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On building the CSTO institutional capacity inthe information and analytical sphere

One of the priorities of presidency of the Republic of Belarus in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 2023 was the systematic build-up of its institutional capacity in the information and analytical sphere.

Setting goals and objectives

In recent years, the Belarusian President A.G. Lukashenko has voiced several times the importance of strengthening the predictive and analytical component in the work of the CSTO in the context of the need for a more effective response to emerging challenges and threats to security in its area of responsibility.

A practical contribution to the task should be creating a network (hereinafter – the network) of national analytical institutes/centers for strategic studies of the CSTO member states (hereinafter – the institute) in order to mobilize scientific and expert potential for the common tasks of ensuring peace and security.

The Belarusian side also took the initiative to hold a meeting of heads of institutes in Minsk to reenergize the organization of work in this direction.

In June 2023, at a meeting with the CSTO foreign ministers in Minsk, the Head of State once again focused on the need to mobilize the existing potential: "We need to learn how to increase our efforts in the information and analytical field and in cooperation with the media."

We assume this topic will also be included in the agenda of the upcoming session of the CSTO Collective Security Council in Minsk.

Guided by the instructions of the Head of State, the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (BISR), as the leading think tank of the country, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, the State Secretariat of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus and the CSTO Secretariat, has actively engaged in working out these issues with partner structures in the member states.

Interim results

It can be stated at the moment, that the basic task of expediting interaction of think tanks in the CSTO space is being solved successfully:

  • Regular bilateral contacts are maintained at the level managers and experts of most institutions, including at the platforms of major international forums;
  • The range of interaction in the Russian expert community is expanding and the formalization of bilateral relations continues: in 2023, BISR signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, with the project office of the Russian President Vladimir Putin – the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI), the Caspian Institutes for Strategic Studies (CISS), the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS);
  • Regular consultations are held with partners from the CSTO at the platforms other interstate entities (for example, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Contacts with the Expert Advisory Council under the Council of the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly are steadily developing. In May this year, a memorandum of cooperation was also signed between the BISR and the secretariat of this body.

It should be emphasized at the same time that cooperation between research centers of Belarus and Russia is the most intensive and effective, being a reference point and an example for all CSTO member states.

The CSTO secretariat promptly responded to the request and, among other things, by mobilizing its internal resources, prepared a number of high-quality issues of the analytical bulletin. We believe this practice should be developed and scaled up.

Problem field

At the same time, there is no generally accepted methodology of supranational analytics. Within the framework of international organizations, it is difficult to find forms of interaction that satisfy all partners. In this regard, the importance of encouraging bilateral cooperation and the forming an international system of education of analysts is multiplied.

This conclusion was clearly confirmed during the thematic scientific and practical conference "Strategic Analysis and Forecasting. Belarus in the Global World", as well as the high-level international conference "Eurasian Security: Reality and Prospects in a Transforming World". Foreign colleagues, including from the CSTO member states, were presented with the professional developments and best practices of the BISR in the field of strategic analysis methodology and analytical activities. The subsequent expressive interest in the BISR materials confirms the conclusion that further efforts are needed to exchange best practices among specialists.

In this context, for example, it is possible to take into account the successful experience of accompanying high-level meetings with expert-level meetings in the CIS (Uzbekistan).

The presence of national and supranational interests, the exchange of sensitive information requires the search for new forms of organizing interaction in order to combine approaches and methods of work.

The different subordination and specialization of institutes of strategic studies of the CSTO member states complicates the efficiency of interaction.

In this regard, regular (annual) thematic meetings of representatives of the CSTO expert and analytical community in a multilateral format would greatly contribute to the search for answers to the questions raised and ways to resolve acute issues on the Organization's agenda as a whole, helping to strengthen internal cooperative ties, mutual trust and unity, which is a true value today.

Thus, there is an obvious need to strengthen the coordinating role of the CSTO Secretariat in the process of developing a transparent and unencumbered mechanism for cooperation of institutions.

