Address by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov at a press conference

Good afternoon, dear journalists, members of the Press Club!

Allow me to express gratitude to each of you for your attention to the activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Your publications and articles have strengthened the positive image of SCO and increased the interest of the general public towards it.
Today, on the eve of the 19th anniversary of SCO, I would like to share with you the results of the Organisation's activities in the period following the Bishkek summit in June 2019.

Speaking about the results of the 19th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Organization, I would like to draw your attention to the strict alignment of the consolidated positions reflected in the Bishkek Declaration, which are in line with the spirit of the SCO Charter and accurately reflect the political and economic picture in the region and in the world.

In particular, the leaders of our states have stated that the modern world continues to change rapidly, the global balance of power is being actively redistributed, primarily through the establishment of new centers of development in Asia, deepening the interconnectedness and interdependence among participants in international relations. At the same time, the situation in global politics and economy remains turbulent and tense, and the process of economic globalization is facing the growth of unilateral protectionist measures and other challenges in international trade.

It was also noted that member States consider it important to use the potential of the countries of the region, international organizations and multilateral associations to create a space of wide, open, mutually beneficial and equal cooperation in Eurasia to ensure reliable security and sustainable development. This shows that SCO has declared its readiness to assume responsibility for security and development in the region.

In other words, the summit actually formulated the Organization's programme of action for the coming year in the field of politics, security, economic and humanitarian interaction, it put forward new tasks and proposed clear framework of action for all working mechanisms and standing bodies of SCO.

As It is known, that in Bishkek the baton of the SCO presidency was handed over to the Russian Federation. In this regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined the Russian vision of the future directions of the Organization in the coming period.

It was stated that one of the SCO's top priorities has always been the fight against terrorism and extremism. Particular attention was drawn to increasing cooperation within the framework of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, with an emphasis on efforts to block the financial support of terrorist groups from the proceeds of drug trafficking and to prevent their access to chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.

The Russian side also called to focus on deepening mutually beneficial economic ties within the SCO. It is about joint promotion of new promising projects in trade, industry, energy and other areas. The creation of a new mechanism of cooperation — the Forum of Heads of Regions of the SCO Member States — is considered an important step in this context.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has affected the activities of SCO and implementation of the Plan of Russia's presidency in the Organization. Nevertheless, all previously outlined tasks remain valid, we have quickly adjusted to the new circumstances and are carrying out the necessary work.

As for the SCO activities in the field of political and security cooperation, during the past year measures have been taken to strengthen the legal and regulatory framework in the field of security.
In particular, from a legal point of view, the field of cooperation has significantly expanded thanks to meetings of heads of the Supreme Courts, General Prosecutors and a meeting of experts in the ministries of justice of SCO member States. Inter-midovisional consultations on the prevention of an arms race in outer space and on biological security issues were also successfully held.

The fight against international terrorism and extremism has been a constant focus for the Organization.

According to the SCO RATS, the competent authorities of the SCO member states have since uncovered 288 crimes of terrorist and religious extremist nature, suppressed the activities of 78 clandestine terrorist cells, initiated criminal proceedings against more than 3,800 persons involved in terrorist and extremist activities, closed six channels for transferring recruits to combat zones, blocked the bank accounts of 5,500 persons and 24 channels for financing terrorism, restricted access to more than 23,000 Internet resources, and blocked the access of more than 1,000 persons to the Internet resources.

The organization carried out intensive and diverse activities on the anti-drug track, joining its own efforts with the UN, OSCE, and CSTO.
In July 2019 and March 2020, SCO also conducted international anti-drug operations "Spider Web" as part of the anti-drug strategy of the SCO member states. The main objectives of the operations were to suppress the supply and distribution channels for drugs, primarily of synthetic origin, in the territory of SCO countries. As a result of these operations, over 10 tons of various types of narcotic substances were seized.

In general, the solution of the drug problem should be implemented at the global level through effective and extensive international cooperation. In its activities and in all international platforms, the SCO notes serious concern over the continuous flow of drugs from Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle region. The issue of distribution of new types of psychoactive substances through the Internet is of concern. In this regard, it is necessary to take measures to disrupt supply channels for synthetic drugs and counter the use of the Internet and virtual payment systems in the drug business. In countering these dangerous trends in drug trafficking, we find full understanding and work closely with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
This year's special high-level event of UNODC and SCO "UN and SCO in combating the threat of illicit drug trafficking: countering the spread of drugs through the shadow segment of the Internet" was held in Vienna in March.

