International Nowruz Day, a symbol of peace, friendship and mutual understanding, was marked at the SCO Secretariat on 19 March 2021 within the framework of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The event was attended by over 600 people, including the heads of diplomatic missions of the SCO member states, observer countries and dialogue partners, honoured Chinese guests, representatives of international and regional organisations, SCO Secretariat partners, and the press.
The diplomatic missions of the SCO Family countries presented their national cuisines and pavilions with exhibits showing their nations' arts and crafts.
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov said in his opening remarks that Nowruz is marked on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox as the first day of spring and the beginning of the new year. It has been celebrated in many countries around the world, including in SCO states, for over 3,000 years as a symbol of hope for a year of plenty, wellbeing and prosperity, a peaceful life without wars and tribulations, reconciliation, friendship, neighbourliness, tranquillity, mutual understanding and respect.
Vladimir Norov pointed out that there are no national borders for Nowruz, which therefore has a vital role to play in strengthening ties among nations. "Nowruz celebrations promote the ideals of peace and solidarity among generations plus reconciliation and neighbourliness among various ethnic groups and help preserve cultural diversity and strengthen friendship and mutual understanding among nations," the SCO Secretary-General emphasised.
Nowruz is the best proof of the indelible value of unity in diversity and a reminder of humanity's shared future, he said. Nowruz is a symbol of revival and a renewal of nature, healthy living, new young energy, the unity and strength of the spirit, and the consolidation of tolerance and creativity in society. Proof of respect for this important day and its importance for current generations was its addition to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
When speaking about the creative and unifying spirit of Nowruz, Vladimir Norov mentioned its consonance with the Shanghai Spirit, which is focused on unity and integrity.
The SCO countries demonstrated these noble qualities during their combined efforts to overcome the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. They helped each other, demonstrating close unity and solidarity, strong will and a high sense of responsibility, courage, selflessness and heroism.
The SCO Secretary-General reminded those present about the upcoming celebrations of the SCO's 20th anniversary in 2021, adding that it was thanks to these combined efforts that the SCO had become an influential organisation whose voice is gaining weight on the international stage and with which an increasing number of countries would like to
China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng congratulated the audience and noted that the celebration of International Nowruz Day at the SCO Secretariat was the best proof of the Shanghai Spirit and the widening Shanghai Family concept.
Le Yucheng pointed out that during the 20 years since its inception the SCO had stood the test of time to become a leading constructive force in Eurasia and worldwide. "The SCO has entered a new stage in its history with good prospects. We must continue to comply with its initial goals and keep working consistently to boost cooperation within the SCO to a new level," the high-ranking Chinese diplomat said.
The Vice Foreign Minister of China called for joining forces to materialise the political consensus reached by the leaders of the eight countries concerned, support Tajikistan's chairmanship and hold multifaceted events based on the advantages of each of the participating states. "We are resolved to continue strengthening mutual trust and the standards of interaction so as to further consolidate the SCO as a community with a shared future for humankind. Let the SCO's future be as beautiful as the festival of Nowruz," Le Yucheng said.
Ambassador Zohir Saidzoda, of the diplomatic mission of Tajikistan, the country which is currently chairing the SCO, noted in his speech that Nowruz is a new day that is the start of a new year on the solar calendar that symbolises the advent of spring. "This is a new day in life, a day of joy, a day of justice, a day of forgiveness and a day of reconciliation. During Nowruz, people become closer and friendlier with each other. They rejoice at the beauty of nature and the awakening spring."
Mr Saidzoda said that every year these festivities, concerts and other cultural events, and sports competitions are held during the four days of Nowruz. "This is a very large national holiday. Everyone, both children and adults, rejoice and welcome spring."
In conclusion, Mr Saidzoda wished for Nowruz to bring our wonderful planet, including the big SCO family, joy, achievement, victory, wellbeing, happiness, peace and unity as the best gifts of Nowruz on this day and throughout this year.
Video greetings from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were presented to the audience. The message was addressed to those at the Nowruz celebrations in the SCO Secretariat.
