The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation which came into existence in June 2001 in Shanghai (China). The Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan are its members. India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan enjoy Observer Status with SCO. Its prototype is the Shanghai Five mechanism.
The SCO member states occupy a territory of around 30 million 189 thousand square kilometers, which makes up three fifths of the Eurasian continent, and have a population of 1.5 billion, which makes up a quarter of the planet’s population. Except for China, all SCO members including the Russian Federation were geographically crafted from the erstwhile Soviet Union after the end of the Cold War during 1990-91.
The main goals of the SCO are strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighborly relations among the member countries; promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region, moving towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order.
Proceeding from the Spirit of Shanghai, the SCO pursues its internal policy based on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equal rights, consultations, respect for the diversity of cultures and aspiration towards common development. While the SCO’s external policy is conducted in accordance with the principles of non-alignment, non- targeting anyone and openness.
The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the highest decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once every year to take decisions and give instructions on all important issues of SCO activity. The Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once every year to discuss a strategy for multilateral cooperation and priority directions within the Organization’s framework, to solve some important and pressing issues of cooperation in economic and other areas as well as to adopt the Organization’s annual budget.
Besides sessions of the HSC and the HGC there are also mechanisms of meetings on the level of Speakers of Parliament, Secretaries of Security Councils, Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Defense, Emergency Relief, Economy, Transportation, Culture, Education, Healthcare, Heads of Law Enforcement Agencies, Supreme Courts and Courts of Arbitration, and Prosecutors General. The Council of National Coordinators of SCO Member States (CNC) is in charge of coordinating interaction within the SCO framework. The Organisation has two permanent bodies – the Secretariat in Beijing and the Regional Counter- Terrorism Structure (RCTS) in Tashkent. SCO Secretary-General and RCTS Executive Committee Director are appointed by the HSC for a period of three years.
The Executive Committee of the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is the permanent body of the SCO RCTS based in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
Its main tasks and duties are: to maintain working relations with competent institutions of the member states and international organizations tackling issues of fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism; to assist in interaction among the member states in preparation and staging of counterterrorism exercises at the request of concerned member states, preparation and conduct of search operations and other activities in the field of fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism; to jointly draft international legal documents concerning the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism; to gather and analyze information coming to the RCTS from the member states, along with formation and filling of RCTS data bank; to jointly form a system of effective response to global challenges and threats; and to prepare and had scientific conferences and workshops, assist in sharing experience in the field of fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism.
The Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure operates in accordance with the SCO Charter, the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, the Agreement among the SCO member states on the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, as well as documents and decisions adopted in the SCO framework.
Recently, the SCO RATS has approved a cooperation programme for fight against terrorism, extremism and separatism in 2010-2012 and a draft convention on combating terrorism at the 14th meeting of the SCO RATS Council held in Tashkent. The meeting was attended by representatives of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The peace, stability development in Afghanistan is of the primary importance to the SCO countries. The SCO held a meeting to find a new way out for war-ravaged Afghanistan, which was also attended by representatives of Group of Eight members, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Iran, the United Nations, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. To unravel the imbroglio and cure the Afghan syndrome, the Moscow conference on Afghanistan gave out a specific prescription with comprehensive cooperation from all parties concerned against terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.
It was decided that for drug trafficking, the SCO members and Afghanistan will exchange intelligence, conduct joint operations, extinguish money laundering involved with drug deals, train anti-drug personnel, and amend the legal basis for the prohibition of drug trafficking and precursor chemicals. As for terrorism, the major direction will be on strengthening frontier defense, checking suspected terrorists, conducting joint operations against terrorism, gradually assimilating Afghanistan into the regional counter-terror cooperation within the framework of the SCO, and obtain intelligence from security- threatening terrorist organizations through coordination and collaboration.
As for organized crime, the SCO members will cooperate with Afghan authorities on cracking down on arms dealing and other trans-border organized crimes; exchange of information; assistance in criminal arrests, evidence collection and transfer; studying the feasibility of joint operations and mutual personnel exchange; and improve vocational training programmes of Afghan law enforcement authorities. Moreover, the SCO members agreed to continue bilateral economic and trade cooperation with Afghanistan and play a role in the international efforts to reconstruct the Afghan economy.
Thus, the SCO has become an efficient international platform to discuss measures of assistance for Afghanistan. It has offered itself as an important stage for joint efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.