International cooperation to safeguard cultural heritage along the silk roads: Finding a Common Path towards World Heritage nomination, protection and management

The Silk Roads are an exceptional example of a cultural route that covers many elements of heritage, both tangible and intangible. The inscription on the World Heritage List of this unique property, which bears testimony to over two millennia of human history, required an innovative approach and a new cross-border methodology. To this day, it remains a best practice for the World Heritage Committee when it comes to serial transnational nominations.

With the successful inscription of the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor (China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) on UNESCO’S World Heritage List on 22 June 2014, the Silk Roads World Heritage nomination process revealed the importance of inter-cultural dialogue in heritage conservation. It showed that, with a common value framework, functioning intergovernmental cooperation mechanism and the proper upstream guidance, it is possible to carry out a serial and transnational World Heritage nomination despite encountering different political systems, administrative and legal frameworks, professional capacities and even languages. Guided by an innovative approach rooted in “building peace in the minds of men and women” and the traditional Chinese cultural concept of "harmony within diversity”, countries in Asia—especially China and five Central Asian countries—gained a better understanding of each other, which in turn led to increased regional and international cooperation and fostered sustainable development. Through theoretical innovation and practical exploration with the right entry point and appropriate methodology, it is indeed possible to reveal the historical significance and to tell the story of the great Silk Roads via the functional linkage of the tangible and intangible component parts that bear the Outstanding Universal Value as defined for World Heritage status. 

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Silk Roads Programme

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