The predecessor of the SCO was the Shanghai Five established in 1996. It united Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Shanghai Five was aimed at military confidence building among member-countries and reciprocal reduction of Military Forces in border regions. In 2001, after the inclusion of Uzbekistan, its sixth member, the newly formed Shanghai Six was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The renewed organization expanded the range of activities. Today the SCO is the organization of diversified and multiformat cooperation, with a growing potential and significance on the international scene. The fight against terrorism, separatism, extremism, across-the-border crime and drug trafficking remain the priority issues for the SCO.
The growing authority of the SCO is confirmed by the intentions of new states to join the organization. In 2004 Mongolia became an observer in the SCO. In 2005 a number of countries of the East (India, Iran and Pakistan) received the same status. On 28 April 2010 Belarus was accepted as a Dialogue Partner in the SCO thus becoming one more link that united the West and the East. Sri Lanka received the same status. Nowadays the SCO covers 60 % of Eurasia. The organization that combines such territorial, human and economic resources, is destined to authority and influence.
Bodies of the SCO
The Council of Heads of State is the supreme decision-making body of the SCO. The council meets annually to define priorities and draws up basic course of activity of the Organization. The states preside by turn, with the cycle of one yearwhich ends with a summit. In 2010 – 2011 Kazakhstan holds the presidency. Since January 1, 2010 the Secretary-General of the SCO is Muratbek Imanaliev (Kyrgyzstan).
The Council of Heads of Government (of Prime Ministers) approves the budget of the Organization, examines and decides the main economic issues in cooperation areas within the framework of the Organization.
The Council of Foreign Ministers addresses the issues of current activity of the Organization, conducts consultations on the international issues that fall within the scope of the Organization. Whenever necessary, the Council makes statements on behalf of the SCO.
Meetings of Heads of Ministries and/or Agencies are held to deal with specific cooperation development issues within the framework of the SCO. Meetings are held in accordance with the decisions of the Council of Heads of State and the Council of Heads of Government (Prime Ministers).
The Council of National Coordinators conducts coordination and administration of current activities of the Organization.
The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the member-states of the Shanghai Convention 15 June 2001 is a permanent body of the SCO.
The Secretariat of the SCO is a permanent executive body. It deals with organizational and technical support of activities of the SCO and drafts annual budget proposals.
The Business Council, the Interbank Association, the Forum and the Youth Council of the SCO are the main working bodies of the SCO. .
The Business Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was established in 2006 in Shanghai. The Business Council is a non-governmental structure. It unites the most authoritative representatives of the business community of the member-states. The basic aim of the Business Council is to expand economic cooperation within the framework of the Organization, to establish direct contacts and dialogue between business and financial communities of the SCO member-states.
The Interbank Association was formed in 2005. It includes: the Development Bank of Kazakhstan, the State Development Bank of China, the Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Russia, the National Bank of Tajikistan, the National Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Uzbekistan. On 14 June 2006, in Shanghai, in the course of the second conference of the Council of the SCO Interbank Association the Settlement and Savings company of Kyrgyzstan became a member.
The aim of the SCO Forum is to provide scientific support to the SCO activities and to developcooperation between research and political centers in the SCO member-states. The Forum carries out joint research projects on the topical issues of the Organization’s agenda, supplies information on the goals and principles of the SCO, broadens ties with scientific and social communities, etc..
The principal task of the Youth Council of the SCO is “cooperation and experience exchange between the representatives of the young generation of the SCO member-states in various spheres of the development of a young personality that would be able to provide the fundamental continuity of the SCO policy and facilitate the implementation of its historic mission”.
Belarus as a Partner of the SCO
For Belarus the dialogue with the SCO is an opportunity to join the inter-regional collaboration projects taking into account the beneficial transit position between the East and the West. For the SCO Belarus provides a gateway to Europe and a booster for the links between the East and West. The Memorandum stipulating the grant of dialogue partner status to Belarus makes mention of a number of mutually beneficial areas for cooperation such as creation of favourable conditions for trade and investments, activation of cooperation in customs issues, partnership in regional and global security, promotion of dialogue on foreign policy issues.
In December 2005 Belarus applied for an observer status in the SCO. As its member-states decided not to accept new members in the near future the Belarusian application was not considered. In 2009 the Belarusian application for a dialogue partner status was approved. The practice of cooperation with the SCO member-states has not been developed yet but the majority of the member-states incline not to make big difference between the Observer and Dialogue Partner statuses.