of the level of socio-economic development, civilizational or cultural and religious affiliation. Today, the security problem requires constructive dialogue and development of common approaches.
The chairmanship of the SCO Forum passed to the Chinese Institute of International Studies which will host the next meeting of the Forum in 2019 in China.