On October 29, 2020, the First SCO Member States' Heads of Regions Forum took place via videoconference
The forum, chaired by Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexei Teksler, was attended by regional heads from India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as representatves of the involved economic departments of these countries.
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov gave a welcome speech at the forum, emphasising that in a short time the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has demonstrated an effective model of multilateral cooperation and stepped up efforts to expand interregional cooperation.
He noted that the forum provides participants with a good opportunity to discuss the urgent issues of overcoming the negative consequences of the pandemic, search for solutions to the previously set tasks on develioping SCO interregional ties, and exchange views on new priorities of cooperation.
Mr Norov said the task of promoting the implementation of cross-border and interregional projects is set in one of the SCO's main programme documents — the Strategy for SCO Development through 2025. In this document, the SCO member countries defined efforts to facilitate cross-border and interregional projects and the creation of joint ventures as an important part of their activities.
Mr Norov paid special attention to the programme for developing interregional cooperation between the SCO countries, which provides for implementing an agreed-upon package of measures on enhancing interregional cooperation in trade, the economy, investment, industry and agriculture, as well as humanitarian ties and tourism.
He emphasised the importance of developing the cultural and humanitarian dialogue of the SCO members in an interregional format. In this context, Mr Norov noted that large-scale projects like the SCO Eight Wonders and the SCO International Marathon are making a tangible contribution to the development of culture, tourism and sports in the SCO space.
The Secretary-General said the Heads of Regions Forum could become an effective venue for ensuring accelerated economic growth. It can open up new opportunities for the regions, enhance their investment appeal, invigorate interregional cooperation, create additional jobs and help overcome the adverse consequences of the pandemic.
Summing up, Mr Norov suggested drafting an action plan for implementing the programme for the development of SCO interregional cooperation. This initiative will help develop effective cooperation between administrative and territorial entities, and promote business contacts between regional enterprises in the SCO member countries.
Minister of Economc Development of the Russian Federation Maxim Reshetnikov emphasised in his welcome address that cooperation between regions "opens up new opportunities for businesses, education, science and culture." Partnership in these areas has always been part of the SCO's work and has become an obvious priority with the closing of the borders. Now it is more important than ever, not to lose ties and cooperation links between regions. This is why Russia initiated the forum. It is necessary to continue existing projects and create new ones.
Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexei Teksler noted:
We are actively cooperating with the regions in foreign states. We hope that our work at the forum will help expand the range of foreign partners for our companies and will eventually promote trade. We are also willing to develop joint humanitarian projects, air traffic and tourism. The Chelyabinsk Region has unique natural and climate conditions and the required infrastructure for developing medical, environmental and industrial tourism as well as mountain skiing, and we are open to other cooperation in new formats.
The participants discussed a package of issues linked with the development of practical work on resolving tasks on the forum's agenda. They emphasised their intention to pursue the effective implementation of the programme for the development of interregional cooperation endorsed by the SCO Heads of State Council on June 14, 2019. They unanimously recognised the priority need to prepare proposals on promoting cooperation in such areas as industry and agriculture, trade and investment, science and innovations, to name a few, and to establish working groups for this purpose. They focused on opportunities for upgrading cooperation between regions in the SCO states and creating favourable conditions for overarching regional cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The participants welcomed the Chelyabinsk Region governor's proposal to hold an offline meeting of regional governors and a congress of representatives from SCO business communities in the spring of 2021, as well as a proposal to hold an expert session on the forum's development issues in December 2020, all provided the sanitary-epidemiological conditions return to normal. In 2020-2022, the forum will be chaired by the Chelyabinsk Region.