The UNESCO Silk Roads Programme

© Avijit Ghosh / UNESCO Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads

Since 1988, UNESCO has sought to better understand the rich history and shared legacy of the historic Silk Roads, and the ways in which cultures have mutually influenced each other. In light of the enduring legacy of the Silk Roads in connecting civilizations throughout history, the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme revives and extends these historic networks in a digital space, bringing people together in an ongoing dialogue and fostering a mutual understanding of the diverse and often inter-related cultures that have sprung up around these routes.

As a part of UNESCO’s commitment to creating a culture of peace, the Silk Roads Online Platform seeks to promote this unique history of mutual exchange and dialogue, in line with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. In the words of UNESCO’s Director General (2017-Present), Audrey Azoulay, “we must learn from the exchanges that took place along the Silk Roads. These exchanges weaved connections between peoples and cultures across Asia and Europe – with this in mind, we can work to foster much needed dialogue and mutual respect going forward.”

In order to achieve these objectives, the programme undertakes the following initiatives:

  • The Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads International Photo Contest is an opportunity for young people living in the regions along the historic Silk Roads and beyond, to share their perceptions and further their understanding of the shared cultural heritage and pluralistic identities which have emerged along these routes. Through photography young people can portray these interactions in their contemporary context.
  • The Silk Roads Youth Research Grant, aims to mobilize young researchers for further study on the Silk Roads heritage.
  • The International Network of Focal Points for the Silk Roads Programme was established to ensure the participation of Member States in achieving the objectives of the Programme. The network assists in the collection of pertinent knowledge developed within each representatives’ Member State.
  • UNESCO is currently developing an Interactive Atlas and a Thematic Collection of Cultural Exchanges along the Silk Roads which will provide key information regarding the exchanges and the mutual influences between cultures. This will showcase and map the interactions as well as their results through diverse topics including Science and Technology, Traditional Know-how and Craftsmanship, Religion and Spirituality, Arts and Music, Languages and Literature and Traditional Sports and Games among many others.

In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, the Silk Roads Online Platform collects, and makes accessible, worldwide scholarship concerning the Silk Roads, engaging a global audience in a deeper understanding of the diversity and interdependence, of the cultures and peoples along these routes. Here you can find the timeless significance of these routes explained and access a unique source of original information, scholarship, photography, and news, enriched by the contributions of partner institutions from all over the world as well as a committee of Silk Roads experts.

Within this Online Platform, various aspects of these routes can be explored through a series of themes, covering subjects ranging from festivals and traditional craftsmanship along the Silk Roads, to World Cultural Heritage, museums, cities, and much more. These themes are also displayed visually on the platform’s interactive Silk Roads Map. The Knowledge Bank provides a unique reservoir of expert information and the latest research on the Silk Roads, in the form of articles and studies, brought together by UNESCO and its network of partners. This stands as a vital tool for all who wish to study any aspect of the routes in detail. Similarly, a list of publications displays a variety of works intended to provide a helpful guide for visitors of all levels of interest. The platform also provides details of institutions from across the world whose work relates closely to the Silk Roads.

This online platform is committed to building active links between people from different communities along the length of these routes. Local engagement ensures the cultural vitality of Silk Roads societies, promoting sustainable development via creative industries, education, and sustainable tourism. In this way, the legacy of the Silk Roads lives on, and they remain a crossroads of dialogue at the forefront of exchange and sustainable development.


Get involved in the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme:

  • If you are aged 14-25 and live in, or have visited, one of the regions encompassed by the Silk Roads you are eligible to participate in the International Photo Contest Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads. This annual photo contest offers an exciting opportunity for young people from all over the world to capture their understanding of the shared heritage of the Silk Roads through the lens of their camera.
  • If you are a researcher, aged 35 and younger, you can submit your research for the Silk Roads Youth Research Grant. The grant aims to mobilize young researchers for further study of the Silk Roads shared heritage. The proposed research may be carried out by an individual researcher or may be part of the research of a group or collaborative project.
  • Additionally, you are invited to share your photos through the platform’s Silk Roads photo gallery. We are always pleased to promote cultural heritage from sections of the land and maritime Silk Roads, including historical sites and monuments, costumes and rituals, traditional knowledge, and craftsmanship as well as relevant contemporary festivals and events and to integrate images of them into our Photo Gallery.
  • If you are a scholar or researcher undertaking ongoing research or have already published papers and books on any issue relevant to the Silk Roads, you may share the results of your work with Silk Roads enthusiasts around the world via the UNESCO online platform. Contact us at to find out more.
  • If you are aware of upcoming events that are relevant to the Silk Roads taking place in your region, let us know about them at, so that these events can be announced and promoted through the UNESCO Silk Roads Online Platform.

This platform has been developed and maintained with the support of:


UNESCO Headquarters

7 Place de Fontenoy

75007 Paris, France

Social and Human Sciences Sector

Research, Policy and Foresight Section

Silk Roads Programme

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