Challenges facing the SCO in the process of its expansion« Back
The April conference in Sochi, attended by prominent public figures and experts of many countries showed significant interest in the Eurasian community to strengthen the prospects of the SCO as a multidisciplinary organization.
The debate at the conference, as well as the results of the Tashkent summit, celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the SCO, is pushing us to reflect on its future prospects.
The SCO assessments should primarily come from the fact that it is one of the few international organizations, the existence of which attracts constant attention. This is a developing and growing organism, the potential of which is in the early stage of disclosure. Such an approach to the SCO as a young association, is only gaining strength. Therefore, it is the perspective some design flaws of this approach should be assessed, contradictions and vagueness of decisions adversely affecting its efficiency. With this understanding, it becomes clear that the high expectations of rapid performance are clearly not justified, and all sorts of statements about the prospects of the SCO as a military and political alliance with the anti-American orientation is harmful.
SCO's prospects depend on how the Organization is be able to self-renew and constructive self-criticism. Including expert community’s recommendations, this is interested in its cultivation.
SCO Development Strategy until 2025, approved in Ufa, contains no major problems mobilizing and gives targets for the new phase of progress. The final documents of the Tashkent summit suggest that the activities of the Organization at this stage will follow basically the inertial scenario and activity rhythm will slow down.
The approved Plan of Action in Tashkent on 2016-2020 on the implementation of this Strategy is listed in the most general terms what the SCO is already engaged in, without any details and additions. This applies, in particular, and points the need to improve the efficiency of the Organization. The informational message after a meeting of Council of Heads of the SCO member states approximately 20 paragraphs were inserted, almost literally reproduce provisions of the Tashkent Declaration. It is not seen significant new orders for the elaboration of certain issues and documents.
How to evaluate it – as good or bad?
It seems that, most likely, there can be no definitive estimates, since the transition to the development of a “wait and see” stage, or even a “temporary pause” is inevitable with the rapid construction of any organization.
The impulse to the further movement can be obtained either by increasing the efficiency of internal capacity, either through the adoption of new members. However, both of these options to implement the SCO are not easy, because the organization has developed internally “multipolar” without clearly defined single center. It was conceived and built as a regional, concentrated on the problems of Central Asia, and in the course of the enlargement process became the union, including large geopolitical space beyond Eurasia. In such circumstances, the inertial scenario, proposed by Tashkent documents, it seems quite reasonable choice, allowing evolving more balanced, avoiding fatal mistakes in relations between the States founders and new members.
Russia supports the expansion of the SCO and enhancing its international prestige. On the eve of his visit to China, which took place immediately after the Tashkent summit, the President of Russia V.V. Putin, in an interview with news agency "Xinhua", published in the "People's Daily" June 24, 2016, suggested that the SCO is becoming a larger organization that has gained worldwide importance.
How realistic are the tasks? Let us try at least to identify and profile that should be taken into account a balanced movement of the SCO.
Firstly, whether the SCO is ready in its current state to “step over” the previously-defined tasks associated with Central Asia and reach a decision on other countries' security issues? How, then, to act so the Central Asian states - founders of the SCO do not feel offended and not to start defending originally acquired political position in the organization?
Secondly, how long will India and Pakistan maintain agreement with the disproportionately low on SCO criteria share of their contributions to the budget of the SCO and personnel quotas in its permanent organs, which are defined in the signed in Tashkent documents and that equalize the two countries, despite the obvious differences in their economic potentials?
Thirdly, in the case of satisfaction of the Iranian proposal, will the religious factor affect the nature and quality of working relationships - the representatives of the two branches of Islam - Sunni and Shia?
It seems that the fascination with the number of observers and dialogue partners, their originality and geographical spread may cause reproaches of the SCO “promiscuity”. The commitment of the Organization of the principle of availability should not leave omnivorous impression that its doors are open to all without discrimination. Moreover, it is not clear what the critical mass of membership can withstand without the SCO in order not to lose a consolidating force of the founding countries and not to crack.
Since the main substantive significance of the present phase of the SCO development is seen in the adaptation of the Organization, adapted to work in the mode of replenishment of its basic structure and expansion of the list of participants, it is important to focus on the formation of its “soft power” tools through the development and adoption of the Strategy for Public Diplomacy.
The main objective of the Strategy of public diplomacy is to promote favorable external and internal conditions for the dynamic development and comprehensive modernization of the Organization. Strengthening its role as one of the leading centers of power influence in the world is also very important. Similar goals can be achieved through the active involvement of civil society institutions, carriers of various ethnic, religious, social, cultural, participants of the communication within free communication and informal communication, dialogue and negotiation, reaching agreements on the interpersonal, intergroup, international, regional, inter-civilization and global levels.
Today, the SCO has, in fact, represents the interests of the majority of people that, on the one hand, allows claiming moral leadership in the world, and on the other increasing its responsibility for the fate of mankind. It is possible that in the framework of the SCO, we will be able to develop and offer humanity an alternative western creative idea of the world.
In conclusion, I would like to express the hope that a more active and purposeful policy of the SCO in the field of public diplomacy will contribute to the stabilization of the socio-economic and political situation in the region, countering the emergence of potential issues of tension and conflicts in the space of the Organization, the creation of favorable external and internal conditions for development of all member countries.
Cherniavsky Stanislav, doctor of historical sciences, professor, director of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at MGIMO