An opinion piece exclusively for bne IntelliNews by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Uzbekistan's chairmanship in the SCO has come at a moment of great change in the world – a period of "historical fracture", when one era ends and another begins, still unpredictable and unknown.
The modern system of international co-operation, based on universal principles and norms, is beginning to malfunction significantly. One of the main reasons for this is a deep crisis of confidence at the global level, which, in turn, provokes geopolitical confrontation and risks reviving stereotypes of bloc thinking. This process of mutual alienation complicates the return of the world economy to its former course of development and the restoration of global supply chains.
Armed conflicts in different parts of the world destabilize trade and investment flows, exacerbate the problems of ensuring food and energy security.
Global climate shocks, the growing scarcity of natural and water resources, the decline in biodiversity, and the spread of dangerous infectious diseases have revealed the vulnerability of our societies like never before. They lead to the destruction of existential common goods, threatening the foundations of people's livelihoods and reducing sources of income.
Under these circumstances, no country can hope to avoid or cope with these global risks and challenges alone.
It is in moments of crisis that countries – large, medium and small – must set aside their narrow interests and focus on such interaction, unite and multiply common efforts and opportunities to counter the threats and challenges to peace, security and sustainable development that affect each of us.
Effective international co-operation makes the world more sustainable, predictable and prosperous.
Model for successful regional co-operation
There can be no international co-operation that serves the interests of all without multilateral institutions. Despite certain shortcomings, they continue to serve as the most important conductors of interstate co-operation. International and regional organisations help countries overcome differences and strengthen mutual understanding, develop political and economic co-operation, expand trade and stimulate cultural and humanitarian exchanges.
It is these goals and objectives that one of the youngest multilateral institutions, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), pursues. In a short period the SCO has come a long way, becoming an integral element of the modern global political and economic world order.
Today, the SCO is the world's largest regional organisation, which has united a huge geographical space and more than half of the population of our planet.
SCO's success is based on the promotion of multilateral cooperation through regional security.
Every year the number of states that are ready to join the SCO is growing, and this is especially noticeable in the context of the transformation of the modern system of international and regional relations.
Total GDP of SCO member states has reached about one quarter global GDP. This is already a very solid contribution to global sustainable development from a regional organisation that has just two decades old.
In a world with new challenges and opportunities, the SCO has excellent prospects for transformation and growth through the opening of new strategic prospects – transport and connectivity, energy, food and environmental security, innovation, digital transformation and a green economy.
Chairmanship of Uzbekistan: towards common success through joint development
By taking on the chairmanship in the SCO, the Republic of Uzbekistan has relied on the strategy of accelerated development of the Organisation by opening new horizons for co-operation and tapping under-utilised reserves available in each member state.
Our slogan is "The SCO is strong if each of us is strong." Implementing it in practice, we have made serious efforts to make the Organisation even stronger from within and more attractive from the outside – to our international partners.
At more than 80 major events held during the year, a comprehensive agenda for the SCO was agreed – starting from issues of expanded co-operation in the field of security, stronger transport and economic interconnectedness and positioning of the Organisation in the international arena to the search for new ways to develop.
All these promising areas of co-operation are reflected in 36 conceptual programmes, agreements and decisions prepared during our presidency.
I'll say more. Uzbekistan's chairmanship in the SCO is a logical continuation of the active and open foreign policy course pursued by our country over the past six years. This policy is being implemented primarily in Central Asia, the geographical centre of the SCO, where positive and irreversible processes of strengthening good-neighbourliness and cooperation are taking place touday.
All SCO member states are our closest neighbours, friends and strategic partners.
The chairmanship has given us a good opportunity to further strengthen multilateral collaboration and to expand bilateral co-operation with each of them, to outline new guidelines for an even deeper partnership.
I am confident that the SCO is important and we must share the story of its success with Afghanistan. This country is an integral part of the large SCO space. More than ever, the Afghan people need good neighbours and support. We have a moral obligation to lend a helping hand and to offer Afghanistan effective ways out of its long-standing crisis.
Afghanistan, which for centuries has played the role of a buffer in confrontations between global powers and regional centres of power, should try a new peaceful mission – as a link between Central and South Asia.
The construction of the trans-Afghan corridor can become a symbol of such mutually beneficial interregional co-operation. Implementing common infrastructure projects, such as the Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway, we not only solve socio-economic, transport and communication problems, but we also make a significant contribution regional security.
Bringing our positions closer together, we can work out a new SCO agenda for a more peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Only in this way can we create a truly stable and sustainable development of the SCO space with “indivisible security”, as set out in the Helsinki Accords and a number of subsequent global treaties.
"Samarkand spirit": the embodiment of cooperation, mutual understanding and friendship
The ancient city of Samarkand – we call it “the pearl of the Great Silk Road” – is ready to meet the leaders of 14 nations with new breakthrough proposals and initiatives.
There is no doubt that this legendary city will open another page in the success story of the SCO. For many centuries, this city, as if by threads, connected countries from Europe to China, connecting the North and South, East and West into a single knot.
Historically, Samarkand was a melting pot of ideas and knowledge, in which a common goal was developed – to live better, to be more successful and to become happier. And everyone understood that friendly neighbours are half of your wealth.
These unique qualities of Samarkand, which today has a modern and fast-developing infrastructure, turn it into the most suitable and popular platform for joint discussion, search and co-ordination of the necessary answers to regional and global challenges.
Samarkand can become a platform that is able to unite and reconcile states with various foreign policy priorities.
Historically, from Samarkand the world is perceived as one and indivisible, not divided. This is the essence of a unique phenomenon – the "Samarkand spirit”.
In fact, the "Samarkand Spirit" is designed to organically complement the original "Shanghai Spirit", thanks to which more than 20 years ago our countries decided to create a new organisation.
We are full of optimism and are convinced that the decisions of the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will make a realistic contribution to strengthening dialogue, mutual understanding and co-operation both at the regional level and on a global scale.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev is the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He contributed this comment exclusively to bne IntelliNews.