Address by the SCO Secretary-General, Vladimir Norov at the videoconference "The SCO and the New Multipolar World". (January 12, 2021)

Dear Mr. Edward Schatz,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome all participants to the video conference on "The SCO and the New Multipolar World".

First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the University of Toronto and Mr. Edward Schatz personally for the idea of holding and organising today's event.
I would also like to take this nice opportunity to wish everyone here a Happy New Year 2021 and wish good health and all the best!

Our meeting today is dedicated to the role and place of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the new multipolar world, its interaction with other international and regional organisations, and its role in overcoming the socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

We all witness that the modern world is undergoing a profound transformation. Global threats and challenges are multiplying, and the uncertainty and unpredictability associated with the coronavirus pandemic has also emerged.

To combat the complex nature of the challenges and threats we require development of collective approaches, as well as an awareness that no one can ensure their own security at the expense of the security of others.

Under these conditions, it is imperative that all states observe the universal principles of equal and indivisible security, equally applicable to the Euro-Atlantic, Eurasian and Asia-Pacific space.

In this context, the necessity of building a universal, comprehensive, transparent architecture of credible security and sustainable growth based on the principles of the "rule of international law" as well as of "equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation" is now at the forefront.

In this process, the role of multilateral structures and regional organisations, like SCO, is undoubtedly increasing.

With the accession of India and Pakistan, the SCO has become the largest regional structure in the world that covers 60 percent of the territory of Eurasia with a population of over 3.2 billion people, and the SCO member states together generate almost a quarter of the global GDP.

The experience of the SCO can be considered the first in history of building an equal partnership of diverse states with different economic and political potentials and cultural and civilizational peculiarities.

Today the SCO includes 18 states: 8 member states, 4 observers and 6 dialogue partners.

At present, at least ten applications for becoming member, observer or dialogue partner are pending, which is an indicator of the SCO's growing prestige in the world.
This year, the SCO will celebrate its 20th anniversary. 20 years is quite a short period by historical standards.

But in this relatively short time, SCO has covered a consistent path of development, and has demonstrated an effective model of multilateral interaction based on political trust, mutually beneficial cooperation, harmonious coexistence of different cultures and civilisations.

First of all, the Organisation has firmly established itself as one of the most influential trans-regional platforms for the elaboration and implementation of multilateral approaches to preserve and strengthen global and regional stability.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, "the SCO is a credible partner of the UN and is at the forefront of regional diplomacy".

Since the very beginning of the Organisation's activity, it has focused on countering non-traditional challenges and threats to international security, including terrorism, extremism, separatism, drug trafficking, organised crime and information and communication technology related crimes.

The past 20 years can be seen as a period of active development of multifaceted cooperation within the SCO, successfully bridging national and regional interests in various areas of development.

Today the SCO has a solid institutional framework, its structural organs are operating effectively, and systematic work is under way to implement the goals and tasks of the Organisation as set forth in the SCO Charter.

Effective interaction has been established in the political and security sphere.

Annual meetings of SCO leaders allow us to compare notes on all pressing issues of regional and international agenda.

I would like to especially note that despite growing challenges and threats and tensions in a number of areas around the world, the SCO region has enjoyed sustained stability thanks to effective interaction in the field of security within SCO.

This is an undeniable fact.

Over these years, joint efforts have succeeded in establishing a solid legal framework and effective mechanisms of interaction.

First of all, practical work is being carried out on the basis of the SCO Regional Anti-terrorist Structure (SCO RATS) that has demonstrated significant results in countering terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Through the efforts of the SCO RATS over the years hundreds of terrorist acts have been prevented in the territory of member States, and effective assistance has been provided in tracking down and detaining persons involved in terrorist activities and in preventing the spread of extremist ideology, including via the Internet.

Countering drug trafficking is also an important area of cooperation within the SCO framework. Activities in this area are based on the SCO Anti-Drug Strategy and its Action Programme. 

I would like to point out that annually up to 40 percent of drugs intercepted across Eurasia are seized from the illicit traffic.

The SCO also conducted international anti-drug operations "Spider Web" in July 2019 and March 2020 to suppress drug supply and distribution channels, primarily of synthetic origin, in the territory of the SCO countries.

These operations resulted in the seizure of more than 10 tonnes of various types of narcotic substances.

The issue of Afghanistan is of particular importance to SCO in maintaining peace and stability.

We emphasize that there is no alternative to resolving the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue and an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

At the last meeting of the Council of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the SCO member states in Moscow on September 10, 2020, the foreign ministers reaffirmed the willingness to work together within the "SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group" and to implement the adopted Roadmap for further action.

As key goals and objectives of SCO's economic agenda, the SCO Charter envisages the promotion of comprehensive and balanced economic growth, social and cultural development in the region.

