by Xinhua writer Wang Lei
BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- In the face of multiple pressing challenges and growing uncertainties across the globe, the 20-year-old Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the world's largest and most populous regional institution, has both the responsibility and the capacity to play a more constructive role in enhancing regional security and pursuing common development.
As leaders of the SCO members -- China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan -- convene via video link on Friday, all eyes are on them to see how they will take the good opportunity to better coordinate and pool their endeavors to tide over the trying times and draw a blueprint for a shared future.
Under the guidance of the Shanghai Spirit, a bedrock principle of the bloc, the SCO countries have rendered each other respect and support, forging a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
After two decades of growth, the organization, now with eight full members, four observer countries and six dialogue partners, has become not only a strong pillar of regional peace and security, but also a major platform to promote cooperation and exchanges on the vast Eurasian landmass.
Its members have been joining forces to fight against the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, bolster trade and economic growth, and advance people-to-people ties.
In 2020, the combined economic size of the SCO countries reached 18.4 trillion U.S. dollars, an 11-fold increase since its founding, while intra-SCO trade jumped eight times to 6.2 trillion dollars over the same period.
People-to-people exchanges have also maintained strong momentum. Back in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of visits between China and other SCO members exceeded 7 million, 3.5 times as many as in 2001.
When the contagious disease broke out in many parts of the world, the SCO members have demonstrated a spirit of solidarity. They have helped each other to control the spread of the coronavirus and safeguard public health, and taken a clear stance against political manipulation of the pandemic.
The 20-year landmark is a new starting point. The organization, which covers three fifths of the Eurasian continent, nearly half of the world's population, and over 20 percent of the global gross domestic product, is looking to work more closely and earnestly to enhance its "three pillars," or the three major cooperation areas of security, economy and people-to-people exchanges.
The SCO members need to maintain close coordination and forge a stronger partnership to safeguard the region's peace and stability, which is also the primary purpose of the organization.
As for the Afghanistan issue, the SCO needs to build consensus and work together with other groups such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, promote reconciliation, help reconstruct the war-torn country, and make sure that the country will not fall into chaos once again.
Another pressing task for the organization is to step up cooperation in public health governance. Its members have to accelerate vaccine distribution and make vaccines more accessible, and strengthen coordination to facilitate the cross-border movements of both people and goods in an orderly and safe manner.
The difficult moment calls for more support and efforts in keeping the global industrial chains running smoothly and building a more open, equitable and inclusive world economy.
To revitalize the hard-hit economy in the throes of a still raging pandemic, the SCO members should firmly stick to multilateralism and openness, facilitate trade and investment, and boost connectivity and integration in the region.
The Belt and Road Initiative has offered a unique chance for the SCO countries to synergize their respective development plans, tap further into their huge potential and rev up practical cooperation.
Last but not the least, it is necessary to increase people-to-people exchanges and enhance mutual understanding within the organization, as flourishing people-to-people exchanges have consolidated public support for the SCO's growth, and will continue to play a key role in its all-round cooperation.
Twenty years ago, in the Chinese city of Shanghai, the six founding members announced the creation of the SCO, ushering in a new era that countries in the region are jointly pursuing security, development and prosperity.
Today, as the world is going through an era of profound changes, it befits its heft and role that the SCO rises to the occasion, forges an even closer community with a shared future, and makes more contributions to the region and the world at large. Enditem