The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has become a key force in shaping regional stability and global cooperation. The evolution of the SCO underscores its commitment to promoting peace, security and mutual prosperity among its member states and beyond.


Founded in 2001, the organization has grown from six members to a robust platform of nine member states, three observer states and 14 dialogue partners. Its main goals focus on strengthening security cooperation, combating extremism, strengthening economic ties and promoting cultural exchange. Over the years, the SCO has played an important role in addressing common challenges faced by its members, from terrorism to economic development.


The SCO, as a growing organization in Eurasia, provides an opportunity for Kazakhstan and other middle powers to advance their initiatives, which can be supported by larger countries.


Kazakhstan’s goal is to find directions for the development of the SCO and for the implementation of specific projects. As Kazakh Foreign Minister Murat Nurtleu noted: “The upcoming negotiations and decisions are intended to open a new milestone in the history of the organization, and we reaffirm our commitment to common efforts to maintain peace and ensure sustainable development.”


Expectations from the summit: SCO+, strategic planning and international attention


Considering the importance of the SCO for Kazakhstan and other countries, expectations from the upcoming summit are especially high. The summit will be held under the motto “Strengthening multilateral dialogue – striving for sustainable peace and development.” Preparations for the summit were extensive: Kazakhstan, as chairman, held more than 80 events on the topics of economic development, environmental issues, and cultural exchanges. The summit will review key documents, including the draft Astana Declaration and initiatives to strengthen unity and peace.


The event will be attended by heads of state and government of Kazakhstan, India, Iran, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Qatar, UAE, Turkiye and Turkmenistan, as well as the SCO Secretary General and the Executive Director of the Regional Anti-Terrorism SCO structures. The UN Secretary General and heads of such international organizations as the CIS, ECO, CICA, CSTO, EEC and IOSB are invited to the Summit.


During the meeting, it is planned to consider a wide range of topical issues that will further strengthen the role of the SCO in solving current international and regional problems.

The parties attach great importance to strengthening the cooperation strategy and implementing specific projects. The SCO development strategy for 2025–2035 includes the formation of a multipolar world order, from South and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Europe. New centers of global and regional influence, such as the SCO and BRICS, and Eurasian security will respond to the challenges of our time, including the “three forces of evil.” The discussion and adoption of the Cooperation Program to Counter Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2025–2027, the SCO Anti-Drug Strategy for 2024–2029 and the Action Program for its implementation are expected. There is also likely to be mention of the creation of a UN Regional Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Central Asia and Afghanistan.


The fight against terrorism will have a special place at the summit. President of Kazakhstan K. Tokayev, at a meeting with the security secretaries of the SCO states, noted that last year 183 regional and local conflicts were registered, which is 30 percent more than before. He emphasized that against the backdrop of growing global conflicts, the threat of international terrorism is intensifying. Contributing to international peace and the safe coexistence of states is a priority in the SCO.


Cooperation in the field of countering terrorism and extremism is carried out at a multi-layered level thanks to the interaction of various organizations with the participation of many countries. On May 16, the President of Kazakhstan met with the secretaries of the security councils of the Central Asian countries. This was the first meeting of this level, which is aimed at combining efforts to prevent external and internal threats, as well as to develop the necessary response measures. Later, on May 24, a meeting of the heads of security agencies and special services of the CIS countries took place, at which attention was also paid to issues of cooperation in the fight against terrorism.


Interests of Kazakhstan in the development of the organization: creation of strong ties and indivisibility of security in Eurasia.


Thus, the upcoming summit becomes an important platform for Kazakhstan in realizing its strategic interests. One of the key concepts in Kazakhstan’s foreign security policy is the indivisibility of security in Eurasia. President of Kazakhstan K. Tokayev, at a meeting with the secretaries of the Security Councils of the SCO member states, emphasized that this concept should form the basis of the strategic task of forming a security belt along the perimeter of the SCO.


He emphasizes that in the modern world it is impossible to ensure one’s own security by causing damage to other countries. This is part of Kazakhstan’s broader strategy to support stability and security in the region.


Against the backdrop of several conflicts among SCO members, this organization is a platform for discussing key problems and trying to find ways to solve them. It is urgent now to ensure the security of states through whose territory transport routes pass against the backdrop of deteriorating opportunities for maritime trade. The very fact of blocking the passage of goods through the Red Sea forces both large transport companies and states to diversify transport routes. Therefore, land transport corridors in Eurasia are becoming the “blood vessels” of economic development of the countries of the continent.


