In a virtual address at the 20th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO, the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that amid the pandemic, the global harmony & multilateralism have been undermined by rising geopolitical tensions, unilateralism and isolationism, adding that he believes the SCO fraternity, with its core principles of solidarity and mutual support, would be effective in combating the negative influences of COVID-19.

He said on Tuesday that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) calls for effective multilateralism to combat the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and boost the global economy.

“Over the past two decades, SCO’s prestige and influence have grown significantly. At a time, when the world is bereft of global vision and shared solutions, SCO has called for effective multilateralism, with the UN playing a central coordinating role,” he said.

Khan said his country appreciates China’s effective handling of COVID-19 and also the material and technical assistance extended by China to other countries, including Pakistan, to fight the pandemic.

“Pakistan also deeply appreciates China’s effective handling of the virus and also the material and technical assistance extended by China to others, including Pakistan. China and Pakistan are also collaborating in vaccine development, with phase three trials successfully underway,” he said.

Highlighting the SCO’s vision of regional connectivity, he said the SCO was destined to play a pivotal role in the emerging confluence between the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasian Economic Union.

“SCO is destined to play a pivotal role in the emerging confluence between the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Pakistan’s geographical location provides it an ideal opportunity to crystallize the benefits accrued from this process. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of BRI, is poised to play a vital part in this regard,” he said.

The Pakistani prime minister said his country has joined its SCO partners in focusing on international information security, and strongly supports the Global Initiative on Data Security proposed by China.

In his suggestions to the SCO, Khan said that it should create a “Knowledge Bank” of best practices to fight COVID-19 in order to guide the member countries through the second wave and beyond.

He also called for a strategy as an SCO action plan to mitigate the adverse economic impact of COVID-19 in the short, medium and long-term, adding that the COVID-19 vaccine must be viewed as a “global public good,” affordable and accessible to all.

He also said a multi-year SCO Youth Strategy with a focus on building partnerships among educational institutions should be formed.

The SCO founding members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted into the grouping in 2017. The meeting via video link was hosted by Russia, which holds the rotating SCO Presidency this year.