On May 13, 2020 an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers of the SCO member countries took place via video conference. The meeting was chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The event was attended by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov and Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Jumakhon Giyosov.
The sides exchanged views on cooperation of the SCO member countries in conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, and coordination of efforts to overcome its consequences. They also discussed issues regarding the security and stability in the region and the role of the SCO in the system of international relations in the context of the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII and the 75th anniversary of the formation of the UN, and reviewed the preparations for the meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council in St Petersburg.
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov noted the high level of solidarity and mutual support of the SCO member countries in countering the coronavirus epidemic, the importance of making more effective prompt response of the SCO's mechanisms to new outbreaks of infectious diseases, as well as the need to develop cooperation between the SCO and relevant international organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In this context, Mr Norov mentioned the draft provisions on the coordinating council for joint efforts against the threat of epidemics, which was drafted by the SCO Secretariat. It is designed to facilitate the elaboration and the implementation of comprehensive measures on preventing epidemic diseases, early warning for them and reducing their negative influence.
Having spoken about the issues of overcoming the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, the SCO Secretary-General called for the promotion of cooperation in ensuring food safety and suggested elaborating a concept of cooperation and the SCO plan of actions in this area. In addition to this, Mr Norov mentioned the importance of the broad use of digital technology in government management and business by involving the leading IT companies of the SCO member countries, such as the Alibaba Group and the Mail.ru Group.
Speaking about this issue, Mr Norov expressed concern over the growing challenges in cyber security linked with internet scams and hacker attacks on state and financial institutions. He suggested including measures on protecting the critically vital infrastructure in the plan of actions on implementing the concept of SCO cooperation in digitisation and ICT.
The Secretary-General noted that the epidemic suspended the work of many SCO mechanisms that were involved in the approval of documents reviewed by the leaders of the Eight. In this context, he suggested discussing the issue of increasing the role of permanent representatives of the member states to the SCO Secretariat.
Mr Norov noted that despite the pandemic the SCO member countries continue to render comprehensive assistance to a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. He mentioned the growing importance of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group in facilitating the resolution of the Afghan problem.
Speaking about the 75 anniversary of Victory in WWII and the formation of the UN, Mr Norov mentioned the importance of the current work on the statement of the SCO member states on the anniversary of Victory over Nazism and the participation of the SCO family in drafting a relevant UN General Assembly resolution.
In conclusion, Mr Norov mentioned the importance of considering the proposals and initiatives made by the foreign ministers during the elaboration of the new plan of action on implementing the SCO development strategy up to 2025.
Following the meeting, the SCO foreign ministers adopted a statement on the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus infection.
Permanent representatives of the SCO member states at the SCO Headquarters also attended the video conference in the SCO Secretariat.
The SCO Council of Foreign Ministers discusses the current activities of the SCO, prepares the meetings of the SCO Heads of State Council and conducts consultations on international matters. If need be, the council can make statements on behalf of the SCO.
of the SCO Secretary-General Mr. Vladimir Norov at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of the SCO Foreign Ministers via videoconference
Dear Sergey Viktorovich,
Let me join to express gratitude to the Russian presidency of SCO for convening our meeting.
In line with the principles of the "Shanghai spirit", the member States have shown a high level of solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic. Taking into account China's experience, they received comprehensive information on the extent of the impending threat and took appropriate preventive measures.
The current conditions call for more effective response of the SCO to new outbreaks of infectious diseases, including improved legal framework and algorithm for fail-safe mechanisms for cooperation in the area of health care.
The SCO Secretariat has developed and forwarded a draft Regulations on the Coordinating Council for Joint Counteraction of Epidemic Threats to the sides. The mechanism is designed to assist member States in developing and implementing comprehensive measures for the prevention, early warning, response and reduction of the negative impact of epidemic diseases.
A draft memorandum on cooperation with the World Health Organization has been sent to the parties to establish international cooperation in that area. If approved, we look forward to signing it during the St. Petersburg summit.
In order to establish international cooperation in this area, a draft Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation with the World Health Organization has been sent to the sides. If approved, we hope to sign it during the Summit in Saint Petersburg.
In the current circumstances, it is also important to step up joint work in the economic direction.
Particularly, one of the consequences of the pandemic could be food crisis. Experts note that in the coming months, difficulties are expected with the transportation of food products due to the closure of borders and decline in world trade volumes.
In this regard, we suggest developing a Concept paper and an Action Plan of the SCO to ensure food security. The Secretariat is ready to submit drafts of the relevant documents.
In addition, the current situation has fully revealed the wide potential of ICTs and advantages of digitalization in the socio-economic sphere.
Forced measures to restrict movement and self-isolation of citizens have led to a mass transition to a remote mode of communication and work, which has affected established norms for the safe functioning of systems on the internet.
Cyber security challenges related to internet fraud and hacker attacks on public and financial institutions have increased.
In this context, we consider it important that the draft Action Plan for Implementation of the Concept of Cooperation of the SCO Member States in the Field of Digitalization and ICT reflects measures aimed at strengthening protection of critical infrastructure, widespread use of new information technologies in public administration, including health care and education, and use of innovative solutions by small and medium businesses.
It would be advisable to involve in this work the leading enterprises of IT-industry of our countries, such as Alibaba Group, Mail.ru Group and other companies that have demonstrated in practice the effectiveness of using information technologies to meet economic and social needs and conduct business during the crisis.
The epidemic has suspended the work of many SCO mechanisms, including expert-level meetings and approvals of documents to be submitted for consideration by our leaders.
In this situation, the mechanism of Permanent Representatives to the SCO Secretariat has demonstrated its effectiveness, who in March-April discussed the documents proposed for approval at the forthcoming St. Petersburg Summit.
With a view to ensuring effectiveness of our Organization, we suggest to consider the issue of enhancing the role of Permanent Representatives through giving them new additional powers. Based on the experience of a number of international organizations, the Secretariat has developed and forwarded new draft regulations for this mechanism to the sides.
It is notable that the difficulties encountered by the international community in connection with the coronavirus pandemic coincided with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War and the establishment of the United Nations.
In these circumstances, it is necessary to once again show unity and solidarity. I would therefore like to stress the significance of the ongoing work on the draft Declaration of the Heads of SCO Member States on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of victory over fascism.
We also consider it important that the SCO family countries actively participate in the preparation of the relevant resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.
Despite the pandemic problem, member States continue to provide full support for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.
The current situation complicates the process of implementing some key provisions of the Qatar agreement, which affects full-scale launch of a genuine inter-Afghan dialogue.
At the same time, with the planned withdrawal of American troops, the SCO's role in helping to solve the Afghan problem is objectively increasing.
In this regard, further joint work to implement the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group Road Map is particularly needed. At the same time, regular expert consultations with participation of relevant specialists of the parties could play an important role before its meetings, as stipulated in the Contact Group's Rules of Procedure. The Secretariat is ready to develop Regulations on organization of such meetings.
With a view to enhancing the effectiveness of multilateral regional cooperation in countering the pandemic and minimizing its negative consequences, we believe it important to take into account the proposals and initiatives voiced today by the Foreign Ministers when drafting the new Action Plan for the implementation of the SCO Development Strategy until 2025.
I thank you for your attention.