The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

26-06-2015

With China, Russia, and four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – as its founding members, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one of the world's biggest regional organisations in terms of population represented. To date, the SCO has largely concentrated on regional non-traditional security governance and specifically its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism. But the SCO Charter sets out a broad range of other objectives and areas of cooperation, which go far beyond security concerns and thus bear great potential for further regional integration. The SCO's main achievement thus far is to have offered its members a cooperative forum to balance their conflicting interests and to ease bilateral tensions. It has built up joint capabilities and has agreed on common approaches in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism. However, major shortcomings, such as institutional weaknesses, a lack of common financial funds for the implementation of joint projects and conflicting national interests have prevented the SCO from achieving a higher level of regional cooperation in other areas. A first expansion in SCO membership – expected for July 2015 – driven by new security threats, geostrategic considerations, energy security and the economic interests of current SCO members, is likely both to raise the SCO's regional and international profile and present new challenges.

With China, Russia, and four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – as its founding members, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one of the world's biggest regional organisations in terms of population represented. To date, the SCO has largely concentrated on regional non-traditional security governance and specifically its fight against regional terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism. But the SCO Charter sets out a broad range of other objectives and areas of cooperation, which go far beyond security concerns and thus bear great potential for further regional integration. The SCO's main achievement thus far is to have offered its members a cooperative forum to balance their conflicting interests and to ease bilateral tensions. It has built up joint capabilities and has agreed on common approaches in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism. However, major shortcomings, such as institutional weaknesses, a lack of common financial funds for the implementation of joint projects and conflicting national interests have prevented the SCO from achieving a higher level of regional cooperation in other areas. A first expansion in SCO membership – expected for July 2015 – driven by new security threats, geostrategic considerations, energy security and the economic interests of current SCO members, is likely both to raise the SCO's regional and international profile and present new challenges.