In addition, we are also actively working with a broad international coalition known as the Paris Pact Initiative, which is an important mechanism in the fight against opiates of Afghan origin. On 28 November 2019, with the support of the SCO Secretariat, a meeting of that structure was held in Shanghai with the participation of experts from 15 countries and six international organizations.

19 November 2019 in New York, a joint high-level event "UN and SCO: cooperation for strengthening security and stability" (countering the symbiosis of international terrorism with drug trafficking and cross-border organised crime) was held with the participation of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The subject of SCO's close attention remains the development of the situation in Afghanistan. SCO activities for cooperation with Afghanistan are conducted through the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. Last year, following the Bishkek summit, a Roadmap of this group was approved, which provides for joint actions to develop cooperation in key areas.

With the planned withdrawal of foreign troops, the importance of regional states and international organizations in facilitating Afghanistan's transition to peaceful development is objectively increasing. SCO views the territory of Afghanistan not only as a source of threats, but also as a space of opportunity. One of the main elements of the country's reconstruction should be its involvement in the process of forming regional transport routes through the expansion of air, road and rail freight traffic, which is in line with the SCO initiatives of the Great Eurasian Partnership, "One Belt, One Road" and national strategies of the Organization's member states. For example, the Hairaton-Mazar-e-Sharif railway and the projected Mazar-e-Sharif-Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif-Peshawar routes could provide a new transregional corridor with direct access to ports of India, Iran and Pakistan for Eurasian states.

With regard to interaction in the trade and economic sphere, I note that today the SCO space unites almost half of the world's population and 60 per cent of the Eurasian continent, is characterized by a huge consumer market, highly qualified human resources, rich mineral and energy reserves, as well as advanced production facilities and technologies. At the same time, the total foreign trade turnover of SCO member States with foreign countries in 2019 exceeded US$ 6.3 trillion.

It is important to note that the SCO serves as an effective platform for interconnecting national and regional integration initiatives, including the Eurasian Economic Union, "One Belt, One Road", economic development strategies of Central Asian countries, the Russian-Indian-South project "North — South" with a length of more than 7,000 km linking St. Petersburg with the port of Mumbai. As part of the Chinese OBOR initiative, it is planned to build a "New Asian-European Transcontinental Transport Corridor" with a total length of 10,900 km from China, passing through Central Asia and Russia to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

At present, the SCO member states are working to develop cooperation in the field of transport with ASEAN countries as well. Thus, the SCO can play an important role in implementing the idea of forming a Greater Eurasian Partnership, a broad integration structure based on a network of regional associations and transcontinental projects.

At the meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the SCO Member States held in November 2019 a Strategy for further economic and humanitarian cooperation within the SCO until 2035 was defined.

A new programme of multilateral trade and economic cooperation among the SCO member states was approved. According to the new document, in the short term — until 2025 — the SCO member states will develop and start implementing promising programmes and projects using modern innovative and "green" technologies.

In the medium term — until 2030 — it is planned to ensure the transformation of national economies through the development of rules within the SCO in the field of trade and investment, promotion of services industry and electronic commerce, as well as trade facilitation.

And in the long term — until 2035 — the task is set to increase competitiveness and ensure the digital transformation of national economies of the SCO countries through the introduction of digital technologies and creation of favorable conditions for the gradual implementation of free movement of goods, capital, services and technologies.

In addition, support was expressed for the Secretariat's initiative to establish a Consortium of think tanks and think tanks on economic issues, which would serve as a platform for the study and comprehensive analysis of factors affecting economic interaction within the SCO, considering global and regional processes. The first meeting of the Consortium will be held in autumn of this year ahead of the regular meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council in India.

Preparations are currently underway for the SCO Regional Heads of Government Forum to be held in Moscow to stimulate trade and economic ties between various regions and regions. The Regulations of the Forum and the Program for Development of Interregional Cooperation of the SCO Member States were adopted following the results of the SCO Summit in Bishkek.

On cooperation in cultural and humanitarian sphere I can say that this area gives a strong sound basis to the SCO and introduces the peoples of our countries to the history, cultural heritage and educational trends in Eurasia through the cultural and civilization prism.

