Who are we?

Within its mandate for reinforcing intercultural dialogue and respect of cultural diversity, and in line with the objectives of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNESCO promotes mutual understanding, intellectual solidarity and cooperation through education, science, culture, and communications.

In this respect, UNESCO has undertaken various initiatives and projects including the Silk Roads Programme.

The Silk Roads were an expansive network of communications that connected civilizations and brought peoples and cultures from across the world into contact with each other for thousands of years, permitting not only an exchange of goods but also an interaction of ideas and cultures that has shaped our world today. In light of this enduring legacy, the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme revives and extends these historic networks, bringing people together in an ongoing dialogue about the Silk Roads in order to foster a mutual understanding of the diverse and often inter-related cultures that have sprung up around them.

The Integral Study of the Silk Roads, the Roads of Dialogue (1988-1997), was the first UNESCO project that aimed to highlight the cultural interactions between the peoples of different cultures along the Silk Roads. Following this project, UNESCO organized further initiatives related to the Silk Roads.

In 2013, it launched the Silk Roads Online Platform for Dialogue, Diversity and Development. Through advocacy and knowledge mobilisation, this initiative aims to identify and raise awareness of the shared cultural heritage of the Silk Roads as a basis for encouraging intercultural dialogue between people living along these routes.

In 2021 the Silk Roads Programme launched the Silk Roads Youth Research Grant, an initiative which aims to mobilize young researchers for further study of the Silk Roads shared heritage and spirit. As part of this initiative, each year 12 research grants will be awarded to young women and men aged 35 and younger.

UNESCO is also currently in the process of developing a Thematic Collection and Interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Roads which aim to provide key information regarding exchanges and mutual influences between different cultures along the Silk Roads.

UNESCO first launched the Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads Photo Contest in 2018 with both the first and second editions of the contest receiving entries from 100 countries around the world. In 2019, for the second edition of the contest young photographers were invited to take photos representing the Silk Roads heritage through the themes of Gastronomy and Food Production, Music and Dance, and Traditional Sports and Games. The results of the 2019 photo contest were announced in Beijing, China, on the occasion of the Peace Garden Peace Festival, as part of International Day of Peace on the 21st of September 2020. The event (on-site and online), which took place in collaboration with the photo contest’s partner the China World Peace Foundation, included a presentation of the winning photographs in the presence of the Selection Committee and featured video presentations from some of the winning young photographers.

A travelling photo exhibition presenting a collection of the best photos from the 2nd edition of the contest is scheduled to take place depending on sanitary restrictions. Previously the travelling photo exhibition for the 1st edition of the contest was exhibited in China, Oman, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and at UNESCO HQ in Paris, France.

Following the resounding success of the first and second editions, the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme is organizing a third edition of the photo contest from 24 May – 24 August 2021. The two parallel themes chosen for the 2020 edition of the contest are ‘Textiles and Clothing’, one of the major subjects covered by the Thematic Collection and Interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Roads, and ‘Intercultural Exchanges in the Time of Covid-19, including in the field of Textiles and Clothing’.


All queries must be directed to: Silkroadsphotocontest@unesco.org