The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Ufa summit: a major step forward (by Ambassador Yakovenko, for RT)

The SCO summit just held in Ufa, Russia, marked a major step forward in the development of this regional forum. For the first time in its 15-year history the decision was made to increase the number of members. The process of the accession of India and Pakistan was formally launched. It was decided to upgrade the status of Belarus to that of an observer. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Nepal have become SCO dialogue partners. Several more states have expressed willingness to join as observers and dialogue partners. The geography is rather impressive - from South and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Eastern Europe. As a result of the summit, the SCO's capabilities to react to modern threats and challenges and to find regional solutions to regional problems, will grow. The organisation's political and economic potential will be significantly enhanced.

The summit adopted the SCO Development Strategy that outlines the priority areas until 2025. These include all major areas of cooperation - from creating conditions to boost cooperation in trade and economy to ensuring regional stability and prompt responses to conflicts and crises. The strategy envisages strengthening the SCO as an efficient Asia-wide organization capable of countering regional security challenges, ensuring trade, economic and investment interaction, joint projects for sustainable development, expansion of cultural and humanitarian ties, including in the areas of science and technology, health, environment and education.

This cooperation is fully voluntary and preserves the independence and sovereignty of all participants: the organization does not provide for a formation of a military-political union or an economic integration organization with supranational institutions.

The Ufa Declaration describes joint approaches to the most relevant international and regional problems and gives an assessment of the organisation's day-to-day activities. The SCO members had an in-depth discussion on the situation in Afghanistan. They noted that ISIS had stepped up its activities and spread its tentacles to that country, which increases the security threats on the southern borders of the Organisation.

The SCO members expressed deep concern over the growing threats of terrorism and extremism, illegal drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime and called for a build-up of international efforts combating these global challenges and threats. The Programme of Cooperation in the Fight Against Terrorism and Separatism for 2016-2018 was adopted to tackle these issues.

The SCO member-states emphasized the importance of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazism in World War II and the creation of the United Nations for drawing lessons from history and uniting all states in the cause of ensuring a safe life and human dignity for all. It is vital to maintain the existing mechanisms of global governance, first of all the central role of the United Nations and its Security Council. That is all the more important as the principles of common and indivisible security and mutually beneficial and equal cooperation gain prominence in contemporary stage of international relations. The process of reshaping the old geopolitical order is accompanied by growing instability both on global and regional levels as well as expansion of conflict hotbeds. All that makes SCO a key element of a new security and cooperation architecture that is developing in the region.