BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhua) -- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an inter-governmental organization founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Its member states combine to cover an area of more than 30 million square km with a combined population of 1.46 billion. The SCO working languages are Chinese and Russian.
The SCO originated and grew from the Shanghai Five mechanism, which was founded in 1996 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with the aim of strengthening confidence-building, carrying out disarmament in their border areas and promoting regional cooperation.
In 2000, the president of Uzbekistan was invited to the Dushanbe Summit of the Shanghai Five as a guest, and in the following year, the SCO was established in Shanghai at its first summit meeting and accepted Uzbekistan as a member state.
The second summit meeting was held in St. Petersburg, Russia in June, 2002 and the state leaders signed an SCO Charter.
The third summit meeting was held in the Russian capital of Moscow and Chinese ambassador to Russia Zhang Deguang was named as the organization's first secretary-general during the meeting.
The forth summit meeting was held in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.
The fifth summit will be held in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan. The summit will decide whether to formally accept Pakistan, India and Iran as observers.
The SCO institutions fall into two groups: the meeting mechanism and the permanent organs.
The highest SCO organ is the Council of Heads of State. The permanent institutions include the Secretariat in Beijing and the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) in Tashkent.
According to the SCO Charter and the Declaration on the Establishment of the SCO, its main purpose are: strengthening mutual trust and good-neighborliness and friendship among member states; developing effective cooperation in political affairs, economy, trade, science and technology, culture, education, energy, transportation, environmental protection and other fields; working together to maintain regional peace, security and stability; and promoting the creation of a new international political and economic order featuring democracy, justice and rationality.