SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov met witháthe members ofáthe SCO Press Club foráa news conference atáthe SCO Secretariat.
He answered the questions of the InfoSHOS portal and other news media from the SCO member states, observers and dialog partners.
This yearĺs 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 ofáState Council Meeting ináBishkek,áI would likeáto say that each summit opens a new page ináthe history ofáthe Organization's development and sets new tasks.
During the Bishkek summit, the heads ofástate will sum upáthe results ofáKyrgyzstan's presidency and consider priorities asáwe seek toáfurther 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 byámeetings ofásecretaries ofánational security councils, ministers ofádefence, ministers ofáculture, ministers ofáforeign affairs and numerous expert meetings. Also planned are the Media Forum, Women's Forum, Business Forum and the SCO Marathon.
What is the SCOĺs current role in global governance? What can you say about its importance on the global stage?
I can say that the accession ofáIndia and Pakistan has given the SCO a transcontinental character, and made it the largest organization not only ináthe region butáalso ináthe world ináterms ofáaggregate potentialáŚ total population, territory, natural resources, and GDP. Based onáthis, many experts note that the SCO should become one ofáthe main pillars ofáthe future world order.
In this regard, I can say that the SCO demonstrates an example ofáclose fruitful cooperation aimed atábuilding a more equitable and balanced world order based onáequal, joint, indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security, ensuring the interests ofáeach and every state ináaccordance witháthe norms and principles ofáinternational law.
In addition toáthe various aspects ofágeopolitical, geoeconomic and civilisational factors, the active involvement ofátwo ofáthe world's largest powersáŚ China and Russia, permanent members ofáthe UN Security Council, that pursue a global agenda inátheir foreign policyáŚ objectively brings the SCO toáthe forefront ofáinternational politics.
The SCO agenda has been expanding duringáthe most recent stage ofáthe Organization's development. The heads ofástate regularly discuss problems not only atáthe regional butáalso atáthe global level; SCO documents increasingly address topics such asácountering global challenges and threats that require the development ofácollective and effective approaches byáthe international community.á
In response toáthe question and the opinion that the more representative the SCO becomes, the more it encounters opponents and challenges fromáother international organizations, I would likeáto say that one ofáthe fundamental principles ofáthe SCO is that its activities are not directed againstáany state or international organization. The SCO is not a military-political bloc, and it is ready toácooperate witháother states and international associations onáa broad agenda.
The fight againstáterrorism has become a key aspect ofáthe SCO's multilateral cooperation. What has been accomplished, and what are your plans foráthe future?
One ofáthe most important missions underáthe SCO Charter is the joint effort toácounter terrorism, separatism and extremism ináall its forms. For almost 20 years, the organisation has made a substantial contribution toámaintaining security and development ináa vast regionáŚ that is an undisputed fact.
Over these years, all members have jointly managed toácreate a solid contractual and legal framework and effective mechanisms ofásecurity cooperation. During the Qingdao summit, SCO member states approved a cooperation program forácombating terrorism, separatism and extremism iná2019-2021. This reflects the commitment ofáall ofáthe Organization's states toácountering major security threats ináEurasia. All countries signed the document, underscoring our collective interests: All ofáthem want toálive inápeace and stability. The SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) conducts practical work and achieves significant results ináits efforts toácombat terrorism, separatism and extremism, ináparticular detecting, preventing and thwarting manifestations ofáthese three forces ofáevil ináSCO member states, eliminating their causes and the conditions underlying their emergence and spread, asáwell asácountering the dissemination ofátheir ideology and propaganda.
I can cite statistics that will be more convincing. In 2013-2017, overá600 terrorist crimes were thwarted duringáthe planning phase, overá500 terrorist training camps were liquidated, and the activity ofáover 2,000 members ofáinternational terrorist organisations was disrupted. The authorities confiscated overá1,000 improvised explosive devices, 50 tons ofáexplosives, 10,000 small firearms and overáone million rounds ofáammunition.
To hone practical skills, the armed forces and law-enforcement agencies ofáSCO member states conduct joint Peace Mission counter-terrorist exercises.
RATS has also established cooperation withálaw-enforcement agencies ofáSCO observer states and dialog partners, specialized international and regional organizations.
Regarding upcoming tasks, the member states consider it necessary toádirect efforts towardsámore quickly establishing a united global anti-terrorist front, witháthe UN ináthe central coordinating role, that would act ináline witháinternational law, withoutápoliticization and double standards.
