SCO Summit: Kazakh, Foreign Experts Share Insights Following Major Event 

ASTANA – Kazakh and foreign experts shared their views after the 24th summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which took place in the Kazakh capital on July 3-4. They also commented on the prospects for the SCO development.

Photo credit: Akorda

SCO political agenda 

According to Kazakh political scientist Rizat Tasym, the range of topics covered by the SCO changes from regional to global, reported Kazinform news agency on July 4.

“The number of SCO member states is growing; membership in the organization is expanding to include Belarus. In general, the organization is considered open to any country wishing to contribute to the implementation of the principles set out in the SCO Charter. Currently, the organization’s range of topics is changing from regional to global. This shows that the organization’s contribution has expanded and the decisions made are likely to influence the global agenda in the future, including in environmental, economic and energy areas,” he said.

Tasym indicated that, alongside Belarus, five other countries, including Bangladesh, Laos, and Qatar, have shown interest in attaining full membership in the organization. The next steps hinge on these states’ sincere intentions.

Geopolitical agenda at SCO

Executive Director of Kazakhstan’s Institute of Parliamentarism Zhanar Tulindinova spoke about the importance of holding the SCO summit in Astana, as well as its impact on the perception of Kazakhstan at the international level.

Tulindinova noted the SCO summit’s growing authority. The expert cited the visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as evidence.

“This suggests that the SCO is becoming a decision-making center and decisions are also made in geopolitics,” said Tulindinova.

According to her, the SCO summit in Astana attracted the attention of the international community because it involves the heads of countries, without whom it is impossible to resolve a number of geopolitical issues.

“The meeting demonstrates Kazakhstan’s ability to regulate the world political agenda at such a high level. The leaders of those countries came here, without whom many important international problems cannot be resolved,” she said.

Tulindinova pointed out that the summit was held for the first time in the SCO Plus format, indicating the organization’s and Kazakhstan’s rising influence.

Cooperation in digital transformation and digital sovereignty

SCO member states should develop cooperation in digital transformation and information and communication technologies, said Deputy Chairman of the Kazakhstan Institute of Public Development and sinologist Olzhas Beisenbayev, reported Kazinform.

“In June, the SCO established a new alliance about city information modeling (CIM), which is changing the way cities are planned, designed, built and managed. Eleven Chinese institutions, including the Chinese Academy of Buildings Research and Tsinghua University, are offering CIM technology to SCO members. The organization has been talking about the development of a smart city for a long time,” he said.

He added that SCO member nations should enter into information security agreements to avoid interfering in one another’s domestic affairs and to mutually help colleagues in this respect.

“Now some experts are talking about digital sovereignty. Last year, approximately $3.5 billion was lost to cybercrime worldwide. We need to think about protecting our cyberspace as well as consumer rights. This makes cooperation in cybersecurity even more important for the SCO countries,” he said.

Role of SCO Secretary General

Kazakhstan Institute of Public Development expert Ainur Abaykyzy explained why strengthening the role of the SCO Secretary General is necessary.

“It is very important to strengthen the role of the SCO Secretary General, because the number of member countries of the organization is increasing. In connection with the expansion of the geography of the SCO and the increase in the topics it deals with, there is a lot of talk about the need to undergo modernization at the structural level to increase the potential of the organization. That is why it is natural to increase the position of the Secretary General so that this organization may operate more effectively, develop its role, and improve its activities,” she said in an interview with Kazinform.

Advantages of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in SCO

According to political scientist and member of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan Aladin Mustafayev, Kazakhstan’s participation in the SCO has the main advantage of expanding economic cooperation with other participating countries.

“The SCO promotes the development of trade, investment, technological exchange and other forms of economic interaction between countries. For Kazakhstan, this means access to new markets, the opportunity to attract foreign investment, as well as the exchange of experience and advanced technologies. Such frequent gatherings and summits address current problems, explore solutions, and deepen collaboration. This is an excellent opportunity for Kazakhstan to participate in international dialogues and influence decision-making related to regional security, stability and development,” he said.

Another important aspect of Kazakhstan’s participation in the SCO is cooperation in culture, education, science and tourism. Mustafayev said that student exchanges, cultural events, and joint scientific research help strengthen friendly ties among people.

SCO’s role in strengthening regional security

In an interview with Kazinform, Azerbaijan’s political scientist Ilqar Velizade spoke about the role of the SCO in strengthening regional security and Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the organization.

According to Velizade, the SCO today is an important element of global security, cementing relations between various states.

“These are very different countries. Some of them are in confrontational relations, but the system of relations within the SCO is structured in such a way that tense relations between individual countries do not affect the effectiveness of the organization as a whole,” he said.

For many years, the SCO has focused on combating terrorism and extremism. The distinctiveness of the activity is especially important in today’s world, as countries face an increase in extremism and terrorism.

“For example, not long ago terrorist attacks occurred in the North Caucasus; unfortunately, there is terrorist activity in South and West Asia. Of course, the event held within the SCO also includes the exchange of experience and data between member countries, which helps reduce the risks of extremism and terrorism,” he noted.

Results of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in SCO

Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the SCO can be considered an important step toward strengthening the organization’s position as a global platform for dialogue and security.

“Kazakhstan’s chairmanship played a key role in this, since it occurred during a very difficult period of geopolitical conflicts. We see that contradictions between different states are growing. During this vital period, Kazakhstan was chairing the SCO, and the agenda proposed by the President of Kazakhstan, as well as the goals he defined, gained new importance in light of recent events,” Velizade said.

According to Velizade, Kazakhstan’s diplomacy is very precise and clear. Before the President announces any initiatives, he coordinates them with other nations. This once again speaks of the responsibility that Astana demonstrates in this matter, which guarantees the success of all initiatives of the Kazakh side.

SCO meeting sparks interest in EU

Marat Terterov, director of the European Geopolitical Forum in Brussels, commented on the SCO summit, and shared his vision on the European Union’s attitude towards the SCO meeting in Astana, reported Kazinform on July 4.

“I think that the Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization or SCO as it is already known is a significant development in Central Asia and Eurasian geopolitics. But it is not something that we here in Europe should be I think too concerned about. There are many international platforms, intergovernmental platforms which governments use to promote dialogue on issues of national interest,” Terterov said.

In his words, the SCO has been an ongoing platform for more than two decades in Central Asia. It is driven by Russia and China, important players here as well as the Central Asian countries. According to Terterov, while it was originally more of a defense club, the actual practical work of the SCO Secretariat is much more focused on an economic agenda.

“But I would not really look at it in let’s say hostile terms for adversarial terms. I think now, the SCO is much more focused on economic cooperation in the region,” he said.

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