Its member states cover an area of over 30 million square kilometers, or about three fifths of Eurasia, with a population of 1.455 billion, about a quarter of the world's total. Its working languages are Chinese and Russian.
The SCO originated and grew from the Shanghai Five mechanism, also known as the "Shanghai Five," which was founded in 1996 and comprised China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan in a bid to strengthen confidence-building, disarmament in the border regions and to promote regional cooperation. In 2000, the president of Uzbekistan was invited to the Dushanbe Summit as a guest of the host state. In 2001, the SCO was established in Shanghai and accepted Uzbekistan as a member state.
According to the SCO Charter and the Declaration on the Establishment of the SCO, the main purposes of the SCO 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.
The SCO abides by the following basic principles: adherence to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations; respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, mutual non-use or threat of use of force; equality among all member states; settlement of all questions through consultations; non-alignment and no directing against any other country or organization; opening to the outside world and willingness to carry out all forms of dialogues, exchanges and cooperation with other countries and relevant international or regional organizations.
The SCO institutions consist of two parts: the meeting mechanism and the permanent organs. The highest SCO organ is the Council of Heads of State. Regular sessions of the Council of Heads of State are held once a year in member states alternately according to the Russian alphabetical order of the country names. The host country of the session of the Council of Heads of State assumes the rotating presidency of the organization. Uzbekistan is the current state of presidency.
The SCO institutions also include the Council of Heads of Government, the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Conference of Heads of Agencies, the Council of National Coordinators, the Secretariat and the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS).
In January 2004, the SCO officially launched the Secretariat as a standing executive organ in Beijing and the RATS as a permanent organ in Tashkent.
At present, SCO cooperation has covered wide-ranging areas such as security, economy, transportation, culture, disaster relief and law enforcement, with security and economic cooperation being the priorities.
The SCO emblem is a round symbol composed mainly of a map of the six member states, with olive branches and two ribbons encircling it from both left and right. It symbolizes the impetus the member states give to regional and world peace and development, and implies the magnitude of its cooperation scope and growth potentials.
The upper and lower parts of the emblem are marked "Shanghai Cooperation Organization" in Chinese and Russian respectively. The green and blue colors are chosen to embody its purposes of peace, friendship, progress and development.