The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an international organization founded in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirgizia and Uzbekistan leaders. On July 10th, 2015, start of India and Pakistan entrance procedure was announced. Except for Uzbekistan, other countries were members of the Shanghai Five established in the result of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions and the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions signed by Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, China, Russia and Tajikistan in 1996-1997.

SCO countries cover an area of over 34 million km2, which is 60% of the Eurasia area. Total population of the SCO countries is 2 billion 40 million people (as of 2015), which is half of the planet. China economics is the second world economics in nominal GDP, the first since 2014 in purchasing power parity GDP.

SCO is neither a military block (like NATO for example) nor an open regular security assembly, but holds an intermediate position. Primary SCO tasks are stability and security enforcement in the wide area of the member states, the fight against terror, separatism, extremism, drug traffic, the development of economic cooperation, energy partnership, and also scientific and cultural collaborative engagement.

Prerequisites for Shanghai Cooperation Organization establishment appeared in the 60s, when USSR and China started negotiations to solve territorial arguments. After the demise of the Soviet Union, new negotiation members appeared – Russia and Central Asia countries. After China solved the territorial disputes with neighboring CIS countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia and Tajikistan), there was an opportunity for future development of regional cooperation.

In 1996, the Shanghai Five was formed. Annual summits of the Shanghai Five were held in Moscow (1997), Alma-Aty (Kazakhstan, 1998), Bishkek (Kirgizia, 1999) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan, 2000). By the time the Bishkek summit was held, permanent cooperation mechanisms started to be created: meetings of ministers and expert groups. A new international organization was appearing. There were also national coordinators appointed by each country.

In 2001, a summit was held in Shanghai where five countries-members co-opted Uzbekistan as a member, what caused renaming of the organization into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The first documents signed by SCO members were “Declaration on the Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, “Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism” and “Joint Declaration admitting Uzbekistan as a member of the Shanghai Five mechanism”.

Meeting of the state heads in June of 2002 in Saint Petersburg continued institutional documentation of the SCO. Declaration on Organization Establishment was practically realized in two documents – Declaration of the Heads of the SCO member states and the SCO Charter – as the basic organization documents.

The Moscow summit, held on May 28-29, 2003, resulted in establishment of SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) founded on the basis of the corresponding declaration signed a year before in Saint Petersburg. Heads of the member states discussed issues of the fight against terrorism and extremism with special attention paid to radical organization “Khizb ut-Takhrir”. Among 30 of the signed documents there were procedures for organization bodies functioning – regulation of the Council of Heads of State, the Council of Heads of Government and Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

According to the results of the Moscow summit, SCO organizational period was over and starting from January 2004, it began functioning as a fully valid international structure, having its own working mechanisms, staff and budget.

The Tashkent summit, held in June of 2004, resulted in the Tashkent Declaration, Convention on SCO privileges and immunity and a number of other documents. Organization was enlarged due to admitting Mongolia in the capacity of observer.

The SCO state heads met in 2005 and, apart from a new contract packages, signed the Declaration of the Heads of the SCO member states which secured further consolidation of forces and strengthening of its members’ coordination.

The main documents of the Bishkek summit (August, 2007) were Contract of Long-term Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States, and the Bishkek Declaration of the SCO Member States’ Heads. Presidents of two SCO observer states – Mongolia President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and Iran President Makhmud Akhmadinejad also took part in the forum. Two more observer states of this organization were represented by Pakistan Minister of Foreign Affairs Khurshid Kassuri and India Minister of Oil and Natural Gas Murli Deor.

In 2009, at the meeting in Ekaterinburg, the SCO member state heads made a decision to grant SCO dialogue partner status to Sri-Lanka and Belorussia.

On April 28, 2010, the Memorandum on Granting SCO Dialogue Partner Status to Belorussia was signed.

On June 7, 2012, SCO member state leaders signed also a decision to grant SCO observer status to Afghanistan and SCO dialogue partner status to Turkey.

On July 10, 2015, the procedure started to co-opt India and Pakistan as SCO members.

According to Article 1 of the SCO fundamental document – SCO Charter dated June 7, 2002, primary aims and tasks of the SCO are as follows:

  • Strengthening of mutual trust, friendship and good-neighborliness between the member states;
  • Development of multi-purpose cooperation in order to maintain peace, security and stability in the region, to assist building new democratic, rightful and reasonable political and economic international order;
  • Joint combatting against terrorism, separatism and extremism in all of their aspects, fight against illegal drug and weapon traffic, other types of transnational criminal activity and illegal migration;
  • Encouragement of effective regional cooperation in political, trade-economic, defense, law enforcement, environment protection, cultural, scientific and technical, educational, energy, transport, credit and finance and other fields presenting general interest;
  • Assistance to comprehensive, well-balanced economic growth, social and cultural development in the region by joint activities based on equal partnership for steady increase of level and improvement of member state peoples life conditions;
  • Coordination of approaches during integration into the global economics;
  • Assistance for protection of rights and fundamental human freedoms in accordance with international obligations of the member states and their national law;
  • Maintenance and development of relationship with other states and international organizations;
  • Cooperation in international conflict prevention and their peaceful resolution;
  • Joint problem solving which may arise in XXI century.

