SCO to further promote regional stability and prosperity

By Tom Fowdy
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 19, 2021
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People visit the 2021 Shanghai Cooperation Organization International Investment and Trade Expo in Qingdao, east China's Shandong province, April 26, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

June 15 marked 20 years since the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a multilateral international institution designed to promote peace, security and dialogue across Eastern and Central Eurasia. 

Arguably, the SCO is the largest regionalized grouping in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, with its territory spanning three-fifths of the Eurasian landmass and nearly half of the human population, encompassing China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia subsequently participated as observer states.

The SCO is not an alliance or even a union of sorts, but a product of the need for inter-governmental cooperation and pressing regionalism in East and Central Asia. As an institution, it provides a setting for members to cooperate concerning common interests and portfolios, which allows the augmentation of regional political consensus, stability and prosperity.

Unless we happen to live on an isolated or remote property, most of us are part of a neighborhood. We don't choose our neighbours, we might not even like them, but nevertheless we naturally share "common interests" in keeping the area safe, secure and tidy. 

On this note, imagine a situation whereby a conflict between groups broke out in the neighborhood threatening to disrupt people's lives, or that local houses were being burgled in a crime spree. In such a situation, you would be inclined to work with your neighbors to ensure common solutions to these problems through the appropriate authorities, for the well-being of everyone.

This is how you should understand the principle of "regionalism" in international relations. Just like people, countries share metaphorical "neighborhoods" in given parts of the world and subsequently have to learn to live and cooperate on pressing matters of the time. 

Of course, unlike people, countries cannot simply "move away" if problems become too pressing, and must depend far more on interactions with each other. A disruption in a region can easily undermine the stability, prosperity and well-being of all; therefore in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, regionalism is a phenomenon whereby countries facilitate means of cooperation and dialogue. 

Regionalism usually produces "institutions" in given continents or regions, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one such example, but others include the European and African Unions, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Arab League in the Middle East. 

These institutions allow their members to come and work together, and establish a set of rules and norms for their participation which navigates prevailing issues, often of a political, economic and security-based nature. 

Thus, the SCO focuses on East and Central Asia. There are numerous issues of interest and concern necessitating cooperation. For example, a key focus of the past 20 years has undoubtedly been the conflict in Afghanistan, placed as it is in the heart of the region and acting as a gateway between South, Central and East Asia.

This means Russia, China, India, Pakistan and other related countries need to work together to contain this issue. This year, Afghanistan will be a key focus in the upcoming summit as the United States has set a troop withdrawal deadline in September, meaning the associated regional powers will need to come up with a blueprint to ensure Kabul's long-term stability.

Over the past 20 years, the SCO has played an important role in safeguarding peace and stability of the Eurasian landmass. It has also promoted the building of a new type of international relations highlighting mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation. 

Moving forward, the organization is expected to make more contributions to ensuring regional stability and security and promoting economic and cultural cooperation, so as to achieve common development and prosperity.

Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain and the U.S. For more information please visit:

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