On 29 October 2020, the First SCO Member States’ Heads of Regions Forum was held via videoconference. The event, chaired by Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexei Teksler, was attended by heads of regions (constituent entities) from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as representatives of involved economic agencies from these countries.
Initiated by the Russian Federation, the forum is expected to impart a system-wide character and a fresh qualitative dynamics to interregional cooperation between the SCO member states based on the principles of voluntary participation and openness.
Participants discussed a range of issues related to initiating practical efforts to address the tasks specified in the forum’s agenda. They stressed their intention to take proactive joint efforts for the efficient implementation of the Programme for the Development of Interregional Cooperation approved by the SCO Heads of State Council on 14 June 2019. The attendees unanimously agreed that it is of primary importance to promptly develop proposals on specific measures to promote cooperation in such areas as industrial production and agriculture, trade and investment, science and innovations, education and culture and others, by creating ad hoc working groups. The forum specifically focused on the opportunities for expanding cooperation between the regions of the SCO member states and creating favourable conditions for overarching cooperation between the regions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexei Teksler noted: “We work closely with the regions of foreign states and hope that the Heads of Regions Forum will help us widen the circle of foreign partners for our companies and eventually boost trade. We are also interested in developing joint humanitarian projects, air connections and tourism. The Chelyabinsk Region boasts unique nature and climate, and has the necessary infrastructure for promoting medical, environmental and industrial tourism and mountain skiing. We are open to further cooperation and new liaison formats.”
In his greetings sent to the forum participants, Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov stressed that cooperation between regions “opens up new opportunities for business, education, science and culture. Partnership in these areas has always been part of the SCO’s activity, and while the borders remain closed, this partnership has clearly become a priority. Now, more than ever, it is important to not lose links and cooperation chains between regions; therefore, Russia initiated this forum. We need to continue the projects started in the past and create new ones.”
The participants welcomed Governor Teksler’s proposal to organise an offline meeting of the heads of regions and business community representatives from across the SCO in Chelyabinsk in the spring of 2021 – provided that the epidemiological situation normalises. Another proposal was to hold an expert meeting on the development of the forum in December 2020. The Chelyabinsk Region is presiding over the forum in 2020-2022.