Shanghai Cooperation Organization
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization that takes non-ideological and non-confrontational posture on regional and global matters. It has currently four observer nations, six dialogue partners and six member states – China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – while India and Pakistan represent, today, two new acceding members. In order to understand the outreach of the SCO, it is of the utmost importance to highlight the fact that with the integration of the new members, the group will bring together half of the Eurasian territory, 45 percent of the planet’s population and 19 percent of global Gross Domestic Product.
In 1996, the organization had started and it was still called upon as The Shanghai Five. Situation which changed after the entrance of Uzbekistan, making the organization’s denomination what it is today. It was first funded as a confidence-building forum to demilitarize borders and strengthen mutual trust, but now it’s goals and tasks have severely augmented.
Hence, the organization’s ongoing interests also includes fighting against the three evils: terrorism, separatism and extremism; the confrontation on illicit narcotics and arms trafficking; and encouraging regional cooperation in politics, trade and economy, environment protection, culture, science and technology, education and energy. The meetings regarding those themes are held on a different city every year, meanwhile the organ’s two permanent headquarters are in Beijing (the secretariat) and in the Uzbek capital Tashkent (the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure-RATS).
Regarding principles, the SCO has adhered to those present in the Charter of the United Nations, and also presents principles of its own. Based on its charter, the organization has the capacity to conclude treaties, as long as those are in accordance with principles such as: mutual respect of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity of States and inviolability of State borders, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs and seeks no unilateral military superiority in adjacent areas.
THE RIGHT TO WATER: A VALUABLE AND INACCESSIBLE NATURAL RESOURCE
One of the SCO’s main area of cooperation, proposed in its charter, embraces environmental management regarding water resources in the region, and implementation of particular joint environmental programs and projects. Bearing this in mind, water management is such an important matter and has such prominence on the organization’s interests that we can clearly see why it represents a complicated subject which affects the region greatly. The present situation consists in resources that are not scarce, given that Central Asia is rich in water, but badly managed. For instance, 90% of the reservoirs are located on the Kyrgyz and Tajik mountains.
Water management in Central Asia has long been a controversial issue. It is a region where major rivers cross international borders – water and energy production are closely intertwined. In 2012, a dispute over water resources risked provoking military conflict amongst the former Soviet republics, due to the plans by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to dam rivers for hydropower projects. Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, depends on the rivers that rise in their neighboring countries to irrigate farmland and it has long been opposed to plans to revive Soviet-era projects to build dams upstream.
The conflict reaches even bigger proportions whilst those rivers are all shared borders in the volatile Ferghana Valley, where the populations whom surround the area are ethnically diverse and likely to be the site of any confrontation between the States. A conflicted Ferghana Valley would likely spark a chain reaction in each state, and none of them have the capacity to deal with the fallout of a popular revolution. For example, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are weak states in different ways, but they all have poverty and political disenfranchisement in common. The risk is growing that people will seek radical alternatives to the current systems they live under.
In fact, the current situation in Central Asia comes to a critic impasse, given that Soviet arrangements must be replaced to new, fair and eco-friendly policies as soon as possible. For example, unlucky choices made by the former government to the area had a terrible outcome: the Aral Sea is quickly drying up, because of a decision to focus on the monoculture of cotton in Uzbekistan – Moscow chose one economic source rather than the other, literally reducing the fishing industry to oblivion. It should be kept in mind that such activity used to be the reason of migration for thousands of Soviets when in its prime.
Moreover, those are only the tip of the iceberg! Come be a part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization next October, during SOI, come quench your thirst for different cultural features and discuss a way to improve quality of life in Central Asia. We are waiting for you!
Daniel César Neves e Silva
Luana Fontes Silva da Cunha Lima
Breno Fabrício da Silva Santos
Gabriel Emídio Guerra Cabral
Joyce de Matos Dantas
Luiza Fernandes de Abrantes Barbosa
Ana Carolina Bezerra Fernandes Rêvoredo
ALBERT, Eleanor. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Available on http://www.cfr.org/regional-security/shanghai-cooperation-organization-charter/p33011 Last access: 12/19/2016
KORZUN, Peter. Shanghai Cooperation Organization: History of Success and Expansion. Available on http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/06/29/shanghai-cooperation-organization-story-success-expansion.html Last access: 12/19/2016
INFO SCO STAFF. SCO starts playing more important role in Asia. Available on http://infoshos.ru/en/?idn=15702 Last access: 12/19/2016
QOBIL, Rustan. Will Central Asia Fight Over Water? Available on: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37755985 Last access: 12/19/2016
THE SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION’S CHARTER, SCO, 2001