For this reason, ensuring the safe operation of transport corridors is one of the priorities of the SCO countries. Another factor pushing Eurasian countries to develop land transport routes is the deterioration of relations with the Atlantic bloc. So, just recently it became known that the EU will introduce additional tariffs of 38.1% on electric vehicles supplied from China starting next month, which will lead to an increase in the cost of selling cars in Europe for companies such as Chinese BYD Co. and Tesla Inc. The United States has already imposed tariffs on electric vehicles, solar panels, semiconductors, and batteries from China. In this regard, the development of relations with the countries of Eurasia becomes key for China; accordingly, Kazakhstan’s strategic goal is to create conditions for the safe functioning of transport corridors that connect China and Russia with other parts of Eurasia, as well as Russia and China themselves, if the energy sector is affected. Also, the creation of a platform for security cooperation is a key interest of Kazakhstan in the SCO, along with other influential players in the region.


At the same time, other promising and interesting areas of cooperation are opening for Kazakhstan, such as economic cooperation and transport routes, ensuring energy security and strengthening cultural and humanitarian ties. The key interests of Kazakhstan in these areas can be defined as the following:


  1. The SCO is actively working to increase regional trade and improve market access. For example, Kazakhstan, which chairs the SCO in 2023-2024, is paying special attention to improving transport corridors, such as the Western Europe-Western China International Transit Corridor and the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route.


  1. Among the strategic goals of the SCO is the creation of a free trade zone and the development of financial cooperation, including the use of national currencies in payments between member countries. This helps strengthen economic ties and reduce dependence on external currencies. In this context, it is interesting for Kazakhstan to study alternative types of international payment systems due to the constant threats of sanctions from the West.


  1. Energy security is a priority for Kazakhstan. The country calls for coordination of efforts to ensure the energy transition and decarbonization of the economy and industry within the SCO. Kazakhstan proposed to adopt the SCO energy strategy, which would emphasize the importance of sustainable energy development in the region.


  1. Kazakhstan pays significant attention to cultural and humanitarian cooperation. During the presidency of the SCO, the city of Almaty was declared the cultural and tourist capital of the organization. Various events were held with the participation of famous cultural and scientific figures from SCO member countries.


Prospects for further development of the SCO


The SCO’s prospects look promising, given the current initiatives and plans of its member countries. Strengthening economic ties and developing transport and logistics potential remain key areas, in addition to countering the “three types of evil.” The SCO plans to create an Investment Fund, which will facilitate the implementation of large infrastructure projects and strengthen investment synergy.


Energy security also occupies an important place on the SCO agenda. The adoption of the Energy Strategy is aimed at coordinating efforts to ensure the energy transition and decarbonization of the economies of the participating countries. Kazakhstan and China are actively developing energy projects, as evidenced by significant investments and increased cooperation. Over the past years, efforts have been aimed at creating a single energy market and developing joint projects in the energy sector.


In 2023, SCO energy ministers signed a joint statement on expanding cooperation, including the development of new fuels and modeling in the energy sector. This document aims to develop an inclusive energy policy that brings together developing and fuel-consuming countries.


One of the key projects is the creation of the SCO Energy Club to coordinate national energy policies and discuss existing joint projects. Although the club is primarily an advisory body, its creation demonstrates the growing importance of energy cooperation within the SCO. These efforts also aim to develop new energy technologies and expand the use of renewable energy sources. For example, Kazakhstan is actively promoting the use of such sources as part of its long-term strategy to achieve carbon neutrality.


Digitalization and innovation play an important role in the future of the SCO. The organization will continue to promote the development of digital technologies and reduce the digital divide. So, February 1 of this year. At the site of the SCO Digital Forum in Almaty, under the chairmanship of the Kazakh side, the first meeting of the Management Commission of the SCO Pool of Technoparks and Innovation Clusters was held. The event was attended by heads and representatives of leading technology parks of the SCO member states, as well as the SCO Secretariat. Thus, the work on innovative development and technology exchange among the participating countries has begun.


The fight against terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking remains a priority for the SCO. The organization will strengthen its anti-terrorism structures and introduce new measures to counter these threats, including conducting international actions and operations.


The SCO continues to expand, attracting new countries and strengthening cooperation with other international organizations such as BRICS and the EAEU. An important aspect is to promote the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan, which is necessary to ensure regional security.


These prospects show the SCO’s commitment to multilateral development and strengthening cooperation at various levels, which allows the organization to adapt to modern challenges and maintain stability and development in the Eurasian region.


Looking to the future, the SCO has the potential to play an even greater role in shaping global governance and promoting a more inclusive international order. By deepening collaboration in areas such as cybersecurity, public health and sustainable development, the organization can address pressing global challenges and contribute to a world defined by stability and prosperity.


In conclusion, the SCO represents a beacon of hope and cooperation in an increasingly interconnected but unpredictable world. Through the collective efforts of its member states, the SCO is poised to continue making significant contributions to global peace and stability, setting an example for multilateral cooperation and diplomacy in the years to come.


The results of the upcoming SCO summit in Astana will contribute to the further development of the organization, ensuring long-term peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.


China Studies Centre