In its activities, the SCO prioritizes information security; and the organisation's development strategy toá2025, passed iná2015, devotes significant attention toáit. For example, the document notes the need toástrengthen cooperation ináthe area ofáinternet monitoring and toádisrupt efforts toáuse the internet toáundermine regional security and stability. The SCO has accomplished a lot in this area overáthe years. To lay outáthe facts, iná2017 alone, RATS restricted access toáover 80,000 online resources containing 500,000 materials asápart ofáits efforts toáprevent terrorist and extremist activity onáthe internet. Its operatives disrupted the activity ofá360 members ofáterrorist and religious-extremist online communities, and overá100 criminal cases were opened againstáwebsite administrators and moderators.
The SCO and its member states continue toámake a substantial contribution toáglobal efforts toáfight illegal drug trafficking. Participants ináthe Qingdao summit passed the anti-narcotics strategy ofáSCO member states forá2018-2023, an action programme toáimplement this strategy, asáwell asáthe SCO concept toáprevent the abuse ofánarcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. These documents serve asákey tools forácoordinating the efforts ofáSCO member states.
Over the 18 years ofáits existence, the SCO has achieved quite good progress ináeconomic and humanitarian cooperation, butáeven that cannot be compared toáthe impressive results that have been achieved throughásynergy ináthe field ofásecurity. As the new SCO Secretary-General, what are your thoughts onáthis? Will you focus onáthe economic track ináthe SCO's work, so that it doesn't lag behind? And if so, what are you planning toádo?
Without doubt, all the SCO member states are interested ináthe harmonious development ofáthe Organization. The SCO landscape today includes a vast consumer market, an abundance ofánatural resources, asáwell asáadvanced production facilities, withágreat promise foráimplementing major cross-border projects and new ideas due toáits stability, dynamic development and constantly emerging new opportunities.
At the SCO Summit ináQingdao, the leaders ofáthe member states expressed unanimous support forácreating favorable conditions forátrade and investment ináorder toágradually achieve the free movement ofágoods, capital, services and technology. In this connection, the Joint Statement ofáthe Heads ofáSCO Member States onáTrade Facilitation was adopted. The package ofáQingdao Summit documents also included solutions toástimulate micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, customs cooperation, development ofáthe tourism industry, and cooperation ináthe food sector.
Work is currently underway toádevelop a new version ofáthe comprehensive program ofámultilateral trade and economic cooperation. Its key goals relate toáfurther intensifying the process ofácreating favourable conditions inátrade, investment, infrastructure, transport, agriculture, media and communications.
A new vector will be promoting interaction betweenáthe regions ofáthe SCO member states. In the nearáfuture, a programme toásupport interregional cooperation betweenáSCO member states will be developed, and a Forum ofáHeads ofáRegions ofáthe SCO member states will be established.
Is the SCO currently reviewing any specific economic cooperation projects?
The SCO's main economic task is toácreate favorable conditions forátrade and economic cooperation. To this end, we are working toádraft plans and programs ináclose collaboration witháthe SCO's Business Council and Interbank Consortium.
The agreement betweenáSCO member states onáthe facilitation ofáinternational road transport is the most important transport document being implemented ináthe SCO region. In effect, the document has created a uniform foundation foráfacilitating international road traffic. Its main routes form the common regional system ofácommodity and passenger traffic using motor vehicles. According toáexperts ofáthe UN Economic and Social Commission foráAsia and the Pacific, the agreement opens upáover 15,000 kilometres ofáhigh-speed roads foráunimpeded vehicle and freight traffic. On the whole, the agreement's routes provide landlocked countries withánew opportunities ináthe area ofátrade and economic cooperation and transport infrastructure cooperation, and promote greater regional interconnectivity.
How do you see the further expansion ofáSCO influence ináthe world? Can new formats ofácooperation witháother countries emerge, given that the lists forágaining observer or dialogue partner status are already long?
The SCO's role inácreating a new system ofáinternational relations will only grow because SCO member states account foráa significant share ofáworld population, territory, and natural and economic resources.
The fundamental principles ofáSCO activities are clear and transparent, embodying asáthey do the "Shanghai spirit" based onámutual trust, equality, mutual benefit, equal rights, mutual consultation, respect forácultural diversity, and a commitment toájoint development.
All ofáthis contributes toáthe SCO's appeal ináthe region and the world, witháa growing number ofácountries wishing toájoin the Organization or enhance their status ináit. The SCO is also expanding its cooperative ties witháother international organisations.
Currently, the member states are considering numerous applications filed byástates seeking toájoin the cooperation withináthe SCO withádifferent statuses, fromádialog partner toápermanent member.
At the same time, expanding the SCO Family is not an end ináitself. Our main goal is toáensure dynamic development based onárespect foráthe interests ofáall stakeholders, withoutádisrupting internal harmony. But we maintain dialog withástates aspiring toáa status or a higher status ináthe Organization. All applications foráaccession should be considered ináa thorough, even-handed and consistent manner.