The First Meeting of the International Network for the Silk Road Online Platform: A new phase in UNESCO’s Silk Roads Initiative
This first meeting of the International Network for the Silk Road Online Platform was held from 22 to 25 May 2015 in Xi’an, China with the participation of focal points and experts from sixteen Member States (China, Egypt, France, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Oman, Russian Federation, Senegal, Spain, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the United Kingdom).
This meeting was organized by UNESCO within the framework of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) in collaboration with the Tang West Market Cultural Industry Investment Group of China, the Municipality of Xi’an, the Provincial Government of Shanxi province and the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO.
The meeting was held in Xi’an during that city’s annual Silk Road Festival. The Tang West Market Group organized a series of impressive side events for the meeting’s participants. such as a painting exhibition entitled “The Silk Road, The Silk Dream”, performances from musicians and dancers representing countries along the Silk Road (e.g., China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Georgia) and a concert by Chinese and Spanish opera orchestras..
The selection of Xi’an as the meeting’s venue was highly symbolism. It was in this city that the first consultative meeting of the UNESCO Silk Road project was held in 1989 and that the first UNESCO Silk Road Scientific Expedition (the “Desert Route”) was launched in 1990. It was therefore fitting that UNESCO chose to launch the second phase of the Silk Roads initiative in Xi’an by establishing an International Network of Focal Points for the Silk Road Online Platform.
After three days of intense discussion, the participants had a clearer idea of the activities of Silk Road project around the world and more particularly in the represented countries. They also agreed on how the Network would operate, including the creation of a coordinating committee to consolidate their suggestions into a plan of action for the Network for the next two years. The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Xi’an Declaration, featuring recommendations to the various stakeholders, such as UNESCO and its Members States, academic, social and cultural institutions, as well as grassroots community groups. Among the practical recommendations were: the creation of scientific panel to assist UNESCO in the selection and validation of content to be posted on the Online Platform; defining a common approach to research on the Silk Road cultural heritage; organizing a regular meeting of the Network on a rotational basis; and launching activities to raise awareness on the Silk Road cultural heritage among young people.