Information Security Discussed at the Dushanbe Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

The SCO Member States reaffirm the principle of national sovereignty in cyberspace in the Dushanbe Summit Declaration. India, Pakistan and Iran are identified as possible future members of the SCO.

A week after NATO’s Wales Summit, delegations from the SCO Member States (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), as well as from some SCO observer states (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan), met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 11-12 September 2014. The Dushanbe Summit dealt with the traditional SCO topics of combating terrorism, extremism, and separatism, as well as with the situation in Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation, economic cooperation, and information security.1

The Dushanbe Summit Declaration refers to information security2 in section 5 (unofficial translation by INCYDER from the Russian text):

5. The SCO Member States step up joint efforts to create a peaceful, secure, fair and open information space, based on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. They will cooperate in preventing the use of information and communications technologies which intend to undermine the political, economic and public safety and stability of the Member States, as well as the universal moral foundations of social life, in order to stop the promotion of the ideas of terrorism, extremism, separatism, radicalism, fascism and chauvinism by the use of the Internet.

The Member States advocate equal rights of all countries in Internet governance and the sovereign right of states to govern the Internet in their respective national segments, including the provision of security.

The Member States support the development of universal rules, principles and norms of responsible behaviour of states in the information space, and they consider the ‘Code of Conduct in the Field of Ensuring International Information Security’,3 disseminated on behalf of the Member States as an official document of the UN, to be an important step in that direction.4

This language is in line with the SCO efforts so far.5 It expresses the will of the governments of the SCO Member States to continue oversight of the Internet on their territory without foreign interference, which can be linked with the aim to have better control over the flow and content of information. The declaration reaffirms that governing ‘the Internet in their respective national segments’ is regarded as a sovereign right of states.

The declaration also puts a spin on the reference to the Code of Conduct; the adopted text does not mention that the ‘Code of Conduct’ is a draft which, while submitted by a group of SCO Member States to the UN Secretary General, has never been put forward to the General Assembly or any other UN body.

New members?

The SCO Heads of State also agreed on the procedure for granting SCO membership to new states and on an updated Model Memorandum on the obligations of a state applying for membership of the SCO.6 Pakistan, India and Iran are seen as prospective members.7 The process of admission may take considerable time due to political disagreements among the current and potential SCO members.8 Nevertheless, according to some sources, India and Pakistan could well become Member States at the next SCO summit, planned for 2015 in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia.9

The admission of new members to the SCO does not imply that they would automatically join all the existing treaties of the SCO, in particular the Agreement among the Governments of the SCO Member States on Cooperation in the Field of Ensuring International Information Security(Yekaterinburg, 16 June 2009). It should be highlighted that neither India nor Pakistan has signed the Final Acts of the World Conference on International Telecommunications held in Dubai in 2012 (see INCYDER ITU page), which could be perceived as agreeing on the views dominant in Western countries with respect to issues of Internet governance and cyber security.10

Agreement among the Governments of the SCO Member States on Cooperation in the Field of Ensuring International Information Security

  1. SCO, Dushanbe Summit Declaration, []
  2. ‘China and Russia talk about information security, not cybersecurity, and see access to certain kinds of information over the Internet as destabilizing and hostile, another form of attack.’ (Lewis, J. A., Multilateral Agreements to Constrain Cyberconflict’, See also a detailed discussion of the Russian perception of ‘information security’ in Giles,K., ‘Russia’s Public Stance on Cyberspace Issues’ in 2012 4th International Conference on Cyber Conflict, edited by Czosseck, C., Ottis, R., and Ziolkowski, K., © NATO CCD COE Publications, Tallinn, 2012,… []
  3. Note by INCYDER: This is the exact translation of the title of the document from the Russian text. It probably refers to the document submitted to the UN as ‘Draft International Code of Conduct for Information Security’ in 2011. []
  4. SCO, Dushanbe Summit Declaration, Section 5, []
  5. See INCYDER SCO page and note 2 for more information. []
  6. SCO, Dushanbe Summit Declaration, Section 15, []
  7. Tiezzi, S. ‘The New, Improved Shanghai Cooperation Organization,’ The Diplomat, September 13, 2014,… []
  8. Want China Times, ‘Dushanbe Declaration signed at SCO Summit’,… []
  9. ITAR-TASS, ‘Putin to take part in SCO summit in Dushanbe’, September 11, 2014, []
  10. See list of signatories at ITU, WCIT-12 Final Acts Signatories,; and read more on the Conference in Pepper, R. and Sharp C., ‘Summary Report of the ITU-T World Conference on International Telecommunications’, The Internet Protocol Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1,… []