The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the UAE

Topic: International Organizations
Words: 2621 Pages: 10


Shanghai Cooperation Organization requires sufficient funds to create a regional security foundation but should consult legal counsel on the suitability of being a guarantor of the security and interests of the UAE.


The enduring association of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization originally addressed the border security interest of five member countries. The 1991 dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR) created opportunities and challenges for certain countries (MacHaffie, 2021). Russia got particularly hit by the political situation, negatively affecting its foreign policy. China faced limited challenges and rapidly investigated the opportunities created by the newly independent states. Kocamaz (2019) asserts that agreements and bilateral visits between China and Central Asian states laid the foundation for a cooperation order in the region. The early stages of the shared security and border concerns lead to additional cooperation on demarcation. Consequently, recognition of these issues contributed to multilateral cooperation security initiatives.

The five-member countries started comprehensive discussions on building measures for reducing armed forces and strengthening the confidence of concerned countries. In 1996, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia formed the Shanghai Five by signing the Agreement on Strengthening Confidence Building Measures in the Military Sphere in Border Regions to resolve border demarcation problems (MacHaffie, 2021). The original aim of the formation was to counter tensions between countries sharing international borders following the 1991 USSR collapse (Stefano, 2020). In 1998, the Almaty Declaration was issued, which expressed the desire of the Shanghai Five to expand activities across Central Asia and security cooperation (Khan et al., 2020). The Almaty meeting changed the organization’s purpose: the five delegations agreed to cooperate on widening cooperation to transport, energy, and other economic problems plus combating drugs and weapon trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime.

Gradually, the Shanghai Five evolved into a multidirectional organization with the potential of addressing issues in Central Asian countries. During this time, Russia still faced economic challenges, warning other Soviet republics to emulate it. As MacHaffie (2021) highlight, China had clear foreign policy objectives and a becoming economy, and thus, it took the initiative to lead the Shanghai Five alliance. Following the Uzbek-Kyrgyz conflict, the Shanghai Five took part in establishing the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) (Khan & Sultana, 2021; MacHaffie, 2021)). The five countries identified Uzbekistan as a potential partner since it bordered Afghanistan and four Central Asian countries, plus actively campaigned against Islamic radicals. MacHaffie (2021) state that Uzbekistan accepted the invitation to join the Shanghai Five in 2001, which then evolved into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). SCO’s primary aim was to eliminate international terrorism, religious extremism, and ethnic separatism: the three evils (MacHaffie, 2021). SCO could have been named the Almaty Cooperation Organization if Moscow could have been willing and able to Therefore, the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the formation of the SCO on a basis pf security and economic cooperation.

Despite the common interests, rich diversity among the member countries has influenced SCO’s decision-making and development approach. The role of SCO on whether to remain as a political-military forum or develop into an interactive business organization remains unclear. Plus, transitioning from a security to an economic alliance demands legal documentation plus a high level of commitment, trust, and agreement. In this context, Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict and extremism increased illegal immigration and drug trafficking, plus the need for informed communication systems and trust include some of the issues affecting SCO internally while externally dealing with increasing foreign direct investment, expansion, and engagement with non-member countries (Kocamaz, 2019; Lanteigne, 2018; MacHaffie, 2021). SCO’s dynamic yet complex environment creates tension among member countries and an environment for addressing organizational challenges.


The foundation of the SCO partly contributed to the greater stability and security in Central Asia. In 2002, SCO formally defined its goal, as regional security cooperation to reduce military activity among countries that shared borders (MacHaffie, 2021). MacHaffie (2021) highlight that the group appointed its first secretary general in 2003 to begin discussions about strengthening cooperation to meet common challenges. Between 2005 and 2006, the SCO granted observer status to Iran, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan, amplifying the organization’s presence in Central Asia (Khan et al., 2020; MacHaffie, 2021). The expansion led to the signing of the 2007 Long-Term Good Neighborliness Friendship and Cooperation to reiterate SCO’s plan in promoting economic and social cooperation (Yadgarov, 2021). Most recently, the SCO and the United Nations made a cooperation declaration with SCO accepting an observer’s seat at the UN’s General Assembly.

SCO as an Independent Organization

The SCO took a path toward counterweighing NATO and the United States throughout the 21st century and assuming a similar role in Central Asia. Following the extended presence of the United States in Afghanistan, SCO members used their alliance to strengthen economic cooperation to limit further expansion (MacHaffie, 2021). In essence, the SCO only wanted a Central Asian presence in Afghanistan and successfully evicted the United States forces in Kyrgyzstan. The United States presence in central Asia could potentially cause tension between SCO member states. Khan and Sultana (2021) confirm that the eviction allowed SCO to take more responsibility for growing its military presence in Afghanistan. Central Asia is known for its rich energy resources in which China seeks dominance. However, the eviction of the American military questions SCO’s ambition, making it anti-Western.