The current SCO legal framework in the economic sphere consists of about 130 documents, the key ones being the Development Strategy until 2025 and the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation of the SCO Member States.

Interaction between relevant ministries and institutions has been successfully established, and the SCO Business Council and the Interbank Association have been set up.

We proceed from the understanding that regional security must be underpinned by the active development of trade, economic and humanitarian ties. This is especially important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the framework of Russia's presidency in the SCO, which ended in November last year, we approved a comprehensive plan of joint measures to counter the threats of epidemics in the region, as well as a new five-year Action Plan to implement the SCO Development Strategy until 2025, aimed at reviving the economies of our countries in the post-pandemic period.

Among the priorities of Tajikistan's current presidency of the Organisation is the development and adoption of a Priority Action Plan aimed at mitigating and overcoming the socio-economic impact of the current crisis.

According to available data, the average decline in the GDP of the SCO countries in 2020 is 3.2 percent. This is lower than the global average (4.4%), but nevertheless there is a need for innovative solutions that can put our economies back on a sustainable growth track.

In this context, accelerated development of the digital industry could be the key to their global competitiveness.

In this context, the SCO is currently actively discussing the digitalisation of key sectors of the economy and the transfer of technology.

At present, the volume of trade between the SCO member states amounts to no more than 5% of their total foreign trade turnover, which clearly does not correspond to the real potential of our cooperation.

Therefore in the next few years we will place special emphasis on realising the transport and production potential of the SCO countries, building new roads and railways and creating a unified system of barrier-free "green corridors" for the transit of goods, including food and medical supplies.

Strengthening of transport and logistics cooperation in the SCO region will not only promote the rapid development of inter-country trade and economic ties, but also the creation of the largest transit zone between Europe and Asia in the context of pairing the "One Belt, One Road" initiative with the "Eurasian Economic Union" and other multilateral and national development strategies.

This process should be accompanied by joint work to integrate and eliminate disparities in the development of our countries' and regions on the basis of the SCO Concept of Cooperation for the Development of Remote and Rural Areas in the Digital Age, approved in 2020.

In accordance with the renewed SCO Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation Programme 2035, an increasingly important role is being given to the development of environmental technologies, alternative and renewable energy sources.

In addition, the post-pandemic economic recovery measures should focus on supporting the tourism industry, which has been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

At the initiative of the SCO Secretariat, a series of events entitled "The Eight Wonders of the SCO" are being implemented to demonstrate the cultural richness of our region and to give impetus to the development of interaction in the tourism industry.

The Tajik side, which currently holds the SCO presidency, is planning to hold the first SCO Tourism Forum this year.

The introduction of an annual practice of selecting the SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital is also under consideration.

This year, in view of the 20th anniversary of SCO, has been declared the "Year of Culture" of SCO countries, within the framework of which a number of events will be organised to strengthen the dialogue among civilisations and further pursue the 'Shanghai spirit', the main content of which is mutual trust and benefit, equality, mutual consultation, respect for the diversity of cultures and civilisations, and striving for joint development.

I believe that in current difficult conditions these principles are more relevant than ever for all members of the world community, who need unity and cohesion in the face of new challenges, regardless of the model of political and socio-economic development they have chosen.

Dear participants,

I would particularly like to stress that the outbreak of coronavirus infection has been an unprecedented challenge not only for individual countries, but also for inter-state institutions as a whole.

The SCO countries showed a high degree of solidarity during the acute phase of the pandemic by supporting each other morally, politically and materially.

In this period, SCO established itself as a platform for countering epidemiological risks and received the highest international recognition, in particular from the UN Secretary-General, international organisations such as ASEAN, the European Union, the OSCE and the League of Arab States.

At the SCO summit held on November 10 last year, the heads of member states approved a comprehensive action plan to combat epidemics, including joint scientific research, development of vaccines and effective disease treatment methods.

I would like to emphasise that in response to the pandemic, all available mechanisms for cooperation in the field of health and sanitary-epidemiological well-being have been fully utilised within the SCO.

At this time, the demand for SCO as an effective venue for developing collective measures to overcome the social and economic consequences of the pandemic has significantly increased.

It is important that SCO did not withdraw into isolation or quarantine, but continued to actively pursue its agenda and strengthen international contacts.

Moreover, amid the pandemic, new useful segments have emerged that need to be developed in various areas of cooperation.

In particular, we are talking about the promotion of Tele-medicine, traditional medicine, online education, e-commerce. For some of these areas we have already held relevant events, such as the Traditional Medicine Forum, the SCO Startup Forum, the Conclave of Young Scientists, the Digital Exhibition, and so on.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have briefly spoken about the SCO and its current activities.
Thank you all for your attention. I am ready to answer all your questions with pleasure