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Civil diplomacy empowers Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Author  :  ZHA JIANGUO, XIA LI and CHEN LIAN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2020-08-28

SHANGHAI—Scholars proposed innovating with civil diplomacy to consolidate the good-neighborly and cooperative societal basis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at a webinar in mid-August on the organization’s future amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Affected by the pandemic, many countries have suffered severe socio-economic crises, and the lives of millions of people have undergone enormous changes.

Vladimir Norov, SCO secretary general, said that we must prevent attempts to divide the international community by politicizing the pandemic. The SCO attaches great importance to civil diplomacy, and will continue to carry out various cultural exchange activities to strengthen friendly interaction among SCO member states, observer states and dialogue partners. The organization will continue to promote dialogue among civilizations, overcome political differences, oppose populism and protectionism, and make itself a model of mutually beneficial cooperation in a complex and ever-changing world.

The SCO should be a model for building a “health” community of shared future, said Jiang Feng, Party secretary of Shanghai International Studies University. “Health” not only indicates medical and health cooperation literally, but also conveys a normal, rational and objective psychology.

“I believe that through sincere dialogue and discussion, all parties can provide new concepts and new ideas to support people-to-people bonds within the framework of the SCO,” Jiang concluded.

Civil diplomacy is of great significance to global anti-pandemic efforts, humanistic cooperation and common development, said Cui Li, vice chairman of the SCO’s Chinese Committee on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. After the outbreak of the pandemic, the SCO member countries have carried out many useful attempts and vivid practices in the field of civil diplomacy, making important contributions to consolidating friendship and strengthening the foundation for cooperation.

T.C.A. Raghavan, director general of the Indian Council of World Affairs, said that civil diplomacy can play an important role in enhancing cooperation and coordination in the SCO. Economic and regional connectivity are also areas where the SCO can play a vital role, but its huge potential has yet to be fully realized.

The “Shanghai Spirit,” the founding values of the SCO, features mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development.

The SCO, as an internationally influential organization, has played an important role in maintaining regional peace and stability, the process of world multipolarization, and global governance, said Sergei Sanakoyev, deputy chairman of the Russian-Chinese Friendship Society. Countries should carry forward the Shanghai Spirit, respect cultural diversity, respect the values and cultures of different countries, and promote exchange among civilizations, while containing some countries’ attempts to undermine world peace.

In addition, economic and trade cooperation should be expanded to enhance the well-being of the people of all countries and accelerate the alignment of national strategies and outlines including the Belt and Road initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, Sanakoyev said. All countries should work together to establish a just and stable global order based on respect and peace.

In the post-pandemic era, global governance will face more challenges. Economic globalization and regional integration will be hindered, and some global multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization will face more difficulties.

Sun Zhuangzhi, director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the policies and propositions of SCO member states on international affairs reflect the voice of justice. Much of their cooperation goes beyond the regional scope and is of exemplary significance. As such, the SCO will make greater contributions to improving global governance in the post-pandemic era.

Hamayoun Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Council on China, said that while the pandemic has brought unprecedented disasters to all countries and a huge impact on the principles of multilateralism, it also further proves the importance of enhancing cooperation under the framework of the SCO. SCO member states should support each other and take coordinated actions to deepen cooperation in the fields of healthcare and food safety. Countries should jointly promote the development of digital technology under the framework of the SCO, share new information and technologies in a timely manner, and reduce the pandemic’s negative economic fallout.

Cui noted that 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the SCO’s establishment. China is willing to work with all parties to carry forward the “Shanghai Spirit,” boost people-to-people exchanges, and promote cooperation among women, children, youth, media and think tanks in various countries. With the support of new technologies such as big data, remote meetings and 5G, in line with the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, we will facilitate multilateral mutually beneficial cooperation, share poverty reduction plans and experience, and achieve common development.

Editor: Yu Hui

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