The heads of government of the SCO, who met in early November 2019 in Tashkent, adopted a new version of the SCO multilateral trade and economic cooperation programme until 2035. It aims to strengthen the positive dynamics of the member states’ development in such segments as banking and finance, industrial, technological, transport and logistics, scientific and educational, social, information and digital technology. The priority among the organisation’s most important issues is the task of creating the SCO bank and the SCO development fund. This will be one of the measures the nations will take in order to bring payment systems and settlements in national currencies closer together between the member countries. Special mention was made of the "green belt" development programme of the Aral Sea region, and zones of environmental innovation.
It is worth paying attention to one especially positive trend in the Chinese economy: despite the complex and contradictory trends in the global recession, considerable efforts have been made to overcome the worst period since 2011 in its economy. Serious steps to intensify domestic investment policy, primarily in infrastructure and domestic consumption expansion, were actively supported by the PRC government and affected significant GDP growth of up to 6.3% by the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. Such processes in the Chinese economy have positively influenced the activation and financing of the country's foreign policy projects within the framework of the SCO and the Belt and Road initiative.
Within the SCO, China is interested in supporting and stimulating the economic development of the SCO partner countries. Most conflicts in the modern world have a fundamentally socio-economic context. The basic criteria of the Peace Index indicate a direct relationship between the level of economic development and the degree of social stability of the state. For example, the nine most peaceful countries in the world account for about 10% of the total world GDP, whereas the nine least stable economies do not even account for 0.5% of the total world GDP. Countries with the best index of peacefulness are economically more resistant, as the experience of China, Russia and most of the SCO countries shows, that they are closely interconnected and interact better. And vice versa, without the effective implementation of major economic projects within the framework of the SCO, the maintenance of effective mechanisms of interaction to achieve any goals and objectives of the organization would be doubtful.
With the increasing authority and significance of the SCO in regional and global processes, the number of states' interest in participating in SCO activities in various formats is growing, from a dialogue partner to an application for permanent membership status.
For example, the entry of Afghanistan into the SCO as a full member is considered premature, given the difficult situation in the country. On the other hand, the SCO member countries are making active efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan - they are helping to restore agriculture, transport and logistics, as well as offering humanitarian assistance and rebuilding the country’s educational system. The achievement of full consensus is also required regarding Iran’s membership in the SCO, which was confirmed in the Qingdao Declaration and where support was expressed for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme. At the same time, according to Vladimir Norov, the organisation’s secretary general, the SCO is interested in multidisciplinary cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Trade and economic cooperation with Iran is actively developing, as well as the infrastructure projects. In other words, expanding the organization and accepting new members is a complex issue that requires comprehensive study, coordination, and consideration of the position and interests of each member state.
Speaking about the importance of the SCO amid the political transformation of the modern world, we can say that the organisation is becoming more mobile and flexible, and responds adequately to systemic and structural changes in the global economy, especially against the background of aging global institutions. In terms of its potential and scale, the SCO has become trans-regional, and in fact, a global institution, covering a large population, industrial potential, geographical space, natural resources, GDP volume and military force. In the foreseeable future, thanks to these and other factors, it will still play a significant role in global processes and will remain attractive to many interested countries as an effective platform for cooperation and dialogue.