As you know, last year on the SCO Day, the Secretariat initiated a comprehensive project entitled "Eight Wonders of SCO" aimed at unlocking the cultural and tourism potential of the SCO countries. As part of this project, we held a series of presentations of sites in Beijing, Tashkent, St. Petersburg, Dushanbe and Helsinki of eight SCO member states.

In addition, such events as "Yoga and Tai Chi Day" aimed at strengthening the dialogue of cultures and civilizations were organized. On 1 December 2019 the 4th SCO International Kunming Marathon was held in Kunming, attended by about 20 thousand people from 33 countries. In December 2019 an event dedicated to the Day of Culture of Uzbekistan — "Journey to the Pearl of the Great Silk Road" took place in Beijing, which became yet another cycle of presentation of objects "8 Wonders of SCO".

We have also worked to activate the analytical component of our activities, organized roundtables on topical issues of regional and international agenda.

Our focus is always on working with young people. We regularly held interactive games "The SCO Model", international youth conferences on "SCO Youth Entrepreneurship: Challenges and New Horizons", "Development of e-Commerce in the SCO Region".

I would also like to touch upon the topic of international relations. There have been ongoing joint activities with the United Nations, its specialized institutes and agencies, and other international and regional associations.

Working contacts have been established with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization — FAO. As a result of consultations, a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between the SCO and FAO was agreed and signed during the SCO Heads of Government meeting in Tashkent in November 2019.

In September 2019 the SCO took part in the UN Security Council meeting on "UN Cooperation with Regional and Sub-regional Organizations in Maintaining Peace and Security: Contribution of the CSTO, CIS and SCO to Countering Terrorist Threats".

We are in constant contact with the UN. In May the UN Secretary-General António Guterres sent a letter to the SCO Secretary-General stressing that the Organisation is a reliable partner of the UN, and during the fight against the pandemic SCO leads regional diplomacy, actively promotes cooperation to solve the most acute security problems facing Eurasia today — in particular, the fight against xenophobia, incitement of hatred and extremism. Literally this Monday, June 9, I had a video conference meeting with UN Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenča and UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Central Asia Natalia German, during which we discussed the prospects for further cooperation between the two organizations.

I cannot fail to mention the high praise once again given to our Organization by senior officials of the UN system. Mr Jenča responded positively to the active mutual assistance shown by the SCO countries in the fight against the pandemic, and expressed gratitude for their support to the initiatives of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the global ceasefire regime and providing everyone in the world with access to medicines and vaccine against coronavirus.

Mr Jenča said that SCO was no longer only a regional organization, but also a global one, as its sphere of interest had long gone beyond one region. Such assessment by UN of the SCO is very important for further expansion of its global profile, which unites more than half the world's population.

Work is also underway with the OSCE, during my meeting with Secretary General Thomas Greminger in February this year, he confirmed his interest in developing cooperation with the SCO in the field of combating cross-border challenges and threats, and praised the activities of the SCO RATS. He also pointed out the importance of the anti-drug cooperation agenda between the two organizations, including through active participation in relevant events. In a recent letter to me, Mr. Greminger noted that against the background of the pandemic, we need to work together to strengthen social cohesion and take steps towards stabilization and closer economic cooperation.

Cooperation with the ASEAN Secretariat on the basis of the Plan of Action of the Secretariats of the two organizations for 2019-2020 has been significantly advanced. On 22 October 2019, a round table on "SCO-ASEAN: trade and investment potential" was held in Jakarta. In accordance with the List of Activities, the SCO and ASEAN secretariats promoted business contacts between the SCO Business Council and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC) with the aim of enhancing cooperation between them.

The SCO secretariat has also actively worked on establishing contacts with other regional and international organizations. On 26 November 2019 the SCO Secretary-General met with the ambassadors of the European Union in China at the SCO Secretariat, and on 5 December 2019 the SCO Secretary-General met with the ambassadors of the European Union in China. — On 26 November 2019 the SCO Secretary-General met with the ambassadors of the European Union in China at the SCO Secretariat, and on 5 December 2019 with the ambassadors of the League of Arab States in China.

