Exclusive Live Interview of His Excellency Vladimir Norov, Secretary-General, SCO with Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad

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On 21st July 2020, His Excellency Vladimir Norov, Secretary-General, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Secretariat, Beijing, China gave an exclusive interview to CGSS.

The interview was focused to discuss Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a viable forum for enhanced mutual development and trans regional integration.

In a question asked regarding the development of SCO since His Excellency Vladimir Norov took office he mentioned that, since assuming office in January 2019, he, along with his colleagues, has been taking steps for the implementation of the SCO's basic documents and the important agreements concluded by the Heads of State of the member countries.

He also commented that the Pakistani side in the SCO exercises and activities aimed at maintaining stability in the Organization's area of responsibility. It has become global and diversified, as well as became possible to establish close ties with the relevant UN structures and with other international organizations, for example, ASEAN and the OSCE and the Paris Pact Initiative. Moreover, he expressed to continue and deepen SCO's cooperation with our Pakistani counterparts. In general, in the last year and a half of this year, the work has been directed effectively on the development of practical areas of cooperation, especially in trade, economic, transport & logistics, infrastructure, scientific & technological, innovation and information & communication spheres, including the development of small and medium-sized businesses.

On discussing the role of SCO in uniting the member states on a single platform to discuss current common security challenges, in particular, unconventional security threats, His Excellency, Vladimir Norov stated that SCO has demonstrated to the world an effective mechanism of cooperation, in which there is no place for closed "exclusive" clubs and dividing lines, and multilateralism and cooperation are seen as the only way to protect themselves from global threats and ensure stable development and well-being for all. It is no coincidence that we use the term "SCO family", which applies not only to member states but also to our observers and dialogue partners.

When asked about the strategy to strike a balance between the trends of globalization and regionalization in today's world for expansion, SCO Secretary General highlighted that according to preliminary estimates, the total GDP of the SCO member countries over the past year amounted to 22.5 % of the global figure (18.4 trillion us dollars). This figure is expected to reach 35-40% of the world's runway by 2030. The SCO acts as a reliable platform for fruitful cooperation in the interests of forming a polycentric world order.

While discussing the new potential areas that should be included in the SCO's scope for future work, His Excellency, Vladimir Norov stated that, the SCO strives to go in the same rhythm with new trends in the world. Determining the strategy, prospects, and priorities for the development of multidisciplinary cooperation is the prerogative of the Council of Heads of SCO union. Information and communication technologies have great potential not only in the economy and trade but also in providing the population with accessible and high-quality health services. Distance learning should also be one of the promising areas of cooperation within the SCO. The online learning format provides a wide range of opportunities and perspectives for changing and improving educational systems for which a critical situation creates a forced environment.

Highlighting the involvement of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the One Belt One Road initiative, the Secretary General of SCO stressed that the SCO countries cannot stay away from the large-scale economic initiative unfolding in the region. The main routes of the Silk Road Economic Belt lead from China through Central Asia, Russia to Europe, as well as from China through Central and West Asia to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. Ensuring the long-term sustainable development of countries and regions along the Belt and Road objectively necessitates increased transport and communication interconnectivity and interconnected infrastructures, which is particularly important in overcoming the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding the global challenge of dealing with COVID-19 and role of international cooperation including SCO, His Excellency Vladimir Norov stated that, the SCO advocates effective engagement with WHO, other international organizations and associations in the fight against coronavirus infection. Meetings of Health Ministers and Heads of Services responsible for the health and epidemiological well-being of countries will be held in the near future. The SCO intends to fully implement the existing mechanisms, actively continue consultations on the topic on the fight against coronavirus, and jointly take decisive measures to maintain security and stability, as well as restore economic activity.

Discussing the problems occurring in the functioning of SCO and how can they be addressed by SCO member states, the Secretary of SCO highlighted that the main security challenge for the Organization is the continued fight against international terrorism and extremism, and the illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, ensuring regional peace, and promoting the work of the UN and other sought-after international organizations.

Summarizing the interview, he emphasized that the SCO's international credibility has improved significantly in recent years, cementing its status as a leading multilateral structure in the region and the world. He thanked Col Khalid Taimur Akram (Retd), Executive Director, Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad for organizing the interview and mentioned that the SCO Secretariat is always ready to share regular news and information with the Pakistani mass media on the important activities of the SCO.