The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which was established in 2001, comprises six Eurasian states (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) and covers territory hosting a quarter of the world's population. This article examines the rapid growth of the SCO. The study is structured in the following way: it first assesses the recent history of violence and potential for conflict in the region, and then outlines the SCO mandate, balance of power and internal and external dynamics. It discusses the SCO's shared values, and how they facilitate or impede the development of common action. It then proceeds to outline the SCO's main activities in the security sphere and its 'alternative model' of statehood and covers the role of observers and other actors in the region vis-à-vis the SCO. Finally it concludes with reflections on the SCO's effectiveness. Some of our judgements are tentative because the SCO is a new organisation. It might well become a major player in Central Asia and beyond but it could also limp along with little impact if Sino-Russian relations deteriorate.
Crisis States Working Papers Series No.2, No. 39, 32 pp.