The following bodies were formed within the SCO:

  • Council of Heads of State (CHS);
  • Council of Heads of Government (CHG);
  • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA);
  • Conference of Heads of Agencies (CHA);
  • Council of National Coordinators (CNC);
  • Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS);
  • Secretariat – permanently acting administrative body headed by a Secretary General;
  • Interbank Association (IA);

Council of Heads of State (CHS) is the highest SCO organ. It identifies priority areas and basic directions of SCO activities, determines matters of principle concerning SCO internal set-up and operation, decides on matters of principle of SCO cooperation with other countries and international organizations and studies pressing international issues. Regular sessions of the Council of Heads of State are held once a year. The host country of the session of the Council of Heads of State assumes the rotating presidency of the organization. A meeting place is determined, as a rule, according to the (Russian) alphabetical order of the SCO member states. The Council can also make a decision to establish other SCO bodies which shall be realized in additional protocols to the SCO Charter.

Council of Heads of Government (CHG) adopts SCO budget which is formed on the basis of share interest principal, studies and determines the principal matters of cooperation in specific areas within the SCO framework, especially in the economic field. Regular sessions of the Council of Heads of Government are held once a year. The host country Head becomes a chairman of the Council meeting.

Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA) studies and resolves issues of current SCO activities, including preparation work for the meeting of the Council of Heads of State, implementation of SCO decisions, and consultations on international issues. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the host country of the meeting of the Council of Heads of State serves as chairman of the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and may conduct external relations on behalf of the SCO in accordance with the Regulation in the Council operation procedure.

Conference of Heads of Agencies (CHA) is held to study specific questions of cooperation in specialized areas. At present, the meeting mechanism has been established for attorneys general, and ministers of defense, the economy, commerce, transportation and culture as well as heads of law-enforcement, security, emergency and disaster-relief agencies. The Head of the corresponding ministry and/or agency of the host country is appointed as chairman.

Secretariat is SCO's standing executive organ. Its main functions are: to provide organizational and technical support for SCO activities, to participate in the study and implementation of SCO documents, and to put forward suggestions for SCO annual budget-making. The Secretariat is headed by an Executive Secretary authorized by the CHS. The Executive Secretary is appointed by the Council of Heads of State. Member states take turns according to the Russian alphabetical order of their country names to serve a non-consecutive three-year term.

Council of National Coordinators (CNC) is a coordinator and management organ of SCO routine activities and preparation for CHS, CHG and CMFA meetings. It meets at least three times a year. Its chairman is the National Coordinator of the host country of the meeting of the Council of Heads of State and may represent the SCO externally subject to authorization by the chairman of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) is a SCO permanent organ based in Tashkent, which main function is to coordinate SCO member activities against terrorism, separatism and extremism. It has a status of a legal entity and has a right to conclude contracts, purchase movable and immovable assets and administer them, open and maintain bank accounts, bring claims and participate in court trials. These rights are exercised by Director of the RATS Executive Committee on behalf of RATS.

Principal functions of this body are coordination of efforts of all SCO member states in combatting terrorisms, separatism and extremism, development of suggestions regarding the fight against terrorism, collection and analysis of information, generation of database of persons and organizations supporting criminals, assistance in preparation and implementing operational investigations and other activities related to the said above phenomena, maintaining contacts with international organizations. The RATS is composed of the Council and the Executive Committee (permanently acting body). The Council, a decision-making and leading body of RATS, is composed of leading officials of the competent authorities of the member states. Chairman of the Executive Committee is appointed by the Council of Heads of States.

Interbank Association (IA) was founded in the course of Council of Heads of States (CHS) meeting in 2005 as an assistance tool for realization of economic cooperation projects authorized by the SCO states. IA members are Development Bank of Kazakhstan, China Development Bank, Vnesheconombank, the National Bank of Tajikistan, the National Bank of Foreign Economic Activity of Uzbekistan.

Decisions in the SCO bodies are made on the basis of consensus. Procedures for all Shanghai Cooperation Organization bodies were finalized and accepted in 2003 at the Moscow summit. Principal structures of the organization commenced their work in January of 2004, after that this organization functions as a fully valid international organization.

SCO members are India, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, China, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan.

Observer states are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, Sri-Lanka.

SCO has Partnership Agreements with OON, CIS, CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), EEU and ASEAN.


SCO forum

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Forum is a multi-purpose social expert advisory mechanism established for assistance and scientific support of the SCO activities, development of cooperation of scientific research and politological centers of the SCO member states, conducting joint studies on topical issues, explaining tasks and policy of the SCO activities, expanding its relations with scientific and social circles, as well as encouragement of opinion exchange between scientists and experts in the fields of politics, security, economics, ecology, new technologies, in humanitarian and other areas.

