On 16 July 2020, the SCO Secretariat and the Centre for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS) of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan held a joint webinar titled "SCO: A gateway to regional cooperation and integrated development."
The event was attended by leading CGSS experts, representatives of Pakistani analytical institutions, think tanks and media, as well as permanent representatives from a number of SCO countries at the SCO Secretariat. The event was moderated by CGSS Executive Director Lt. Col. (Ret.) Khalid Taimur Akram, with SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov as the main speaker.
In his opening remarks, Brigadier (Ret.) Akhtar Nawaz Janjua, Senior Member of the Advisory Board CGSS, stressed the importance of the webinar format for an exchange of views on SCO development and Pakistani membership.
In turn, Vladimir Norov thanked the CGSS for organising the videoconference and noted its active participation in the SCO Forum.
He reminded his audience that the Forum would mark its 15th anniversary in 2020. During its existence, this mechanism has proved its worth as an important platform for dialogue between the research and analytical institutions of the SCO countries.
"We place a high value on close contact between the SCO Secretariat and Pakistani analytical centres and the media. During the past two months, the leading Pakistani newspapers have published a number of my remarks and interviews. It is gratifying that these publications are promoting an increased interest in SCO activities among the Pakistani public," he said.
Mr Norov stressed that the SCO was a key factor in maintaining security and stability in Eurasia and an integral part of the regional and international political and security system. Its potential has increased perceptibly, and the fact that many countries are seeking to join its activities is an indicator of its high prestige.
At present, the SCO member states account for about 22 percent of the world GDP and over 40 percent of the world population, something that makes the SCO the most powerful and densely populated transcontinental association. SCO leaders have repeatedly underscored the stability of its course, firm adherence to the principles of the Shanghai Spirit, commitment to the concept of equal, open and mutually beneficial cooperation, and striving for the maintenance of regional peace, stability and prosperity. In this context, Norov quoted Prime Minister Imran Khan as saying at the 2019 SCO Summit in Bishkek that "the SCO is a complete expression of our historical roots."
The Secretary-General stated that Pakistan was actively involved in all SCO mechanisms and contributing to the organisation's development. He stressed the SCO's unswerving commitment to the political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts based on strict compliance with the standards and principles of international law. The SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure has shown substantial practical results in the context of its fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism. In 2019 alone, the competent agencies of the SCO member-countries solved 288 terrorist and religious extremism crimes, cut short the activities of 78 underground terrorist groups, and brought criminal charges against 3,800 persons implicated in terrorist and extremist activities. Today, Pakistan, which has much experience in fighting drug trafficking, is suggesting holding joint classes for SCO member-countries' law enforcement officers at the Anti-Narcotics Force Academy in Islamabad.
Mr Norov also noted that the SCO was an effective venue for enhancing regional connectivity, including the alignment of the EAEU and Belt and Road initiative and harmonising the regional integration projects and national economic development strategies of the member states. Thus, the SCO can play an important role in implementing the Greater Eurasian Partnership idea, a large-scale integration association based on a network of regional unions and transcontinental projects.
The SCO concentrates on intensifying cultural and humanitarian contacts, including in the area of tourism. The Secretariat is implementing the Eight Wonders of the SCO project aimed at unlocking the cultural and tourism potential of the member states, including the Great Mughals Heritage in Lahore, Pakistan. A series of presentations took place in Beijing, Tashkent, St Petersburg, Dushanbe and Helsinki as part of this project. Vladimir Norov expressed certainty that presentations would be held in Pakistan as well.
In summing up, the Secretary-General stressed that the SCO had established its status as a leading multilateral organisation in the region, engaged in the fight against terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.
IRP SCO National Coordinator Zahur Ahmed stressed that Pakistan attached great importance to its SCO membership. The SCO's regional cooperation and development goals were fully in accord with the Pakistani Government's foreign policy guidelines. Islamabad regards the SCO as a vitally important platform for closer ties and greater mutual understanding with its regional partners. The SCO plays the decisive role in promoting versatile cooperation between its member states and is an important platform for gaining benefits from EAEU/Belt and Road integration. Mr Ahmed focused on the importance of the China-Pakistan economic corridor in the context of expanding communications capabilities in the region and beyond.
He also reminded his audience of the recent Pakistani proposal to establish a special working group at the SCO and a centre of advanced anti-poverty experience. He also praised the efforts by the member states and the SCO Secretariat to coordinate the COVID-19 response. Mr Ahmed confirmed Islamabad's intention to go on with its active involvement in all SCO mechanisms.
CGSS Vice President Major Gen. (Ret.) Hafiz Masroor Ahmed mentioned the Centre's contribution to the SCO Forum, including by holding various workshops and conferences and preparing studies and analytical reports on SCO-related matters. He stated that Pakistan intended to work in close contact with all SCO member states to increase mutual trust, strengthen security cooperation, develop trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties, and to promote the creation of a community of common destiny for mankind, a common home of security, stability, development and prosperity.
During the second part of the webinar, Secretary-General Norov gave detailed answers to questions on the main areas of cooperation within the SCO.
The webinar was attended by about 300 people. The forum enjoyed broad coverage, including in the following media outlets: