|Vladimir Norov: SCO’s role in creating a new system of international relations will be growing|
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov met with the members of the SCO Press Club for a news conference at the SCO Secretariat.
This year’s main event is the SCO Heads of State Council Meeting in Bishkek. What are your expectations from the summit? Can you say that the Kyrgyz presidency has brought any new focus areas or initiatives?
Regarding the upcoming SCO Heads of State Council Meeting in Bishkek, I would like to say that each summit opens a new page in the history of the Organization's development and sets new tasks.
During the Bishkek summit, the heads of state will sum up the results of Kyrgyzstan's presidency and consider priorities as we seek to further deepen the political dialogue, strengthen regional security, and enhance trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. In addition, the leaders will discuss current international and regional issues. The summit will be preceded by meetings of secretaries of national security councils, ministers of defence, ministers of culture, ministers of foreign affairs and numerous expert meetings. Also planned are the Media Forum, Women's Forum, Business Forum and the SCO Marathon.
What is the SCO’s current role in global governance? What can you say about its importance on the global stage?
I can say that the accession of India and Pakistan has given the SCO a transcontinental character, and made it the largest organization not only in the region but also in the world in terms of aggregate potential — total population, territory, natural resources, and GDP. Based on this, many experts note that the SCO should become one of the main pillars of the future world order.
In this regard, I can say that the SCO demonstrates an example of close fruitful cooperation aimed at building a more equitable and balanced world order based on equal, joint, indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security, ensuring the interests of each and every state in accordance with the norms and principles of international law.
In addition to the various aspects of geopolitical, geoeconomic and civilisational factors, the active involvement of two of the world's largest powers — China and Russia, permanent members of the UN Security Council, that pursue a global agenda in their foreign policy — objectively brings the SCO to the forefront of international politics.
In response to the question and the opinion that the more representative the SCO becomes, the more it encounters opponents and challenges from other international organizations, I would like to say that one of the fundamental principles of the SCO is that its activities are not directed against any state or international organization. The SCO is not a military-political bloc, and it is ready to cooperate with other states and international associations on a broad agenda.
The fight against terrorism has become a key aspect of the SCO's multilateral cooperation. What has been accomplished, and what are your plans for the future?
One of the most important missions under the SCO Charter is the joint effort to counter terrorism, separatism and extremism in all its forms. For almost 20 years, the organisation has made a substantial contribution to maintaining security and development in a vast region — that is an undisputed fact.
Over these years, all members have jointly managed to create a solid contractual and legal framework and effective mechanisms of security cooperation. During the Qingdao summit, SCO member states approved a cooperation program for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism in 2019-2021. This reflects the commitment of all of the Organization's states to countering major security threats in Eurasia. All countries signed the document, underscoring our collective interests: All of them want to live in peace and stability. The SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) conducts practical work and achieves significant results in its efforts to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism, in particular detecting, preventing and thwarting manifestations of these three forces of evil in SCO member states, eliminating their causes and the conditions underlying their emergence and spread, as well as countering the dissemination of their ideology and propaganda.
I can cite statistics that will be more convincing. In 2013-2017, over 600 terrorist crimes were thwarted during the planning phase, over 500 terrorist training camps were liquidated, and the activity of over 2,000 members of international terrorist organisations was disrupted. The authorities confiscated over 1,000 improvised explosive devices, 50 tons of explosives, 10,000 small firearms and over one million rounds of ammunition.
To hone practical skills, the armed forces and law-enforcement agencies of SCO member states conduct joint Peace Mission counter-terrorist exercises.
RATS has also established cooperation with law-enforcement agencies of SCO observer states and dialog partners, specialized international and regional organizations.
Regarding upcoming tasks, the member states consider it necessary to direct efforts towards more quickly establishing a united global anti-terrorist front, with the UN in the central coordinating role, that would act in line with international law, without politicization and double standards.
In its activities, the SCO prioritizes information security; and the organisation's development strategy to 2025, passed in 2015, devotes significant attention to it. For example, the document notes the need to strengthen cooperation in the area of internet monitoring and to disrupt efforts to use the internet to undermine regional security and stability. The SCO has accomplished a lot in this area over the years. To lay out the facts, in 2017 alone, RATS restricted access to over 80,000 online resources containing 500,000 materials as part of its efforts to prevent terrorist and extremist activity on the internet. Its operatives disrupted the activity of 360 members of terrorist and religious-extremist online communities, and over 100 criminal cases were opened against website administrators and moderators.
The SCO and its member states continue to make a substantial contribution to global efforts to fight illegal drug trafficking. Participants in the Qingdao summit passed the anti-narcotics strategy of SCO member states for 2018-2023, an action programme to implement this strategy, as well as the SCO concept to prevent the abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. These documents serve as key tools for coordinating the efforts of SCO member states.
Over the 18 years of its existence, the SCO has achieved quite good progress in economic and humanitarian cooperation, but even that cannot be compared to the impressive results that have been achieved through synergy in the field of security. As the new SCO Secretary-General, what are your thoughts on this? Will you focus on the economic track in the SCO's work, so that it doesn't lag behind? And if so, what are you planning to do?
Without doubt, all the SCO member states are interested in the harmonious development of the Organization. The SCO landscape today includes a vast consumer market, an abundance of natural resources, as well as advanced production facilities, with great promise for implementing major cross-border projects and new ideas due to its stability, dynamic development and constantly emerging new opportunities.
Work is currently underway to develop a new version of the comprehensive program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation. Its key goals relate to further intensifying the process of creating favourable conditions in trade, investment, infrastructure, transport, agriculture, media and communications.
A new vector will be promoting interaction between the regions of the SCO member states. In the near future, a programme to support interregional cooperation between SCO member states will be developed, and a Forum of Heads of Regions of the SCO member states will be established.
Is the SCO currently reviewing any specific economic cooperation projects?
The SCO's main economic task is to create favorable conditions for trade and economic cooperation. To this end, we are working to draft plans and programs in close collaboration with the SCO's Business Council and Interbank Consortium.
The agreement between SCO member states on the facilitation of international road transport is the most important transport document being implemented in the SCO region. In effect, the document has created a uniform foundation for facilitating international road traffic. Its main routes form the common regional system of commodity and passenger traffic using motor vehicles. According to experts of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the agreement opens up over 15,000 kilometres of high-speed roads for unimpeded vehicle and freight traffic. On the whole, the agreement's routes provide landlocked countries with new opportunities in the area of trade and economic cooperation and transport infrastructure cooperation, and promote greater regional interconnectivity.
How do you see the further expansion of SCO influence in the world? Can new formats of cooperation with other countries emerge, given that the lists for gaining observer or dialogue partner status are already long?
The SCO's role in creating a new system of international relations will only grow because SCO member states account for a significant share of world population, territory, and natural and economic resources.
The fundamental principles of SCO activities are clear and transparent, embodying as they do the "Shanghai spirit" based on mutual trust, equality, mutual benefit, equal rights, mutual consultation, respect for cultural diversity, and a commitment to joint development.
All of this contributes to the SCO's appeal in the region and the world, with a growing number of countries wishing to join the Organization or enhance their status in it. The SCO is also expanding its cooperative ties with other international organisations.
Currently, the member states are considering numerous applications filed by states seeking to join the cooperation within the SCO with different statuses, from dialog partner to permanent member.
At the same time, expanding the SCO Family is not an end in itself. Our main goal is to ensure dynamic development based on respect for the interests of all stakeholders, without disrupting internal harmony. But we maintain dialog with states aspiring to a status or a higher status in the Organization. All applications for accession should be considered in a thorough, even-handed and consistent manner.