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 were awarded to young women and men aged 35 and younger.

UNESCO is also currently in the process of developing a Thematic Collection of Cultural Exchanges 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, second, third and fourth editions of the contest receiving entries from 100 countries around the world. Read more about the previous editions of the contest.

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.

In 2023, on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme, an exhibition was displayed outside UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, presenting 140 exceptional photographs from this contest, with the support of the photo contest’s partner, the Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation. This collection of photographs is an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of young photographers and artists living in or travelling along the Silk Roads.
Learn more about the exhibition here.

Following the resounding success of the four editions, the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme is organizing a fourth edition of the photo contest from 5 June to 31 July 2023. The themes chosen for the 2023 edition of the contest are ‘Architecture, Monuments, and Urbanism’, one of the major subjects covered by the Thematic Collection of Cultural Exchanges along the Silk Roads.


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