Remarks by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov at a Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of SCO Member States (September 10, 2020, Moscow)

Mr Lavrov,

Excellencies,

I would like to join in the words of gratitude to our Russian hosts and personally to Mr Lavrov for the hospitality bestowed upon us and for making this vital meeting possible during these difficult circumstances.

Work to promote the coordination of the foreign policy of the SCO member states, the synergy of their national development strategies and the improvement of multifaceted security mechanisms, as well as economic and cultural cooperation, was carried out as part of the priorities outlined by the Russian chairmanship despite the pandemic.

First of all, in accordance with the Shanghai spirit principles, the SCO countries have demonstrated high levels of solidarity and mutual support in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The organisation has established itself as an effective platform for countering modern security challenges and threats during the pandemic. Our collective efforts have received authoritative international recognition, in particular, on behalf of the UN Secretary General and our colleagues from the EU, the OSCE and the League of Arab States.

Invaluable experience of joint efforts to contain and to minimise the pandemic fallout has been accumulated over the period under review.

In this regard, the decision of the most recent meeting of the SCO member states' ministers of healthcare to approve the Overview of the Best Practices to counter the spread of the infection came as an important development.

In addition to this, the ideas outlined in the SCO Secretariat's initiative on strengthening the coordinating basis underlying the collective fight against epidemics were duly reflected in a draft of the corresponding comprehensive action plan due to be adopted by the heads of our states at the upcoming summit.

The multifaceted nature of the documents that came under review, more than half of which were initiated by the Russian chairmanship, is indicative of the desire of the parties to consistently coordinate their positions on key international and regional matters and to determine joint approaches to resolve them.

We believe that it is important to carry on the dialogue and to search for common solutions to improving security mechanisms within the organisation in the context of expanding the functionality of existing institutional bodies and developing new ones.

In this context, the current military-political dynamics in neighbouring Afghanistan deserve our close attention. The SCO Secretariat drafted and sent to the parties a draft regulation on the activities of the corresponding working group of experts in order to facilitate a thorough study of the meetings of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and the substantive implementation of its road map.

Given the accelerated withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the need to create proper conditions for a transition to peaceful life and to restore that country's economy is becoming increasingly more important. In this regard, we consider it important to speed up the design and construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif-Peshawar railways across Afghanistan using financial resources of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Promoting this initiative will not only expand trade with Afghanistan, but also ensure the creation of another trans-regional corridor with direct access to the Eurasian states, including land-locked states of Central Asia, to the seaports of

India, Iran and Pakistan as an important link in the North-South and East-West transport corridors.

Significant progress in promoting practical SCO cooperation in ensuring security and stability in the region had been made over the period under review.

Our joint work with the UN agencies functions on symbiosis of terrorism with drug trafficking and organised crime held in New York last November, as well as fighting the drug threat in the dark internet in Vienna last March, caused much interest internationally.

The participation in specialised events jointly with the CSTO and the CIS executive bodies was a success as can be seen from the UN Security Council meeting on the topic "The role of regional associations in combating terrorist threats" held last autumn.

At the same time, working contacts with ASEAN and the OSCE secretariats, as well as Interpol, with an emphasis on overlapping interests in countering new challenges and threats in Eurasia, became quite sustainable. A dialogue with the International Narcotics Control Board has been established.

Excellencies,

The period under review has become decisive for developing long- and medium-term guidelines for economic cooperation within the organisation.

In accordance with the decision made by the Council of Foreign Ministers on 13 May 2020, the proposed draft Action Plan for the implementation of the SCO Development Strategy until 2025 places particular emphasis on economic recovery in the post-pandemic period.

Since the onset of the pandemic, analytical working groups have been created within the SCO Secretariat to combat the spread of the coronavirus infection, to use the potential of traditional medicine, and to ensure food and energy security. The information and proposals that they now have are being taken into account when working on particular tasks in the corresponding fields of cooperation.

The pandemic called for the need to develop progressive methods in distance learning. In this context, the first meeting of the SCO University Coordination Council came as an important event.

In order to build up international cooperation in the sphere of healthcare and the digital economy, the SCO Secretariat has established productive working contacts with the WHO, UNCTAD and the International Telecommunication Union.

A joint function with the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva held in February emphasised the particular importance of the SCO space for ensuring transport connectivity of the entire Eurasian continent.

I'm confident that draft memorandums of understanding between the SCO and a number of UN agencies and other international and regional associations that were submitted for consideration will contribute to the comprehensive implementation of our organisation's economic and humanitarian potential.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of a healthy lifestyle and strengthening herd immunity. In this context, the importance of promoting lifestyles involving sports within the organisation's space increases, in particular, through the SCO marathon.

This year, the SCO Kunming marathon obtained a silver license from the International Association of Athletics Federations, which is indicative of its high popularity and potential.

The marathon scheduled for this December cannot be held as planned. In this regard, we are looking into ways of holding it online and to hold mini-marathons in the SCO countries. Please support this initiative.

Colleagues,

Despite the objective difficulties that befell humanity, the SCO continued its progressive development as a supporting structure of the emerging polycentric architecture of Eurasian security.

Joint efforts of the SCO countries aimed at strengthening multilateral cooperation, forming a single and indivisible space of security and sustainable development based on the fundamental principles of international law, primarily the UN Charter, became especially relevant in the year of the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII and the creation of the UN.

A major package of documents that you are approving today will certainly contribute to further improving the organisation's multifaceted activities, as well as increasing its role and influence on the international arena.

Thank you.