Further intensification of the dialogue could be facilitated by creating a separate Center under the CSTO secretariat responsible for analysis and strategic planning.

Solving the task of creating and launching a network of institutions in line with the initial goal-setting requires the priority attention of interested leaders, taking into account the presence of the political will of the national leaders of the CSTO member states.

The presence of universally recognized training centers for analysts will contribute to the formation of a system of principles and methods for organizing and building theoretical and practical analytical activities in the CSTO space. Belarus will strive to create a specialized educational cluster, and one of the first steps is the launch of a corresponding BISR training center.

The options considered have their pros and cons, but in general they put a number of issues on the agenda, including strengthening their resource availability.

The way forward

Set by the President of Belarus A.G. Lukashenko dual task of strengthening the analytical and predictive component in the CSTO and building up its institutional potential is being systematically and gradually solved despite objective difficulties and problems. At the same time, what has been achieved means only the need to critically evaluate what has been done and continue this work, taking into account the adjustments made to the roadmap.

According to BISR, the SCO Forum, which has proven itself positively, is seen as the optimal model for organizing concerted expert and analytical work in the CSTO.

The SCO Forum was established in 2006 as a public consultation and expert mechanism for the scientific study of initiatives and decisions of the Heads of member states adopted at annual summits. It consists of one authoritative scientific institution with the status of a National Research Center, which is assigned in accordance with internal legal procedures. The Forum, managed on a rotating basis, works in cooperation with the secretariat, the Council of National Coordinators and the Foreign Ministries of the SCO member states.

At the same time, in order to avoid ambiguity, it is possible to formally appoint an authorized analytical organization in the CSTO member countries, which, in fact, will become a national subject of expert diplomacy.

The rules of the SCO Forum are somewhat similar to Think20 (T20), the official contact group ("bank of ideas") of the G20, which unites leading think tanks and high-level experts, which develops recommendations for working groups, ministerial meetings, as well as summits of G20 leaders. T20 is also managed on the basis of the principle of rotation by the G20 chair country.

It presumes holding a semi-annual conference. Based on the recommendations/proposals developed at the conference, the agenda and draft communique of the final T20 summit are drawn up, which, in turn, are then used in developing a joint statement by the G20 leaders. In addition to the achievements of the target groups, this document also relies on various analytical notes by researchers and scientists around the world. In fact, India has attracted the general public to this work within the framework of the T20 Ideas Box project.

It should be noted that a similar format also works in G7 – Think7, which closely interacts with Think20. Their last coordination meeting was held in New York on the sidelines of the 8th session of the UN General Assembly.

It is obvious that in the conditions of the current global confrontation and the formation of a new world order, the role of expert diplomacy is exponentially growing. Especially as traditional channels of external communication fall into the zone of toxicity, forced balancing, or their use does not give the desired result or is not at all advisable in a particular situation.

In this regard, the emergence of a systematic request for qualitative expertise to understand the deep essence of the ongoing processes and their possible consequences in the process of drafting management decisions is natural, and the CSTO is no exception here. That is why national States pay and will pay special attention to interaction with the expert community and strengthening their analytical institutions. At the same time, it is obvious that, focusing on their own problems and avoiding interaction, there can be no question of any qualitative expertise. Accordingly, international contacts of experts from like-minded countries come to the fore, and with a broader scope, not limited only to the framework of the CSTO.

The initiative of the President of the Republic of Belarus on combining the efforts and synergy of the CSTO, BRICS, EAEU and SCO potentials naturally fits into such a context, the successful implementation of which would allow, apart from solving other tasks, to create a "seamless" and mutually integrated expert space in Greater Eurasia and its expanded neighborhood, which will harmoniously complement the indivisible zone of sustainable development and security. The experience of coordinating the efforts of the G20 and G7 expert tracks can serve as a clear confirmation of this and a good example worthy of borrowing.