G.A. Shaimergenova, Director of China Studies Centre.


In 2001, the establishment of the new Organization marked not only the beginning of its history but also the emergence of a new model of cooperative security and mutually beneficial cooperation. This development opened up new prospects for the safe growth of states within our region. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has epitomized a novel concept of cooperation and a new format of dialogue, enabling states with diverse socio-political systems and development paths to interact peacefully.


Having existed for three decades, the SCO serves as a reliable platform for strengthening mutual trust and fostering friendly, neighborly relations. It is a cornerstone for expanding multilateral dialogue and enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation. In the context of a complex geopolitical landscape, the SCO has become an influential entity in modern international relations, playing a crucial role in maintaining regional stability.


The unique “Shanghai Spirit,” which is based on the principle of equal voice for each SCO member regardless of the size of its economy, military potential, or international influence, is fundamental to the SCO’s viability. The SCO has become an essential platform for achieving consensus among member countries in addressing common threats and challenges. Throughout the years since its formation, the SCO has followed this spirit in its domestic policy, and in its foreign affairs it has adhered to the principles of openness, non-alignment with blocs, and non-direction against third countries. All these years, the Shanghai Organization has maintained its main purpose – providing a platform for maintaining constructive dialogue and cooperation between countries. More importantly, SCO cooperation implements three global initiatives proposed by China—the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative.


After its historic expansion, the SCO has the opportunity to promote the economic development of its member countries. From the point of view of geography and demography, the 9 SCO states cover more than 60 percent of the Eurasian continent and almost half of the global population, and their total GDP accounts for over 20% of the total world volume.


In the economic dimension, the SCO itself is a huge and still virtually undeveloped sales and consumption market. Economics and joint development are promising vectors for expanding cooperation in the SCO. Building a common security environment, related infrastructure and developing common standards and rules for working in the SCO space (using a combination of the resources of the SCO, the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union) may add dynamics to internal economic cooperation. And the new, expanded geography of the SCO will bring closer the markets of Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Southeast Asia – this will forever change the geo-economics of Central and Southern Eurasia.


According to the Ministry of Trade and Integration of the Republic of Kazakhstan, trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the SCO countries in 2023 amounted to 66.0 billion US dollars, which is 6.8% more than a year earlier.


The new composition of the SCO opens qualitatively new horizons for international positioning for the Organization. The situation in the SCO area of responsibility is quite complex and has entered a process of dynamic changes. Issues of regional security and joint counteraction to terrorist threats will continue to be the focus of attention of the SCO member countries, especially against the backdrop of ongoing internal changes.


During the year of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship, a number of important events took place, in particular, SCO Forums on energy, digital technologies and tourism, meetings of foreign ministers, border agencies, ministers of health and digital development, etc.


Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the SCO is of great importance both for the organization and for the region itself. Having assumed the presidency of the SCO in July 2023, Kazakhstan took advantage of this opportunity to develop cooperation, strengthen regional integration and resolve emerging problems.


One of the most effective tools for uniting countries and peoples is tourism. The SCO space, covering about 50% of the planet’s population, is a huge tourism market, the potential of which has not yet been realized. Kazakhstan is taking comprehensive measures in this direction. Since last year, the Republic of Kazakhstan has introduced a visa-free regime for citizens of India, Iran and China, this will contribute to the development of mutual tourism between our states. During the period of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the SCO, the city of Almaty became the tourist and cultural capital of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The vast expanses of the SCO are the cradle of Eurasian civilization, and the unique “Shanghai spirit,” symbolizing the unity of cultures, is its priceless asset. From time immemorial, the Kazakh land has been a place of intersection of civilizations, interpenetration of traditions and cultures. And today Kazakhstan is ready to make every possible contribution to the preservation and popularization of the common rich spiritual heritage. So, in Turkestan in April of this year. The international conference “The Golden Horde and its Heritage” was held. The initiative to hold the conference was announced by the President of the country at the SCO summit last year.


According to the SCO Secretariat, about 180 different events have been held under the chairmanship of Kazakhstan, and more than 30 documents are being prepared in various areas of cooperation.


President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted that Kazakhstan will make every effort to modernize the Organization and further transform it into a more effective multilateral platform in order to further strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and traditional ties of friendship between the SCO member states.


Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the SCO takes place against the backdrop of growing geopolitical tensions, escalating challenges and threats of exacerbation of smoldering conflicts and the emergence of new ones. In these conditions, Kazakhstan’s proposal, within the framework of the upcoming SCO summit, for the leaders of countries to adopt the initiative on world unity for a just peace and harmony looks very timely.


Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the SCO coincided with a new, important stage in its activities, when through joint efforts the Organization can be taken to a new development trajectory, giving it a new quality and dynamics. In this context, decisions made following the results of the upcoming summit in Astana can become a driver of processes in the Eurasian space and will allow the SCO to make a qualitative leap forward.


The fruitful work of Kazakhstan under its chairmanship is highly appreciated by the international community, and the upcoming summit in Astana will open a new chapter in the history of the Organization.


I believe that China’s policy within the SCO is one of the most important directions of China’s foreign policy. The SCO plays an important role in ensuring regional security and economic development of member countries. Cooperation within the SCO is beneficial not only to China, but also to other member countries. Thanks to trade and economic cooperation, the SCO member countries experience economic growth every year.


Dear forum participants, colleagues and friends.


Today, we have convened at the Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations of the SCO Countries – 2024” to address the critical issue of protecting our countries’ cultural heritage. This subject transcends national boundaries and necessitates our collective attention and cooperation. Our civilizations are rich in history, culture, and traditions that must be preserved and passed on to future generations.


Preserving cultural heritage is not merely about safeguarding the past; it is an essential component of our present and future. Cultural heritage defines our identity, fortifies our national identity, and serves as the foundation for cultural exchange. In the context of globalization, protecting cultural heritage from destruction and loss is of paramount importance.


I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to the World Nomad Games, which will be held from September 8 to 13, 2024, in Astana. The World Nomad Games are international sports competitions featuring ethnic sports based on the traditional games of historically nomadic peoples. These Games are included in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage and aim to develop the ethno-sports and ethno-cultural movement as a heritage of human civilization.


Dear Colleagues, protecting cultural heritage is our shared task and collective responsibility. I am confident that our joint efforts, exchange of experiences, and innovative approaches will enable us to preserve our cultural roots and ensure they remain accessible to future generations.


As a nation at the forefront of the establishment of the SCO, Kazakhstan will continue to enhance its global role, contributing to the strengthening of friendship and good neighborliness within the SCO region.


Thank you for your attention, and I encourage everyone to actively participate in the discussions and cooperation.


June 20, 2024 Astana