ASTANA – Erbulat Seilekhanov, the chief expert at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS), discussed the six main priorities for Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in a recent article.
According to the expert, these priorities aim to enhance the organization’s global role, contributing to the strengthening of friendship and good neighborliness within the SCO. They include ensuring security and stability, expanding trade and economic ties, strengthening energy cooperation, expanding cooperation in the digital sphere, enhancing collaboration in ecology, and developing cultural and humanitarian ties.
Security and stability
The Kazakh action plan for the chairmanship period includes implementing its initiatives and continuing previously approved SCO cooperation programs. The country plans to propose the adoption of “On Global Unity for a Just World and Harmony,” a comprehensive document, outlining principles for strengthening confidence-building measures, maintaining stability, and ensuring global security.
The focus remains on the SCO’s traditional task of combating the ‘three forces of evil’ and transnational crime. Proposals from Kazakhstan include updating the Cooperation Program to Counter Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism for 2025-2027, adopting the Anti-Drug Strategy of the SCO for 2024-2029, and implementing an Action Program.
Kazakhstan aims to consolidate international efforts to assist the Afghan people under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). The country seeks SCO support for its initiative to establish the UN Regional Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Central Asia and Afghanistan in Almaty.
To expand trade and economic ties within the SCO, Kazakhstan has suggested creating favorable conditions, removing trade barriers, and launching joint ventures. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has proposed creating an SCO Economic Preferences framework and utilizing the potential of the Astana International Financial Center to stimulate investments. Kazakhstan’s proposed idea of establishing an SCO Investment Fund gained consideration during the SCO Council of Heads of Government meeting in Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, on Oct. 26.
Transportation connectivity development, both intra-regional and transcontinental, is a key focus for Kazakhstan, aiming to propel trade and economic ties in Eurasia. A practical measure includes the creation of a Partnership Network of major strategic ports and logistics centers.
Strengthening energy cooperation aligns with global trends in restructuring the world energy security system and energy transition. Kazakhstan anticipates that member states will coordinate and adopt the SCO Energy Strategy at the next SCO summit in Astana.
In the digital sphere, Kazakhstan is seeking to reduce digital inequality among countries and social groups, offering its services as a Digital Hub within the SCO. Practical steps include hosting the SCO Digital Forum in Astana in 2024, coinciding with the first meeting of the Management Commission of the Pool of Technoparks and Innovation Clusters.
Climate action and cultural enrichment
Another critical priority is the fight against climate change and environmental protection, involving partnerships with the UN Environment Program and initiatives for eco-tourism and protected natural areas.
Furthermore, cultural and humanitarian ties are integral to international relations, and Kazakhstan has proposed declaring Almaty as the cultural and tourism capital of the SCO during its chairmanship. Plans also include launching the SCO Spiritual Sanctuaries project and hosting the Golden Horde and Its Heritage conference in Turkistan in 2024.
Overall, Kazakhstan advocates for updating the SCO’s vision of global development, strengthening the organization’s potential in new geopolitical conditions, and further institutionalizing it. Proposals include adopting a new SCO Development Strategy, the Concept of Strengthening the SCO’s Potential, and the creation of a Council of Permanent Representatives to the SCO with full authority to represent member states’ interests.