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Shanghai Cooperation Organization: from Public Diplomacy to Goodwill Ambassador

Kabuljon Sabirov Director of the SCO Centre for Public Diplomacy in Uzbekistan

Kabuljon Sabirov, Director of the SCO Centre for Public Diplomacy in Uzbekistan
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Today, humanity is going through a stage of deep fundamental transformations, when the world is changing rapidly, globalization processes are taking place, new challenges and threats to stability and sustainable development of peoples are emerging.

Under these conditions, the desire of nations to create sustainable mechanisms of interaction is understandable, the most important condition for building a stable world that promotes lasting security and equal prosperity, a world in which countries and peoples communicate and learn from each other, a world in which they develop in harmony on the basis of mutual trust and respect for different cultures.

President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev has repeatedly stressed that the main guarantee of successful development of international cooperation is the deepening of mutual trust between countries and peoples. And trust, as we know, is an important factor of mutual understanding in bilateral and multilateral relations.

That is why Uzbekistan’s updated foreign policy is based on the principles of close mutually beneficial cooperation with foreign countries, primarily with neighboring countries, joint solutions of current issues, achieving sustainable development, ensuring peace, stability and security in the region.

Undoubtedly, today along with the development of official contacts at the highest levels, establishment of contacts between peoples and public organizations that contribute towards improvement of relations, mutually beneficial cooperation, a better understanding of cultures, traditions and life of peoples of different countries, through the use of mechanisms of public diplomacy has gained a particular importance.

In order to achieve common goals in the name of peace and prosperity, peaceful coexistence, and deepening regional cooperation within the SCO, Uzbekistan has put forward important initiatives, including the creation of centers within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – permanent institutions of public diplomacy to promote confidence-building and good-neighborliness attitude, interethnic and inter-religious harmony, and the development of the dialogue between the civilizations. This idea was first voiced by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the SCO summit in Astana in 2017.

At the summit held in September this year in Dushanbe on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the SCO, Uzbekistan has also made a number of proposals. In particular, a proposal to establish the “Institute of the SCO Goodwill Ambassador” was put forward.

The idea of organizing such an instrument within the SCO seems to be fully consistent with the goals and objectives of this regional association, and the most important principle of its activity – the “Shanghai spirit”, which features mutual trust, mutual respect, equality, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of shared development.

So, who is the goodwill ambassador, what are the goals and objectives, why does Uzbekistan proposed to set up such an institution within the SCO?

Like the concept of “public diplomacy”, “goodwill ambassador” serves to shape the image of the SCO, including the member countries. These two concepts are closely related with one another, complement each other and develop together.

Both “public diplomacy” and “goodwill ambassador”, in their content and essence, are forms of traditional diplomacy. A goodwill ambassador is actually an important instrument or mechanism of public diplomacy. Over time and changes in international relations, they also develop, and together with other manifestations of diplomacy serve to achieve common goals.

The goodwill ambassador can be famous figures of art and literature, pop and sports stars, and, in general, famous people from different spheres of society. In the essence of a goodwill ambassador, his talent and popularity play an important role. Through the introduction of famous personalities into the activities of the organization, a significant contribution will be made to the implementation of efforts to solve urgent and global problems – disarmament, international peace and security, poverty, ecology, education, health and refugee issues.

It should be noted that at almost all international events, the Uzbek side pays special attention to the world community, including the leaders of the SCO countries, to the most topical issues. For example, the situation in the Aral Sea region. Various proposals and recommendations on the implementation of innovative projects and technologies aimed at improving the environment in this region have been included at the agenda of highest meetings. Responsible ministries and departments regularly hold various conferences with the participation of experts not only from the region, but also from around the world.

Goodwill ambassadors, by participating in meetings and events and demonstrating an active civic position towards the most acute problems of their country in particular, and the region as a whole, primarily attract public attention to these issues and their solutions.

In our opinion, while creating the Institute of the SCO Goodwill Ambassador it is important to study the positive experience of the international organizations such as UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, as well as various European and American foundations.

For many years, Western countries have been effectively using the opportunities of “goodwill ambassadors”, which is considered one of the most important tools of public diplomacy. The introduction of such an institution among the countries of the Great Silk Road, which for centuries united the peoples of the region through trade, cultural and spiritual values based on relations between states and ethnic groups, is completely harmonous with the “Shanghai spirit”, combining the rich experience of cooperation accumulated by the members of the organization.

The “Shanghai spirit” is based on such concepts as mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultations, respect for the diversity of cultures and the desire for joint development. Each concept included in its logical foundations has a deep meaning.

The President of Uzbekistan has repeatedly stressed that the main key to success in the SCO’s activities is strengthening trust between peoples, deepening mutual understanding between states, taking into account interests and full equality.

Thus, the main factor that ensures the credibility of any organization is the trust. The institution of the SCO Goodwill Ambassador, along with increasing confidence in the organization, also serves to improve its image.

The reasons for using such a tool of public diplomacy are as follows:

Firstly, global and regional organizations require the involvement of well-known and popular personalities who can convey the basic ideas and principles of an organization’s activities to a wide audience.

Secondly, any organization carrying out large-scale humanitarian activities should not disregard the efforts of active people.

Thirdly, the promotion of the idea of an organization will be much easier when it involves people who have gained fame and reputation in their profession.

Fourth, cooperation with the celebrities is mutually beneficial for any organization, since the use of the potential of famous people in solving pressing problems has always been effective.

Over the past decade, the leading countries of the world have increasingly used public diplomacy in their political, economic or ideological interests. Consequently, “diplomacy of celebrities” has to become as a part of the international policy promoted by the SCO.

And naturally, Uzbekistan will play an important role in the formation and effective use of goodwill ambassadors by the example of its well-known, respected and widely recognized personalities, in promoting the state’s foreign policy and, in particular, the ideas of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

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