The Secretariat is currently working on draft plans for multilateral cooperation in the SCO-UNODC-ASEAN and SCO-UNODC-OSCE formats. Negotiations are underway to conclude cooperation memoranda with UNESCAP, UN Economic Commission for Europe, Eurasian Economic Union, League of Arab States, World Health Organization, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

With regard to the interaction of the SCO member states in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to note that the scale of the epidemic that took place in China earlier this year allowed many countries to assess in advance the degree of the impending threat and take preventive measures. In mid-March, the epidemic landscape began to change abruptly and the SCO countries were also faced with COVID-19. The pandemic became a serious test of the viability and strength of the SCO. During the acute period of the epidemic and the difficulties associated with it, the member states shared not only their epidemiological and organisational experience but also provided each other with financial, economic, food and humanitarian assistance.

It is well understood in our countries that no State will be able to ensure its own security as long as the disease continues to spread in neighbouring countries. In the current difficult situation, coordination of actions, exchange of information and mutual assistance, and taking into account the experience of all SCO member States are essential. Since the spread of the epidemic, our relevant agencies have been in constant contact, and meetings of experts from health ministries and webinars have been held with the participation of specialists.

On 13 May the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the SCO member States held a thorough discussion by videoconference. According to the SCO foreign ministers, the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic requires decisive, concerted and inclusive multilateral efforts with the UN system playing a central role. In this context they advocated effective cooperation of SCO with WHO, other international organizations and associations in the fight against coronavirus infection.

In addition, specific proposals were made on key areas of cooperation in connection with the pandemic. In particular, they referred to the intensification of SCO mechanisms in the area of health care and the holding in the near future of regular meetings of health ministers and meetings of heads of services responsible for ensuring the sanitary-epidemiological well-being of SCO countries.

The parties noted the importance of practical implementation of the Declaration of the Heads of SCO Member States on joint counteraction to the threats of epidemics in the SCO region and the Plan of Basic Measures for Development of Cooperation in the Field of Healthcare for 2019-2021, which were adopted in 2018 and 2019 in Qingdao and Bishkek.

According to the foreign ministers, overcoming the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic is seen as an important task.

As a result of this videoconference at the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, it can be said that SCO intends to fully utilize the existing mechanisms, actively continue consultations on the fight against coronavirus and, through joint efforts, take decisive measures to maintain security and stability and restore economic activity.

In general, the pandemic has had a strong impact on the system of international relations. In my view, the most important task now is to overcome political confrontation on a global and regional scale, to reject nationalist and populist ideas and protectionism. It is multilateralism and diplomacy that should play a decisive role in fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the world economy.

At the outset of the pandemic, SCO issued a statement calling on the international community to strengthen cooperation within the World Health Organization to ensure public health security at the regional and international levels.

It was noted that coordinated joint efforts and mutual support would help to successfully overcome the emergency and halt the spread of the epidemic. This position remains unchanged.

Based on that position, the Secretariat had maintained dialogue and contacts with many countries and international organizations. To date, we have received letters from Helga Schmid, Secretary General of the European External Action Service, who supported the SCO view that the coronavirus is a global challenge, knows no borders and needs a rapid, decisive and coordinated response from the world community.

The letter from Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of European and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, expresses gratitude for the solidarity and support shown. According to the French Foreign Minister, the international community should intensify its efforts to develop collective, coordinated and multilateral responses to the health crisis and to overcome its negative economic consequences.

In addition, we have received letters from ASEAN Secretary-General, ambassadors of Japan, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Romania, Hungary and Croatia to China. Through these letters, the diplomats expressed gratitude to SCO for its support in combating the spread of COVID-19, noted the importance of joint efforts to counter global challenges and threats, and stressed the commitment to develop interstate dialogue in multilateral format.
Summing up, I would like to stress that the international prestige of SCO has significantly increased in recent years, and it has secured the status of the leading multilateral structure in the region in the fight against terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.

In total, last year alone the SCO Secretariat took part in more than 70 large-scale international events, more than 100 meetings were held at my level with Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Economy and Transport of 60 countries and many heads of international organizations. All this shows that the "voice" of SCO is becoming important and significant on the regional and international agenda.

We are now preparing for the St. Petersburg SCO Summit and other meetings, and meetings to be held at the level of heads of key ministries and agencies. As you know, in connection with the pandemic, the President of Russia has decided to postpone the SCO Summit to the autumn of this year. This decision was well received by all SCO member states.