Having emphasised that every year Nowruz signifies a new beginning, Mr Guterres said: "This year, the Nowruz spirit is more vital than ever." He also noted the importance of solidarity between communities and generations. "As the world comes together to defeat COVID-19, Nowruz serves as an inspiration to recover and rebuild in a more just and sustainable way, in harmony with nature," Mr Guterres said, adding: "I offer my best wishes to everyone marking Nowruz.
May this day advance happiness, health and harmony to all."
The event guests were also shown video messages by the heads of the diplomatic missions of the SCO members, observer countries and dialogue partners. They congratulated the guests, expressed their wishes and explained in brief the importance of this holiday for their people.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Vladimir Norov presented an Uzbek "zarpachan" (a robe with golden embroidery made by Bukhara craftsmen) to First SCO Secretary-General Zhang Deguang on his 80th birthday and in gratitude for his contribution in developing a durable foundation for the SCO Secretariat's successful activities and for strengthening the SCO in general.
Presenting his greetings, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov noted that as the head of the SCO Secretariat in 2004-2006, Zhang Deguang took on the brunt of establishing the SCO, "He made a priceless contribution to developing and strengthening the SCO, institutionalising its mechanisms and increasing its international prestige. By doing so he wrote a brilliant page in the history of the organisation. During his work as Secretary-General, the SCO adopted over 120 multilateral documents. Our presidents have conferred many high state decorations on him for his noble work."
Mr Norov quoted an excerpt from Zhang Deguang's interview with the Chinese journal Zhong-hua-in-cai in May 2005: "The main difference with my current work and the biggest challenge for me lies in my move from bilateral to multilateral diplomacy. Since I am the first Secretary-General, this is basically new to me, and I am facing much bigger difficulties and challenges. However, this is a unique and valuable experience that will leave an unforgettable memory in my diplomatic career."
"Owing to his responsible approach and organisational abilities, he made the SCO Secretariat recognizable in the community of international organisations in a short time. Zhang Deguang left a rich heritage in the SCO Secretariat, which we value and use in our work," Mr Norov added.
The celebrations included several major events: the planting of trees by the heads of the diplomatic missions of India and Pakistan on the SCO Alley laid by former SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov and the opening of the SCO Friendship Pavilion made by Uzbek craftsmen headed by Sobir Boltayev from Bukhara, a world famous Uzbek city on the Great Silk Road with the support of its administration, as well as the opening of the Shanghai Chinese House and the SCO transport-and-logistics park in Lianyungang.
At the opening ceremony of this facility, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov said "trees were planted and gardens had been laid since ancient times during Nowruz celebrations in the Central Asian states, India, Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and the other SCO countries. Aivans — pavilions for friendly meetings and the reception of guests were built in the centre of these gardens. It seems that living nature was brought into these areas, creating a special atmosphere of unity between nature and people."
"During the week I saw how professionally this pavilion was built by Chinese Construction masters who were doing this for the first time. Their manager said they were proud to accept the honour of making a contribution to promoting the dialogue of cultures," Mr Norov said.
Performers from SCO family diplomatic missions organised a concert programme. Tajik artists performed a Friendship Melody musical composition, Indians showed the Katkhak dance, a Kazakh singer sang the Nowruz, Nowruz song, her Kyrgyz colleague sang the Mash botoi song, Pakistanis demonstrated a national dance and traditional clothing while China was represented by a Xinjiang dance company and a children's ensemble.
The Russian Souvenir company of spoon players demonstrated Varenka, a Russian folk and dance composition; Belarusian singers sang a song about three girls, the Iranian Love Elixir played traditional Iranian music; the Mongolians performed with their national instrument, the Morinkhur, and Azerbaijani dancers performed the Nyalbyaki dance.
The Nowruz celebrations continued with street parties. The participants learned more about folklore, ancient customs and rituals. Guests and their families took part in the games: rope pulling, the eagle catches the chicks, jump rope, musical chairs and Lyanga, to name a few.
The festivities took place in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect, thereby promoting inter-civilisational dialogue and cultural exchange within the SCO family.