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 have connected civilizations, 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 project of UNESCO that aimed to highlight the cultural interactions between the peoples of different cultures along the Silk Roads. Following this project, UNESCO continued to organize 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.
UNESCO is also developing the Interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Roads that aims to provide key information regarding exchanges and mutual influences between different cultures along the Silk Roads.
In 2018, UNESCO launched the first edition of the Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads Photo Contest that mobilized applicants from 100 countries around the world. The young photographers were invited to take photos of what represents the Silk Roads heritage for them within four major themes of Culture, Monuments, Landscape and People. The award ceremony took place on 21 September 2018 in Beijing on the International Day of Peace, in close collaboration with the photo contest's partner China World Peace Foundation.
From this contest, a travelling photo exhibition presenting the 57 best photos was set up, and exhibited in different countries around the world including China, Oman, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Russian Federation, UNESCO HQ in Paris, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.
Following the success of the first edition, the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme is organizing this second edition of the photo contest (19 September – 6 January 2020). The three themes of the 2019 edition of the contest (Gastronomy and Food Production, Music and Dance, and Traditional Sports and Games) have been chosen among the major subjects that are covered by the Interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Roads.