Apart from China, Moscow wanted to influence decision-making in Central Asia, and the SCO showed that forming multilevel cooperation does not require NATO or the United States. For these reasons, the SCO showed limits of their position in Central Asia to exclude western influence (Khan & Sultana, 2021). The United States primarily interacted with Central Asia for security reasons and democratization. Despite their interest, the SCO rejected giving the United States an observer’s seat because their political and economic on global trade failed to align with SCO’s agenda. The SCO granted observer status to countries in Central Asia and delegates at the 2007 summit agreed that maintaining security and stability in Central Asia depended solely on regional influence (MacHaffie, 2021). The SCO required Foreign Direct Investment from wealthy nations to realize its economic goal. Although Russia and China’s gross domestic profit of 740 billion and 2 trillion dollars, respectively, exceeds that of other SCO members, neither country can largely invest in enhancing SCO’s status. Other economies like the United States can help meet SCO’s development goals but could weaken Russia and China’s influence in Central Asia.


Member countries of the SCO fall within three categories; full members, dialogue partners, and observers. Admitting more members raise a political concern for SCO and thus, the number of formal members still stands at six. In terms of enlargement, SCO conflicts on which countries to admit or upgrade to ensure the organization’s chief mandates get achieved. For instance, Russia supported India’s request for full membership but other SCO members wanted to grant the same membership to Pakistan. Afghanistan submitted a request as an observer state but its alliance with the United States and NATO proves problematic since it can increase the influence of the United States in SCO (Khan & Sultana, 2021; MacHaffie, 2021). Conversely, raising member status for countries like Iran has given SCO access to vast energy reserves. The SCO must first address legal issues involving expansion and improve coordination among existing member states on admitting and upgrading potential members. Sensitivity concerning expansion may delay SCO’s development and miss the opportunity of exploiting available resources. Therefore, an issue arises on whether the SCO should limit expansion to adjacent Central Asian countries or broaden the exchange of economic and political opinions.

The SCO’s agenda includes combating the three evils: terrorism, separatism, and extremism. However, the SCO faces the challenge of acquiring the necessary resources to combat terrorism, trafficking, and other criminal activities (Khan & Sultana, 2021; Lanteigne, 2018; MacHaffie, 2021). Maintenance of delineated border will help results in corresponding trust levels between members and stronger cooperation. The creation of a sophisticated database could increase cyber security presence to help destroy networks using the Internet for illegal activities. Additionally, the exchange of information between regional networks can complement SCO’s expansion and military cooperation to aid in counterterrorism strategies. Another proposal is introducing relevant regional policies focused on the exchange of strategies to strengthen Central Asia’s economic and political status.

Political and economic developments within the organization create an opportunity for enhanced security and trade for member states. However, Central Asian states fear that China holds significant economic power and Russia remains cautious of China’s influence within its territories. Rab and Zhilong (2019) highlight SCO’s plan on building transport networks, including the construction of highways and pipelines; investing in mining to expand resource cooperation; build and legal foundation to ensure economic stability and integration. The organization still faces economic challenges like accessing global markets and increasing regional trade. The use of better communication technology between members can help facilitate political negotiations and modify SCO’s principles of decision-making for joint programs. The development of a Free Trade Agreement could further ensure a smooth flow of resources to enhance economic activities and regional integration.

SCO governments have contrasting political mandates, leading to inefficient decision-making. Member countries must manage bilateral tensions threatening the organization’s agreement implementation quality and individual agendas. The time taken to ratify or sign agreements makes SCO’s corporate governance system appear ineffective. Limited resources and lack of commitment make the implementation of agreements and declarations difficult (MacHaffie, 2021). Different financial and economic resources among members also challenge timely and effective decision-making. Therefore, the SCO should develop policies that define its agendas succinctly. Given that none of SCO is democratic, policy implementation must be conducted pragmatically and flexibly for substantive outcomes.

SCO Policies

SCO’s military nature has received much scrutiny but the organization has made significant policy developments to move toward security cooperation. For one, SCO combined political and military events such that the Head of States took part in watching SCO military activities, demonstrating the growing significance of security in Central Asia. Secondly, the SCO introduced military assistance with respect to the 2007 Peace Mission, which, however, revealed security policy aspects of military assistance (MacHaffie, 2021; Rafi, 2018). The third policy focuses on cooperation between the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the SCO to reinforce SCO’s military components. During the 2006 Shanghai Summit, SCO members further affirmed the need for a responsive security mechanism to enhance combat readiness and strengthen regional conflict prevention.

