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Kazakhstan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization:A Perspective on Growth, Evolution, and Collaboration

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guest!

Kazakhstan has played a pivotal role in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since its inception. As a founding member, Kazakhstan’s perspectives on the SCO provide valuable insights into the organization’s growth, evolution, and its mechanisms for regional and extra-regional cooperation. Kazakhstan’s strategic location, economic potential, and diplomatic initiatives underscore its commitment to the SCO’s objectives, making it a key player in shaping the organization’s trajectory.

Kazakhstan views the SCO as a vital platform for fostering regional security, economic cooperation, and cultural exchange. From its establishment in 2001, the SCO has grown to encompass eight member states along with observer states and dialogue partners. Kazakhstan perceives this expansion as a testament to the SCO’s increasing relevance in global geopolitics.

The country believes that the SCO’s growth is instrumental in addressing regional challenges such as terrorism, separatism, and extremism, often referred to as the “three evils.” Kazakhstan has actively contributed to the SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives and regards the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) as a cornerstone of the organization’s security framework.

Kazakhstan perceives the SCO’s collaborative mechanisms as essential tools for regional stability and development. The organization’s joint military exercises, such as the “Peace Mission” series, demonstrate Kazakhstan’s commitment to collective security. These exercises enhance interoperability among member states’ armed forces and strengthen regional defense capabilities.

Kazakhstan has consistently advocated for the SCO’s evolution from a primarily security-focused entity to a more comprehensive organization addressing economic and developmental issues. Astana has been at the forefront of promoting economic integration within the SCO, proposing initiatives such as the SCO Development Bank and the SCO Free Trade Area. These proposals reflect Kazakhstan’s vision of the SCO as a platform for sustainable economic growth and regional connectivity.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), led by China, aligns with Kazakhstan’s strategic objectives within the SCO framework. Kazakhstan’s “Nurly Zhol” economic policy complements the BRI, emphasizing infrastructure development and regional connectivity. The synchronization of these initiatives highlights Kazakhstan’s role in facilitating the SCO’s economic agenda and fostering regional cooperation.

In the economic sphere, Kazakhstan values the SCO’s efforts to promote trade and investment. The country has actively participated in SCO economic forums and expositions, advocating for the reduction of trade barriers and the establishment of transport corridors. Kazakhstan’s strategic initiatives, such as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, align with the SCO’s goals of enhancing regional trade and connectivity.

Kazakhstan recognizes the importance of the SCO’s engagement with extra-regional actors. The organization’s dialogue partnerships with countries such as Turkey and Afghanistan are seen as opportunities to expand its influence and address broader geopolitical challenges. Kazakhstan supports the SCO’s observer states’ participation in its activities, believing that their inclusion enriches the organization’s perspectives and enhances its global standing.

Moreover, Kazakhstan advocates for the SCO’s collaboration with other international organizations such as the United Nations and the Eurasian Economic Union. This multi-layered approach is viewed as a means to amplify the SCO’s effectiveness in addressing global issues such as climate change, energy security, and sustainable development.

Kazakhstan’s perspectives on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization underscore its commitment to regional stability, economic integration, and collaborative problem-solving. As the SCO continues to evolve, Kazakhstan’s proactive engagement and strategic initiatives will remain crucial in shaping the organization’s future. By promoting security cooperation, economic development, and inclusive dialogue, Kazakhstan envisions the SCO as a cornerstone of regional and global peace and prosperity.

The Republic of Kazakhstan chairs the Shanghai Cooperation Organization from July 5, 2023 to June 2024.

On July 4, 2023, at the SCO Summit, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan K. Tokayev outlined specific priorities for the chairmanship.
During its Chairmanship, Kazakhstan has been focused on the joint efforts of member states in the following areas:

  • improving the SCO and transforming it into an even more effective platform;
  • strengthening potential in matters of ensuring security and stability in the SCO region;
  • deepening ties in the sphere of economics and trade;
  • deepening cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sphere;
  • expansion of the SCO and development of its international relations.
    I. Strengthening the potential of the SCO
    Work has begun to reform the Organization and optimize its activities in key areas.
    One of the important steps on this path is the adoption at the SCO Summit in June 2024 in Kazakhstan of the SCO Development Strategy until 2035 and the Concept for Improving the SCO’s activities. The documents are aimed at deepening practical interaction, including an algorithm for progressive reform of the SCO.
    II. Strengthening cooperation in the field of security and stability
    Issues of regional security and mutual trust are among the main topics on the Organization’s agenda. Taking into account current trends in world politics and economics, Kazakhstan proposes to update the SCO approaches to modern challenges and threats.
    In this aspect, Kazakhstan proposes to jointly promote the common SCO Initiative “on world unity for a just peace and harmony.” The comprehensive document contains principles for strengthening confidence-building measures and maintaining stability and security in the region.
    Great importance will be given to the formation of an updated Cooperation Program of the SCO member states to counter terrorism, separatism and extremism for 2025-2027.
    It is necessary to adopt an updated Anti-Drug Strategy and an Action Program for its implementation. In practical terms, it is proposed to continue the practice of holding SCO international actions “For a World Without Drugs” and Operation “Web” with the involvement of observer states and SCO dialogue partners.
    III. Expansion of trade and economic ties
    The ongoing global economic crisis and its consequences require the SCO to strengthen regional trade and economic ties and open up opportunities for developing a new economic agenda.
    The efforts of the member states will be aimed at the effective implementation of the SCO Economic Development Strategy until 2030.
    An initiative has been put forward to create the SCO Investment Fund. We consider it as a promising practical step in terms of strengthening investment synergy in the SCO.
    Energy issues are also a priority of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship. We attach great importance to coordinating efforts to ensure the energy transition and decarbonization of the economy and industry through the adoption of the SCO Energy Strategy.
    Considering the significant transport potential of the SCO countries, it is important to ensure the interconnectedness of railways, roads, sea and air routes. In this context, Kazakhstan invited countries to form a Partnership Network of large strategic ports and logistics centers.
    In order to increase cooperation in reducing the digital divide, expanding the financial technology market, promoting e-commerce and developing the banking ecosystem, Kazakhstan is holding the SCO Digital Forum in 2024.
    IV. Deepening cultural and humanitarian cooperation
    The cultural and humanitarian dimension is one of the most dynamically developing areas of interaction within the SCO.
    Much attention paid to the implementation of the project “Spiritual Shrines of the SCO” and the organization of the SCO International Scientific and Practical Conference on the topic: “The Golden Horde and its Heritage” in Turkestan with the participation of leading experts and scientists from the member states.
    In order to effectively combat climate change, improve food security, water supply, and preserve biodiversity, at the initiative of Kazakhstan, 2024 has been declared the Year of Ecology.
    The adoption of an intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the field of environmental protection, a Cooperation Program in the field of development of specially protected natural areas and eco-tourism, and a Memorandum of Understanding between the SCO Secretariat and UNEP is expected.
    For the entire period of its chairmanship, the city of Almaty has been declared the tourist and cultural capital of the SCO. A Plan of relevant events has been developed and adopted with the participation of famous figures in culture and art, sports and science of the SCO member states.
    V. Expansion of the SCO and further development of its international relations
    Work will continue to further deepen and expand the international relations of the SCO with multilateral structures, observers and SCO dialogue partners.

Kazakhstan, as Chairman of the SCO, did every effort to modernize the Organization and transform it into a more effective multilateral platform in order to further strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and traditional ties of friendship between the SCO member states.