Belarus Joins SCO as 10th Member, Boosting Bloc’s Appeal

"Belarus is very proud to become a full member of the SCO. We will strengthen the Shanghai Spirit of the organization based on the principles of mutual respect, equality, and solidarity," said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko here on Thursday.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, July 4, 2024. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

In a major development for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Belarus was formally accepted as the 10th member state of the inter-governmental organization on Thursday.

The latest expansion bolsters the SCO’s capacity for regional cooperation and strengthens its influence on the global stage, underscoring its role as a vital platform for addressing contemporary security and economic challenges.

The accession of Belarus was formalized at the 24th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO.

“Belarus is very proud to become a full member of the SCO. We will strengthen the Shanghai Spirit of the organization based on the principles of mutual respect, equality, and solidarity,” said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko here on Thursday.

Since its inception in China’s Shanghai in 2001, the SCO has so far expanded from a regional organization with six members into a trans-regional organization with 10 full members, two observer countries, and 14 dialogue partners.

It is expected that Belarus will leverage its unique advantages to invigorate the organization with new energy, said Yuri Yarmolinsky, an analyst with the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research.

Belarus views the SCO as a key platform that expands opportunities for cooperation across the Eurasian continent, he said, noting that in a turbulent world, Belarus sees the SCO as a crucial pillar of support.

Currently, Belarus maintains robust trade relations with Russia and China, both members of the SCO.

In the first four months of this year, trade turnover between Belarus and Russia reached 2.9 trillion rubles (approximately 33.62 billion U.S. dollars), according to official Russian data.

China ranks as Belarus’ second-largest trading partner, and Belarus is among the fastest-growing trade partners for China in the Eurasian region.

Belarus’ membership in the SCO could substantially increase its trade volume with other member states, tapping into a consumer market that encompasses nearly half of the world’s population.

SCO membership could also enhance Belarus’ appeal as an investment destination. As a key participant in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Belarus stands to gain from additional infrastructure investments, including railway and road networks, energy pipelines, and industrial parks.

Belarus and other aspirants are attracted to the SCO for reasons beyond mere economic interests. Since its establishment in 2001, this multilateral body has become an essential platform for promoting justice, equality, as well as inclusive security and development in international relations.

Noting that the SCO was founded at the turn of the century when confrontations and divisions left by the Cold War had yet to be resolved, Chinese President Xi Jinping said here on Thursday that the SCO founding members made a historical decision to pursue peaceful development, commit to good-neighborliness and friendship, and build a new type of international relations.

The SCO has withstood the test of the changing international landscape, the root cause of which lies in the fact that SCO members remain committed to the fine tradition of solidarity and coordination, the way of cooperation featuring equality and mutual benefit, the value pursuit on fairness and justice, and the broad-mindedness of inclusiveness and mutual learning, Xi said when attending the 24th SCO summit.

“For some other organizations, they are experiencing a crisis of identity and relevance, questioning whether they are still needed,” said former SCO Secretary-General Bolat Nurgaliyev.

When it comes to the SCO, it is clear that the organization “remains true to its original mission, which continues to be successfully carried out,” he said.

Nurgaliyev noted the unique model of interaction offered by the SCO, characterized by equal and mutually beneficial cooperation.

This approach is founded on a shared understanding of various challenges and threats among member countries, he said, adding that the SCO emphasizes the importance of developing collaborative approaches and joint responses to complex situations as they arise.

The international system with the United Nations at its core is facing multiple threats and challenges unprecedented in modern history, according to an initiative calling for solidarity among countries to promote world justice, harmony and development issued on Thursday at the SCO Astana summit.

The SCO, it said, is firmly committed to giving full play to the central coordinating role of the United Nations, supporting the universally recognized norms of international law and building a more representative, just and democratic multipolar world system, in which all countries, regardless of their geographical location, territorial size, political, economic and social structure, shall have equal access to development opportunities.

The pledge of the SCO to promote multipolarity came at a time when some countries in the West are trying to peddle the narrative of a “rules-based world order.”

“We see that the number of those wishing to become members, observers, dialogue partners is constantly growing,” said Nurgaliyev. “This is proof that the SCO is a very popular and effective structure that has found its niche in the system of international security and cooperation.”

The importance of the SCO for all member countries is hard to overestimate, as it contributes to strengthening their national security, economic development, and cultural exchange, said Serik Korzhumbayev, editor-in-chief of the Delovoy Kazakhstan newspaper.

In the face of modern international challenges, the SCO’s significance only grows, providing member countries a platform for cooperation and interaction in the interests of sustainable development and peaceful coexistence, he said.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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