UNESCO celebrates 35 years of dialogue along the Silk Roads

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The 35th anniversary celebration of the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme was held on 6 April 2023 at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, with more than 2,500 participants joining from all over the world. The day-long series of events was co-organized by UNESCO and the Permanent Delegations of Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Oman to UNESCO. 

The Silk Roads Programme, a major 'Routes of Dialogue’ project, is one of UNESCO’s flagship initiatives in the field of social and human sciences. For more than three decades, it has served as a valuable tool for understanding how cultures and societies interact and enrich each other. Shared legacies and plural identities, resulting from commercial, cultural and scientific exchanges, have played a major role in the development of modern societies and cultures.

Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, opened the celebrations and  introduced the 'Ministerial Forum on Silk Roads, Diversity, Dialogue, and Peace' in the presence of ministers and deputy-ministers of the five co-organizing countries, and renowned international experts. The achievements of the Silk Roads Programme in reinforcing intercultural dialogue and building a culture of peace over the last thirty-five years was recognized, with the active participation of renown experts, including Professor Peter Frankopan, UNESCO Chair holder of the Silk Roads Studies, King’s College, Cambridge. 

Ministers and deputy ministers from Kazakhstan, Oman, People’s Republic of China, Azerbaijan and Mongolia, as well as the experts, discussed potential avenues for new collaborations and strategies as the Programme seeks to enhance the conditions for meaningful intercultural dialogue. With the conclusions of the Ministerial Forum, UNESCO will formulate a renewed strategic vision for the Programme’s future and raise further awareness of the shared heritage of the Silk Roads.   

“The principles that inspired the creation of the Silk Roads — mutual understanding and multiple exchanges — stood the test of time and are more needed than ever. We are looking forward to the successful continuation of this programme.” 

Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO

The forum was followed by the official openings of the Masterpieces of the Silk Roads and Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads exhibitions in the presence of Dr Li Ruohong, President of the Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation, partners of the Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads photo contest, as well the representatives of the co-organizing countries. A large audience witnessed some of the award-winning photographs from the annual photography contest organized by the Silk Roads Programme. 

Photo exhibition of the 35th anniversary of the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme

The series of events at the Headquarters also included an afternoon Scientific Symposium on the ‘Silk Roads Youth Research Grant’, during which the first cohort of this new research grant presented the findings of the research they undertook with the support of UNESCO. The Symposium was also an opportunity to hear from experts and members of the Scientific Panel of the grant.


“Young people set the agenda. Young scholars define the next questions. These are the next frontiers, the ways new challenges get solved.” 

Peter Frankopan, UNESCO Chair of the Silk Roads Studies 

The day’s events concluded with a series of music and dance performances featuring artists from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and China. 

The Silk Roads initiative is part of the larger programme on intercultural dialogue and peace.

You can read more about the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme in this special edition of UNESCO Courier

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