SCO promotes inter-civilization dialogue, common peace, tolerance, progress and harmony


SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov

Every year on November 16 the world celebrates the International Day of Tolerance. On this day in 1995 UNESCO member states adopted the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and the Program of Action.

“Tolerance” in the Declaration is understood as “respect, acceptance and proper understanding of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of expressing human individuality”.

The Declaration proclaims “recognition that human beings are inherently different in appearance, position, speech, conduct and values and have the right to live in peace and preserve their individuality”. The declaration addresses threats to humanity posed by intolerance and offers methods and programs to combat intolerance.

In 1997, the UN General Assembly (Resolution No. A/RES/51/95) invited UN Member States to celebrate the International Day and to hold relevant events focused on both educational institutions and the general public.

The UN is committed to promoting tolerance through better understanding between cultures and peoples. It is even more relevant today when we face negative tendencies of increasing terrorism, separatism and extremism, escalation of various conflicts and manifestations of xenophobia.

Special UNESCO prize named after Mr. Madanjeet Singh – Indian artist, writer and diplomat, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador – is dedicated to propagation of tolerance and non-violence ideals to the International Day of Tolerance. It was established in 1995 and is awarded every two years to institutions, organizations or individuals for significant contributions and effective artistic, cultural or communication activities aimed at creating an atmosphere of tolerance and non-violence.

A total of 18 laureates have received this award. And here I am proud to note that five times they were representatives of the “SCO family” countries. Among the award winners were representatives of India, Pakistan, Russia and South Asian countries.

This year the Madanjeet Singh Prize was awarded to the Conflict Resolution Center of the Democratic Republic of Congo in recognition of its work on human rights protection, liberation of children from military camps, as well as their rehabilitation and reintegration into their native communities.

SCO – space for tolerance, cultural diversity and joint development

In the conditions of modern international relations, I believe that maintaining and strengthening tolerance at the interstate level directly depends not only on the desire and efforts of individual countries, but also on the model of interaction.

20 years ago, the heads of six countries – Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – wishing to reveal the enormous potential of good neighborliness, unity and cooperation between the states and their peoples, announced the establishment of one of the largest international organizations to date.

The SCO is a unique example of symbiosis of peoples, cultures, traditions, customs and mindsets. The association space includes 18 countries with more than 3 billion people representing almost 200 nationalities. Our peoples are united by common destinies, historical memory, long-standing close contacts and ties. And most importantly, mutual trust and respect for each other make us one.

Throughout the existence of the SCO we have remained faithful to the principles of the “Shanghai spirit”, which implies mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultations, respect for cultural diversity, and a desire for common development.

First of all, this is manifested by the fact that it includes different countries with different economies, territories, mentality, resources and potential. Active cooperative interaction is built on the basis of joint determination of zones of intersection of interests, equal importance of opinions of all together and each one individually, irrespective of political and economic power of member states, with full preservation and respect of independence in their internal affairs and foreign policy.

The SCO’s transparency and openness have become an integral feature. The Organization strictly follows the principles set out in the SCO Charter, including its non-targeting against other states and international organizations; actively develops contacts and cooperation with other international and regional organizations, primarily the UN and its institutes. I also cannot but emphasize that in our “family” each country has equal weight and equal voice. Invariably, all decisions within the SCO are taken only and exclusively on the principle of consensus. Nobody is left unheard, everybody brings their own vision to further development.

I also emphasize that the member states respect the right to choose the path of political, economic, social and cultural development taking into account the historical experience and national peculiarities of each state, promote inter-civilization dialogue, common peace, tolerance, progress and harmony, and are guided by the principles of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of the SCO member states.

Today, we can confidently note that the “Shanghai spirit” has introduced a new trend in theory and practice of modern international relations, implementing the universal aspiration for globalization and close integration. No matter how acute the issue is, each side is striving to find the way towards mutual consent.

It is on this basis that we promote and develop multidisciplinary cooperation, maintain and strengthen peace, security and stability in the region, and contribute to building a new democratic, just and rational political and economic international order.

Principles of coexistence

Today the world has entered in an era of profound transformation and large-scale globalization. The desire for peace, development, equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation, and the formation of a community of global peace and prosperity is becoming increasingly important.

There are high rates of economic growth, humanity is becoming more and more mobile and new technologies are being actively developed. At the same time, global challenges and threats, as well as factors of uncertainty and unpredictability, are increasing in the world.

There are still unresolved issues and new regional and local conflicts are emerging. Under these conditions, the most important task is, undoubtedly, the protection of peace and universal development. In the foreground there is a need to build a universal, integrated, transparent security and sustainable growth architecture in the region based on the principles of the rule of international law, non-use of force or threat of use of force, respect for territorial integrity, state sovereignty and independence of countries, open, equal and mutually beneficial cooperation. In this regard, the ideas of tolerance are more relevant in the present time than ever.

I believe that the solution of this problem lies in the concept of implementing tasks in different directions. First of all, it is necessary to strengthen security and stability, in particular to actively resist various manifestations of terrorism, extremism, to provide information security, to fight any manifestations of discrimination against people.

I would like to emphasize separately that in the “Moscow Declaration” adopted on November 10, 2020 at the SCO summit the member states noted the importance and humanitarian orientation of the operations carried out to return their own citizens from the zones of armed conflicts, most of them women and children. They attach particular importance to social rehabilitation and reintegration measures for citizens who are victims of terrorism.

Economic cooperation is also an important element in ensuring stability in the SCO region. Joint development of infrastructure and communications, implementation of multilateral projects to improve the welfare and quality of life of citizens is one of the priority tasks in cooperation between the SCO member states.