Furthermore, members and observers of the SCO increasingly engage in energy security policies. For instance, the Russian-led energy cooperation has helped distribute supplies to Central Asian countries. For example, in 2005, China and Russia agreed to increase oil exports to China through the construction of oil pipelines from Russia to China (Na-Xi et al., 2019; MacHaffie, 2021). However, SCO countries wanted to be independent of Russia’s energy and focus on other potential partners. For example, China cooperates with Kazakhstan on energy exploration and the two countries opened the Atasu-Alashankou pipeline. The Shanghai Summit further led to a joint SCO energy policy to increase cooperation among energy producers and consumers with the aim of achieving energy security.

Nonetheless, SCO’S framework is broader than the energy and security focus. For instance, the SCO addresses economic globalization by establishing free trade. The organization believe that fighting poverty or economic cooperation will eliminate terrorism, extremism, and separatism. In 2003, SCO launched a programme to improve cooperation on telecommunication, environmental protection, and resource utilization, as Sadovnikova et al. (2019) mention. Furthermore, investment and trade place emphasis on building infrastructure and harmonizing tariffs. Between 2004 and 2006, the SCO established several institutions, including SCO Development Fund and Business Forum, to enhance economic ties through quality control, e-commerce, and customs (Parepa, 2020). Joint social, economic, political, and environmental policies depend on SCO’s political will multilaterally. However, Russia and China compete in terms of size, military power and economic strength, making cooperation between the two key players challenging.


Guarantees fall within the UAE Civil Code purview, 1985 Federal Law No. 5. As per Article 1057, guarantees refer to joining the guarantor’s liability with that of the principal debtor. The Civil Code provides that “the obligation of a guarantor is incidental to the obligation of the principal debtor. Any discharge of the principal debtor’s obligations may, therefore, result in the guarantee no longer being valid; if the principal debtor becomes bankrupt, the creditor must prove its debt in the bankruptcy, failing which it will lose its right to claim against the guarantor to the extent of any sums which the creditor might have received had it proved such debt in the bankruptcy; and upon discharge of the relevant debt, the creditor must deliver to the guarantor all necessary papers to enable the guarantor to exercise its right of recourse against the principal debtor” (Legal Frameworks of Guarantees under UAE Law, 2017).

Following UAE Civil Code, SCO should consider policy change or modification. The SCO has made significant steps in intensifying security cooperation but closer military cooperation is necessary. Several events between 2006 and 2007 showed the need for prompt response to conflict prevention mechanisms and joint military exercises (Khan & Sultana, 2021; MacHaffie, 2021). For example, increasing military cooperation with CSTO can help SCO move toward a fully developed security organization. In addition, the SCO should place emphasis on energy security as part of its security policy. According to Na-Xi et al. (2019), the SCO developed the Energy Club in in 2007to strengthen energy security. However, multilateral and military cooperation among SCO members raises issues on energy security. For instance, China is making efforts to gain precedence in the energy sector threatening Russia’s position as a major gas exporter in central Asia. The SCO should task itself with increasing diversity among its members to establish common and strategic energy and economic interests.

The SCO should further incorporate divergence by considering decision-making outside organizational summits. Partnering with regional security organizations increases the deliberations of agencies. Central Asian countries consider the SCO as a primary guarantee for survival and divergence helps take account of conflicting stances creating a wider range of agendas to identify areas of improvement (Lanteigne, 2018). China and Russia fight for regional primacy and SCO’s support for one country threaten the development of other member countries. Through divergence, SCO can facilitate innovation across member states for strategic reinvention and facilitate innovation. Changes in certain governance practices at SCO can increase the importance of other member states and Central Asian countries.


The dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics created opportunities and challenges for countries in and around Central Asia. Consequently, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was formed to achieve greater social and economic stability in Central Asian countries. Bilateral agreements between China and Central Asian countries widened operations to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism. Given SCO’s need for political dominance in Central Asia, the organization rebelled against membership from non-central Asian states. However, China and Russia’s fight for regional primacy economically and politically negatively affected SCO’s development. Plus, despite much progress, SCO’s capability outside social and economic focus brings into question certain flaws of the organization’s efficiency.

In response to organizational challenges, the SCO developed certain policies, including energy, security, and economic policies focused on meeting SCO’s agenda. Among SCO’s efforts, the Peace Mission helped provide military assistance to allow economic globalization in Central Asia. However, SCO’s policy framework largely focused on energy and security. The company should incorporate divergence to facilitate innovation and create more opportunities for member states. Additionally, increasing military cooperation could help SCO reduce terrorism and other illegal activities that limit development in regions within and around Central Asia. Generally, the SCO should change its policy framework to be a suitable guarantor of the security and interests of the UAW.


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Sadovnikova, N. N., Zolotareva, O. A., Babich, S. G., & Karmanov, M. V. (2019). SCO economic security factors: Methodological aspects. In External Challenges and Risks for Russia in the Context of the World Community’s Transition to Polycentrism: Economics, Finance and Business, pp. 88-91. Atlantis Press.

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