The Declaration establishing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was signed in Shanghai on 15 June 2001 at a meeting of the heads of six states – China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The SCO Charter was adopted in 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003. It is a statutory document that stipulates the goals, principles, structure and main areas of activity of the SCO. In 2015, the organisation’s Development Strategy until 2025 was approved, followed in 2016 by the roadmap for its implementation until 2020. At present, the SCO’s legal framework includes over 70 international treaties and interdepartmental agreements.
The SCO member states now include China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The SCO observer states are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka have the SCO dialogue partner status.
According to the SCO Charter, its decisions are made on the basis of the consensus of the member states (Article 16). The SCO is open for accession by other states (Article 13) and can grant observer status or a dialogue partner status to any interested state or international organisation (Article 14).
The supreme decision-making body of the SCO is the Heads of State Council (HSC), which identifies the key priorities and main areas of cooperation; addresses fundamental issues such as the SCO’s internal structure, functioning and interaction with other states and international associations; and considers important current matters on the international and regional agenda.
The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) (Prime Ministers Council) reviews and makes decisions on specific practical aspects of economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
The SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) considers aspects of the SCO’s current activities, is responsible for preparing Heads of State Council meetings, and makes decisions on holding consultations on international issues.
Matters of cooperation in various areas are considered at meetings at the level of the relevant heads of ministries and government agencies of the SCO member states. This mechanism currently involves meetings of ministers responsible for foreign trade and foreign economic activity, defence, interior affairs, transport, education, culture, healthcare, emergencies, and justice; heads of anti-drug agencies, customs services, etc. There are also various expert coordination mechanisms and working groups.
Prosecutors general and heads of supreme courts of the SCO member states meet on a regular basis.
The Council of National Coordinators (CNC) addresses various matters in the SCO’s current activities.