Cultural symbiosis

I would like to emphasize separately that the key factor in strengthening the spirit of tolerance in the SCO region is its rich cultural potential, as well as its diverse ethnic and religious composition.

The member states traditionally advocate the development of inter-civilization dialogue, strengthening ties in educational, cultural, humanitarian and tourism areas, contributing to further strengthening of good neighborhood, friendship and cooperation relations, directing efforts to multiply cultural diversity, to cooperate in the study and protection of cultural and natural heritage of the region.

In recent years, as part of the comprehensive project “SCO – Our Common Home”, whole series of cultural and mass events have been held to promote the preservation of cultural heritage and mutual enrichment of peoples of the Organization’s member states.

Among them are Days of Culture of SCO countries. Since 2016 China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Russia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan have presented their cultural heritage. In 2017-2018 a series of classical concerts “Nine Magic Notes” was held, in which each country had demonstrated its musical potential.

In June 2019, in celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Organization was presented a large-scale project – “Eight Wonders of SCO”. It is a series of thematic presentations, initiated on tourism topics. Its main goal is to present the national wonders of the eight member states through the presentation of national wonders, to present widely the tourism resources, projects, cultural and creative products and culture of the SCO countries. To date, as part of this project we have conducted a series of presentations of sites of the eight SCO member states in Beijing, Tashkent, Xi’an, St. Petersburg, Dushanbe and Helsinki.

The International Day of Nowruz is actively celebrated, which was included in 2009 in the list of intangible cultural heritage of mankind as a cultural tradition of many peoples, symbolizing friendship, mutual understanding, harmony and creativity.

The development of sport is of great importance in promoting and strengthening the spirit of solidarity, tolerance and tolerance.

Yoga and Tai Chi Days have been held annually since 2018 within the SCO. I believe that these events are designed to simultaneously strengthen the human spirit, harmonious attitude towards nature and the world around them, as well as to promote a healthy lifestyle and strengthen dialogue between cultures and civilizations.

An important sporting event in the activities of the Organization is the SCO Kunming Marathon, which gathers tens of thousands of people from around the world, and is an important factor in the integration of peoples, promoting cultural exchanges and cooperation. Its international status is also being strengthened. In March 2020, the International Association of Athletic Federations awarded the marathon a silver license, making it a world-class sporting event.

I would like to remind you that marathons of the SCO were held in other member states of the organisation, in particular in Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) in June 2017, as well as on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan in May 2019, and we plan to further expand the geography of the marathons.

Great importance is also attached to working with young people, their upbringing in a spirit of patriotism, respect for diversity of cultures, the development of skills for independent thinking and developing judgments based on moral values.

The “Model SCO ” is regularly held – an intellectual game that simulates the activities of the organisation and allows participants to learn in practice the basics of international relations, improve their negotiation skills, work in a team, conduct discussions and develop new ideas and projects. This year the participants discussed the importance of entrepreneurship development and support in the context of post-Pandemic economic recovery, which is one of the urgent tasks facing humanity today.

Separately, I would like to note the importance of the Exhibition of children’s paintings of SCO countries held in June 2020 on the theme “Unity in the fight against the epidemic, protecting the common home”. In their works the participants not only revealed the theme of fighting the virus, but also reflected the ideas of peace, friendship, joint support and aspiration for development – the ideas of the “Shanghai spirit”. It is gratifying that the young generation of SCO shares the principles of mutual support from an early age and calls for solidarity.

“Shanghai spirit” of mutual aid

The issue of maintaining tolerance is of great importance this year in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. It has exacerbated the socio-economic situation in many countries around the world, significantly increased political tensions between major powers and had a significant impact on the familiar lifestyle of millions of people. The threats to global security began to grow.

The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the interconnectedness of all countries on the planet. However, it is not without regret that solidarity and joint efforts to counteract COVID-19 are giving way to isolationism, there is a transition from globalization to localization, and persecution of one’s own benefit is at the forefront. These approaches are splitting society, provoking the rampant traditional security threats and unconventional challenges, which include xenophobia and the escalation of intolerance.

The nations of the world should understand that this negative trend endangers all countries and continents and damages our common home. Therefore, I believe that now the most important task is to overcome political confrontation and protectionism on a global and regional scale. It is necessary to stop any attempts to split mankind by politicizing the problem of coronavirus pandemic as one of the factors of escalation of intolerance.

The SCO has convincingly confirmed its significant potential as an effective platform for responding to emerging challenges and building work to overcome the political, social, trade and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Building on the “Shanghai spirit”, the SCO countries have effectively exchanged experience in the fight against coronavirus, as well as mutual humanitarian, financial, medical and technical assistance. The existing mechanisms for cooperation in the sphere of health care and sanitary-epidemiological well-being were fully utilized within the SCO.

In general, under current conditions, close coordination of activities of international organizations to combat pandemics and the growing cross-border threats and challenges is required.

According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, SCO is a reliable partner of the UN and a leading player in regional diplomacy of Eurasia, actively promotes cooperation to solve the most acute security problems facing Eurasia today – in particular, the fight against xenophobia, incitement of hatred and extremism.

I note that the acceleration of large-scale changes in the modern architecture of international relations opens new opportunities for interaction and strengthening of contacts. But, at the same time, it imposes a huge responsibility on all participants, both before their countries and before all of humanity.

As negative ideas and trends spread, it is necessary to support the dialogue of cultures and nations.

I am confident that SCO will continue to be faithful to the “Shanghai spirit”, will continue to promote and popularize the ideas of tolerance and humanism in the name of strengthening the world order and maintaining tolerance.