The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
By Shahodat Khoshimova, Chief Researcher of the Information and Analytical Center for International Relations
The development of cooperation between the SCO countries in the humanitarian sphere was outlined in its founding document - the Charter - and identified as one of the priority tasks of the Organization.
An important role in expanding cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the SCO states is played by the development of the "Shanghai spirit", characterized by mutual trust, benefit, equality, the desire to resolve issues through consultations, respect for civilizational diversity and movement towards joint development. Regular meetings have been organized between the SCO member countries at the level of heads of the ministries of culture and education of the SCO states, annual art festivals and other cultural and humanitarian events.
On September 17, 2021, at the Dushanbe SCO summit, the chairmanship of the Organization in 2021-2022 passed to Uzbekistan. At the same time, the priority areas of the country's chairmanship were identified, among which attention was also paid to the wide use of the SCO's potential in the cultural and humanitarian sphere, in the field of healthcare and combating climate change.
Today, higher education is one of the most successful areas of humanitarian cooperation within the SCO. Cooperation has been established in the implementation of educational programs between the universities of the member countries of the Organization. In 2008, a concept was put forward to create the SCO University - a network university consisting of universities of the member countries of the Organization, which today is recognized as one of the most successful in the field of education, the purpose of which is to unite the leading scientific and educational schools of the entire SCO space.
Uzbekistan, within the framework of its chairmanship, gives priority to the development of public diplomacy to strengthen mutual understanding, respect and trust between the member states of the Organization through the intensification of cultural and humanitarian relations. In May 2022, the SCO Public Diplomacy Forum was held in Tashkent on the theme “Public Diplomacy – Mutual Understanding for the Sake of Development”. The participants positively assessed the role of Uzbekistan in the SCO. In recent years, Uzbekistan has introduced a number of initiatives to deepen humanitarian cooperation within the SCO, including the establishment of the SCO Public Diplomacy Center, granting the status of the cultural or tourist capital of the SCO to various cities, the creation of the institution of the SCO Goodwill Ambassador, and others.
Tourism plays an important role in the development of humanitarian cooperation between the SCO countries. At the 15th summit in Tashkent (2016), for the first time in the history of the SCO, a joint program for the development of tourism relations was adopted. Despite the fact that the development of this area began relatively recently, the number of tourists in the SCO countries is steadily growing every year. According to the participants of the international tourism forum of the SCO countries, held in Tashkent in 2022, about 250 million tourists left the SCO countries for holidays abroad in 2019. The rich cultural heritage of the SCO observer countries and partners is 207 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are of particular importance in the development of tourism and have attracted travelers from all over the world for centuries.
In this regard, the cultural and historical value of Samarkand is especially significant. This city, which was located on the ancient Great Silk Road and has more than 2,750 years of rich history, has long been a place of historical meetings and civilizational dialogue, a bridge for cultural and humanitarian mutual enrichment and the development of international trade, strengthening good neighborliness. In recent years, Samarkand has hosted a number of major forums. The city has changed significantly on the eve of the summit, its large-scale reconstruction is underway, the importance of the tourist brand of Samarkand is increasing. In particular, in August of this year, the opening of the largest tourist complex in Central Asia Silk Road Samarkand took place.
Today, the SCO countries are faced with the task of developing recommendations for improving tourist and transport communications between countries along combined routes that are in great demand among foreign tourists. The tasks for digitalization of the tourism industry, the use of "smart" and "green" technologies are also defined.
As part of the meeting of the heads of ministries and departments for physical culture and sports of the SCO member states, held on the eve of the Samarkand summit, a plan was approved for the implementation of the "road map" for the development of physical culture and sports of the SCO countries for 2022-2024.
The Government of Uzbekistan pays great attention to the development and popularization of physical culture and sports. Sport is defined as one of the priority areas of the state's social policy. Particular attention is paid to the promotion of a healthy lifestyle among the population and the implementation of large-scale projects to attract the younger generation to sports. The Palace of Water Sports is currently under construction. In general, about 51,600 sports facilities operate in Uzbekistan. It should also be noted the successful holding of the SCO Tashkent International Half Marathon in March this year, which was held in Uzbekistan for the first time. At the initiative of Uzbekistan, in June of this year, for the first time within the framework of the SCO, a competition was organized for the best start-up project among the youth of the SCO countries and an e-sports championship.
Thus, within the framework of the SCO, active and multifaceted work is being carried out in the field of humanitarian cooperation, which tends to grow. Due to the peculiarities of the humanitarian resources of each country, the members of the Organization have a huge potential for interaction.