Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship in SCO: Achievements and Future Directions

As the chair of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kazakhstan  hosted the 24th summit of the Council of Heads of State, an important organization representing more than 40% of the world’s population  and contributing over $23 trillion to the global GDP. 

Muhammad Asif Noor.

The summit convened under the theme “Strengthening Multilateral Dialogue – Striving towards a Sustainable Peace and Prosperity.” The event witnessed the adoption of the Astana Declaration and the signing of 25 strategic documents across various domains, including energy, security, trade, finance, and information security. A noteworthy development was the formal admission of Belarus as a full member, expanding the SCO’s membership to ten nations. Kazakhstan’s chairmanship was marked by significant achievements and strategic advancements. The chairmanship has now passed to China for the 2024-2025 term.

Kazakhstan’s tenure as the chair of the SCO was marked by dynamic leadership and a clear vision aimed at enhancing regional cooperation and addressing contemporary global challenges. Under President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s guidance, the SCO hosted approximately 150 events spanning digital forums, tourism, energy, and business conferences. These gatherings fostered a robust exchange of ideas and paved the way for substantial policy development and strategic initiatives.

One of the hallmark achievements of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship was the development and implementation of 60 new strategic documents. These include an anti-drug strategy, a comprehensive plan for economic cooperation, an environmental protection agreement, and a strategy for the development of energy cooperation. These documents are not merely bureaucratic achievements but pivotal frameworks designed to enhance the SCO’s operational efficiency and strategic impact in key areas.

Kazakhstan’s leadership also emphasized the expansion of international partnerships, a vital aspect of the SCO’s strategy to increase its global influence. The revival of the Special Working Group on Promoting Investment is a testament to this, as it aims to attract and facilitate investment flows among member states. 

The economic dimension of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship saw substantial progress. Trade and economic cooperation among SCO member states experienced dynamic growth, with trade between Kazakhstan and other SCO members growing by 6.5% in 2023. This period also saw the proposal and development of an integrated platform for discussing and approving investment projects, alongside suggestions to establish mechanisms for financial support based on the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). 

Cultural and humanitarian initiatives were another area where Kazakhstan made significant strides. The launch of projects like Spiritual Shrinks of the SCO States and the first international music festival SCO Silk Way are important cultural diplomacy initiatives that have fostered mutual understanding and cooperation. 

President Tokayev’s strategic vision for the SCO was also evident in his proposals during the summit. He underscored the importance of strengthening mutual trust and security cooperation, particularly in addressing global crises. Tokayev advocated for the development of an agreement on confidence-building measures in the military sphere, focusing on combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism. This initiative, aligned with the broader goals of maintaining regional stability and security, was well-received by member states.

The summit also emphasized enhancing cybersecurity, a critical area in today’s interconnected world. Kazakhstan proposed the development of a robust mechanism for information exchange and the adoption of best practices to ensure the steady functioning of the SCO’s information infrastructure. The approved action plan on international information security is expected to fortify the region against digital threats and cyber-attacks, safeguarding the interests of member states.

Expanding trade and economic ties remained a top priority, with President Tokayev highlighting the need for new economic growth points and a revised development paradigm. Transport connectivity was one of the critical focus areas discussed by Kazakhstan. Building efficient corridors and reliable supply chains is vital for fostering regional trade and economic integration. The proposal to create efficient corridors and reliable supply chains, in synergy with China’s Belt and Road initiative, the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (Middle Corridor), and the North-South Trans-Eurasian Corridors, is an important move towards enhancing regional connectivity and economic integration. 

As the chair of SCO, Kazakhstan has made substantial contributions towards upholding the essence of the Shanghai Spirit. The nation’s visionary leadership, epitomized by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has significantly strengthened the SCO’s strategic and operational frameworks. As the SCO looks forward to its future under China’s presidency, the achievements of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship undoubtedly serve as a benchmark for excellence, guiding the organization towards even greater heights in future.

The author is the Director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and the Centre for Eurasia and Central Asia Studies.

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