The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) adheres to the principle of openness and does not intend to direct its actions against any sovereign state. With actively and consistently pursuing dialogue, diplomatic exchanges and cooperation, it strictly observers all the principles inscribed in the United Nations’ Charter such as equality and sovereignty of states, non-intervention in their domestic affairs, respect for territorial integrity, non-aggression, peaceful settlement of disputes, and no use of force. The SCO also abides by the generally and universally recognized norms of international law, aimed at maintaining peace, ensuring security, shielding national sovereignty and valuing the right to constructing one’s path forward for political, socio-economic and cultural development.
The whole structure of SCO is designed to craft multi-lateral partnerships to support sovereign members in coordinating strategies and approaches to solving unrelenting international issues and meeting regional needs. It also provides an opportunity for member-states to focus their efforts on common goals in accordance with amicable principles of voluntary cooperation and equitable distribution of responsibilities.
The SCO strongly believes in the utility of diplomacy for conflict resolution. It strives to play itscontinuous role in support ofan even more prominent coordinating role for the United Nations in international affairs, with special emphasis upon further development of close cooperation with the world organizations.
The common response of the SCO to the rapidly growing threat of extremism is the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism. This convention was adopted in June 2017 at the Summit in Astana. The SCO Convention on Countering Extremism is aimed at advancing security, increasing effective cooperation between authorities and improving the legal framework in this sphere.This document strengthened the international legal framework for countering multiple emerging challenges and threats along with the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, as well as core United Nations instruments, such as the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The SCO has considerably contributed in several special initiatives launched under the auspices of the United Nations in order to enhance the international cooperation in combating common challenges and threats to security. In this regard, a high-level special event titled “The United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Jointly Countering Challenges and Threats” was held in November 2016 in New York. Another event titled “The United Nations and Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Fight against Drugs: Common Threats and Joint Actions”, was held in March 2017 in Vienna with the collaboration of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
In this regard, the SCO is focusing to further develop its core permanent body—the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS). The authorities of SCO member states under RATS managed to prevent 21 terrorist attacks in the planning stages, prevented 650 crimes of terrorist and extremist nature, and neutralized 442 terrorist training camps under RATS coordination.
More than 2,800 members of illicit armed groups, their accomplices, and persons suspected in criminal activity were arrested. Most importantly, 215 people associated with terrorist or extremist organizations were extradited, with many sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Furthermore, 180 suspects were placed on wanted lists, 600 undercover bases with weaponry were revealed, and more than 3,250 improvised explosive devices were confiscated, along with 10,000 weapons, approximately 450,000 pieces of ammunition, and more than 52 tons of explosives.
This point is noteworthy that the SCO is not a military alliance. However, its front-line struggle against terrorist threats demands that it should further develop and enhance mechanisms aimed at complete eradication of terrorist activities. Therefore, the SCO is determined to continue its scheduled anti-terrorist efforts. It is also aiming to strengthen its collaboration in countering radical propaganda and public justification of terrorism, separatism and extremism in mass media and the information space, structuring upon the Agreement on Cooperation in Ensuring International Information Security between SCO Member States.
The SCO, with the collaboration of UN, can further make effective efforts to combat common challenges and threats to security. Both international organizations can mutually draw the framework in order to ensure the comprehensive security by countering terrorism, cyber-terrorism, separatism, extremism, transnational organized crime, and illicit drug trafficking, as well as reinforcing international information security and emergency response.
*Baber Ali Bhatti, Associated with Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad