Kazakhstan’s SCO Chairmanship: Achievements and Future Directions
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Kazakhstan’s SCO Chairmanship: Achievements and Future Directions

As the chairman of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Kazakhstan hosted the 24th summit of the Council of Heads of State – a major organisation representing over 40% of the world’s population and contributing over $23 trillion to global GDP.

Muhammad Asif Noor.

The Summit was held under the theme “Strengthening Multilateral Dialogue – Striving for Lasting Peace and Prosperity”. During the event, the Astana Declaration was adopted and 25 strategic documents were signed in various areas, including energy, security, trade, finance and information security. A notable event was the formal admission of Belarus as a full member, which expanded the SCO membership to ten countries. Kazakhstan’s chairmanship was marked by significant achievements and strategic progress. The chairmanship has now been handed over to China for the period 2024-2025.

Kazakhstan’s term as SCO Chair was marked by dynamic leadership and a clear vision aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and addressing contemporary global challenges. Under the chairmanship of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the SCO organized some 150 events, including digital forums, tourism, energy, and business conferences. These meetings fostered a solid exchange of ideas and paved the way for significant policy developments and strategic initiatives.

One of the most important achievements of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship was the development and implementation of 60 new strategic documents. They include a counter-narcotics strategy, a comprehensive economic cooperation plan, an environmental protection agreement and an energy cooperation development strategy. These documents are not just bureaucratic achievements, but key frameworks aimed at increasing the SCO’s operational efficiency and strategic influence in key areas.

Kazakhstan’s leaders also emphasized expanding international partnerships, a key aspect of the SCO’s strategy to increase its global influence. The revival of the Special Working Group on Investment Promotion is evidence of this, as it aims to attract and facilitate investment flows between member states.

The economic dimension of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship has seen significant progress. Trade and economic cooperation among SCO member states has seen rapid growth, with trade between Kazakhstan and other SCO members increasing by 6.5% in 2023. During this period, an integrated platform for discussing and approving investment projects was also proposed and developed, and financial support mechanisms based on the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) were also proposed.

Cultural and humanitarian initiatives are another area where Kazakhstan has made significant progress. The launch of projects such as the Spiritual Shrinks of the SCO States and the first international music festival SCO Silk Way are important cultural diplomacy initiatives that have fostered mutual understanding and cooperation.

President Tokayev’s strategic vision for the SCO was also evident in his proposals during the summit. He stressed the importance of strengthening mutual trust and security cooperation, particularly in addressing global crises. Tokayev advocated the development of an agreement on confidence-building measures in the military sphere, focusing on combating terrorism, separatism and extremism. This initiative, consistent with the broader goals of maintaining regional stability and security, was well received by the member states.

The summit also emphasized strengthening cybersecurity, a key area in today’s interconnected world. Kazakhstan proposed developing a solid information exchange mechanism and adopting best practices to ensure the stable functioning of the SCO’s information infrastructure. The approved action plan on international information security is expected to strengthen the region against digital threats and cyberattacks, protecting the interests of member states.

Expanding trade and economic ties remained a top priority, with President Tokayev emphasizing the need for new growth points and a changed development paradigm. Transport connectivity was one of the key areas of focus discussed by Kazakhstan. Building efficient corridors and reliable supply chains is crucial to fostering regional trade and economic integration. The proposal to create efficient corridors and reliable supply chains, in synergy with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (Middle Corridor) and the North-South Trans-Eurasian Corridors, is an important step towards increasing regional connectivity and economic integration.

As the SCO Chairman, Kazakhstan has made significant contributions to upholding the essence of the Shanghai Spirit. The nation’s visionary leadership, embodied by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has greatly strengthened the strategic and operational framework of the SCO. As the SCO looks to the future under China’s leadership, the achievements of the Kazakh Chairman will undoubtedly serve as a benchmark of excellence, leading the organization to even greater heights in the future.

The author is the director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and the Center for Euro-Asian and Central Asian Studies.