The forum builds its activities according to the SCO Charter policy, based on SCO member states’ law and the Regulation. The forum operates close with the SCO Secretariat, Council of National Coordinators and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member states.

The SCO forum was established at the meeting held in Moscow in MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia on May 22-23, 2006. The place of its establishment was not accidental: one of the initiators to create SCO Forum was Alexander Lukin, Director of East Asia and SCO Investigation Center of the MGIMO (U) of the MFA of Russia.

The forum is an analytical structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is a multipurpose expert advisory mechanism established for assistance and scientific support of the SCO activities, development of cooperation in scientific and research and politological centers of the SCO member stated, joint research work on topic SCO issues, explanation of tasks and working principles of SCO activities, expansion of its relationships between scientists and experts in the fields of politics, security, economics, ecology, new technologies, in humanitarian and other areas.

The forum consists of one recognized scientific institution from each SCO member states which are determined according to its internal procedures. These institutions have a status of National Research Center of the SCO. At the present moment the following institutions have the status of National Research Center of the SCO – SCO Forum member: International Institute of Modern Politics (the Republic of Kazakhstan); China Institute of International Studies; Institute of Strategic Analysis and Assessment under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic; East Asia and SCO Investigation Center of the MGIMO (U) of the MFA of Russia; Center of Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan; Institute of Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

SCO Forum principal tasks are:

-       Establishment of relations, experience and research materials exchange between scientific and research, politological centers and higher educational institutions of the SCO members and its observers, other states and organizations showing interest in cooperation with SCO in various fields;

-       Research activities and preparation of analytic and forecast materials, recommendations relating to certain areas of SCO activities aimed to improve efficiency of the Organization;

-       Participation in project expertise within the multipurpose SCO cooperation programs;

-       Preparation and holding of international symposiums, seminars, scientific-practical conferences, “round tables” and other activities on issues which are of interest to the SCO;

-       Publishing research and activities materials conducted under the Forum authority.

The Forum holds annual meetings. National delegations are formed by National Centers consisting of most recognized SCO experts from various institutions of corresponding state. Representatives of SCO Secretariat, MFA and diplomatic representative offices of the SCO member states, expert circles of the observer states, SCO dialogue partners and also representatives of other concerned states are also invited, as a rule, to the Forum meetings. The place to hold the Forum meeting is determined according to the Russian alphabetic order of the names of the SCO member states. Forum chairman during the period from the day the previous forum was over till the day of the next Form meeting is a head of the National Center of the host SCO member state. The Forum chairman represents the Forum at all its levels.

Scientific centers studying the SCO are the following:

  • SCO Research Center of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences;
  • Center of Strategic Problems of Northeast Asia and the SCO of RAS Institute for Far Eastern Studies;
  • Institute of Russian, Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences;
  • Chinese Institute of Modern International Relations;
  • Russian Institute of Strategic Studies;
  • Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
  • Center for Russian and Central Asian Studies of the Fudan University (China);
  • Institute of Social Development of Eurasia of the Development Research Center under the China State Council;
  • Center of Political Studies (Uzbekistan)
  • Center of Russian Studies of the East China Teachers College.


Center for East-Asian and Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies of MGIMO (U) of MFA of Russia

Center for East-Asian and Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies has been established as a member of the Institute of International Relations in January of 2004. Primary activity of the Center is the study of political, economic integrational and other processes in Eastern Asia, including the territory of the Russian Far East, within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization activities.

The following scientific activities were conducted over the last years: round table “Demographic situation and migration policy in the Russian Far East: security, integrational processes, compatriots residing abroad” (December of 2004), “Topical issues of the Russia-China relations and ways of their solving” (December of 2005), all-Russian scientific-practical conference “Russia-China cooperation: Issues and Solutions” (December of 2006), all-Russian scientific-practical conference “Russia and many-sided structures of the Asia-Pacific Region” (December of 2008). Since 2005, annually in autumn, the Center, jointly with Japanese Association of cultural relations with foreign countries, holds in MGIMO the Russian-Japanese conference named “In Search of New Ways of Development in Eurasia” (till 2007 – “Development and Stability in the Northeastern Asia”), in which leading Russian and Japanese scientists and international journalists take part.

Twice the Center for Eastern Asian and SCO Studies was in charge of organizing the Asia-Pacific Region section at Russian International Studies Association (RAMI) Conventions. Leading specialists from scientific and practical organizations of Russia and many countries worldwide take active part in the activities prepared by the Center.

In 2006, the Center for Eastern Asian and SCO Studies initiated the establishment of the Russian Community Expert Advisory Council for SCO consisting of expert specialists on SCO issues from leading Russian scientific and practical organizations. MGIMO President, member of the RAS Torkunov A.V. was appointed as the Council Chairman. The Council holds annual meetings where SCO development issues and SCO Forum activities issues are discussed, and Russian position at a regular SCO Forum meeting is negotiated.