23rd SCO Summit: Bolstering cooperation and future resilience
SCO partners are united in their recognition of Central Asia as a “core region”, and are committed to making an example out of peacebuilding efforts in a region that represents 70 percent of the Eurasian landmass, and almost half of the global population.
Recently addressing the 23rd Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State meeting, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi built on the grouping’s vision for global peace and security as member states welcomed Tehran’s full SCO membership. “I hope that Iran's presence in this important and influential organization will provide a platform for collective security, lead to sustainable development, expand links and communications, strengthen unity, respect the sovereignty of countries more than ever before, and provide synergies to deal with environmental threats," Raisi said.
From increasing connectivity prospects to endorsing SCO calls against bloc confrontation, Iran’s vision for collective security strikes a common chord with the grouping’s major peacebuilding priorities to date.
It is a fact that dialogue and consultation remain chief to resolving protracted conflicts and disputes, calling to memory the responsibilities and influence of major Central Asian powers in delivering stability. A case in point is the settlement of the Afghan issue. The country’s deteriorating humanitarian and counterterrorism situation has attracted considerable attention in Iran’s regional foreign policy, and a just settlement continues to be seen by the SCO as “one of the most important factors in maintaining and consolidating security and stability in the SCO region.”
At the same time, Raisi’s appeal to intra-regional political, developmental, and security cooperation offers a pragmatic view to cope with some of the world’s profound economic and strategic changes. Chinese Vice President Han Zheng recently drew on China’s own view of “balanced, coordinated, and inclusive global development” approaches to assure enduring peace in light of similar changes.
It is here that an expanded SCO stands to back Central Asia’s independent paths to democratic development. It also complements Iran’s foreign policy diversification and “look to Asia” approach. The world is home to over 193 countries at present, and each state is well within its rights to explore its own path to autonomous development based on the interests of the people. That sense of coexistence is easily undermined when select ideological groupings, such as the Group of Seven (G7), prioritize bloc, ideological and confrontational approaches to dealing with the developing world’s pressing regional development challenges. The SCO’s virtual gathering this week spelled a consistent departure from counterproductive talks about de-risking and de-coupling, and builds on representation that is diverse in geography, governance systems, and economic might.
For its part, Beijing has consistently supported Iran’s SCO membership, and offers lessons in advancing mutual trust within the Eurasian grouping. Pertinent contributions at the global level include wide-ranging development assistance to over 160 countries without exception, calls for increasing developing world representation within the United Nations Security Council, and a Global Civilization Initiative that advocates against imposing one’s own value system on others. SCO calls to oppose external interference are emblematic of a similar stance.
Moreover, the motivations for such contributions strike a common chord with SCO’s “New Delhi Declaration.” For instance, member states have also backed the advancement of a central UN role in facilitating civilizational diversity among states, and consider the principle of indivisible security as chief to a truly multipolar world order.
Against a backdrop of sustained arms supplies, unilateral sanctions and offensive military support, SCO states are also clear about the value of noninterference in states’ internal matters. The protracted conflict in Ukraine aptly illustrates the value of cooperative diplomacy in stemming further humanitarian suffering, given how sustained Western interference and military escalation hampered prior prospects.
SCO partners are united in their recognition of Central Asia as a “core region”, and are committed to making an example out of peacebuilding efforts in a region that represents 70 percent of the Eurasian landmass, and almost half of the global population. “Member States will continue conducting a constructive dialogue based on trust, deepening effective multifaceted cooperation, making every effort to strengthen security and stability and ensure sustainable development in the SCO region,” read the declaration.
It is also true that the exercise of genuine multilateralism is vital for a more just and equitable international governance system. As the largest regional grouping, SCO member states recognize the value of promoting global leadership imperatives from within. Findings from the Stimson Center’s recent global governance survey confirm that the world is increasingly viewed as “divided” and “dangerous," and that the present state of resources and cooperation is seen as a major reason for global dissatisfaction. Through sufficient support for connectivity links under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), many SCO states reflect a conscious effort to promote trade and market access as important levers for long-term coexistence.
Ultimately, firm recognition of a world in flux brings new opportunities to consolidate political trust and deepen trade linkages within an expanded SCO grouping. The 23rd Council of Heads of State meeting gave concrete shape to shared imperatives against protectionism and confrontational politics, while Iran’s milestone inclusion bolsters its relevance to regional peacebuilding.