The International Conference entitled ‘The Importance of the Silk Road: Present and Future Development’ has opened in the Yyldyz Hotel.
Organized by the Government of Turkmenistan in cooperation with UNESCO, the forum aims to demonstrate the importance of the Silk Road for sustainable development, unlock the potential of the legendary route’s common heritage for enhanced intercultural dialogue, and recognize its significant contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Among those in attendance are ministers, senior representatives and experts from some 50 countries, including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Iraq, Italy, Japan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, the Philippines, Qatar, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and the UAE among others.
Conference attendees and guests were listening eagerly to President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s Welcoming Address, which was read at the forum. In his Address the Turkmen leader noted that the ongoing efforts to study the Silk Road and popularize its historical importance stand as eloquent testimony to the triumph of humanistic principles and good neighborliness.
A modern-day revival of the ancient route is evidenced by massive construction of railways, roads, bridges, transport and logistics infrastructure, as well as the organization of international forums on cooperation in this field, the nation’s leader stressed.
Innovative technologies and approaches to the development of trade and cooperation along the Silk Road are one of the themes of the conference, which will also address the history and revival of the route, policies and best practices adopted in the countries alongside the historic route to implement the 2030 Global Agenda.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted in his book ‘Turkmenistan is the Heart of the Silk Road’ that the Turkmens played one of the pivotal roles in the rise and development of the Silk Road, whose every route deserves to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Turkmenistan is also working actively in this field as part of the UNESCO-led Transnational Silk Road Monuments Project. 25 historical and cultural monuments of Turkmenistan, located along the Silk Road have been nominated to the World Heritage List.
Aside from that, cooperation of Turkmenistan with the United Nations includes projects and programs in the fields of education, science, culture, strengthening of people-to-people bonds to name but a few.
Speaking at the conference, UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan Elena Panova noted in this connection that the United Nations renders assistance in enhancing our country’s institutional and human potential to transform investment into sustainable development infrastructure. The UN Resident Coordinator also quoted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who had called on the global community in one of his recent statements to explore the heritage of the Silk Road and “take that spirit to new heights, for the benefit of all.”
Ms. Panova pointed out the importance of Turkmenistan’s transport and energy projects and initiatives, which perfectly fit in the modern picture of the revived Silk Road, as well as deepening cooperation on environmental issues, including the Paris Agreement, the shift to a green economy and the Aral Sea catastrophe.
Officer-in-Charge of the UNESCO Cluster Office in Tehran Alexander Leicht conveyed greetings from Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay to forum delegates, and told that his organization attaches great significance to the rebirth of the Silk Road phenomenon, a unique example of fruitful cultural exchange and dialogue known to mankind.
Mr. Leicht also recollected one of the first UNESCO Silk Road research expeditions. Launched from Ashgabat in 1991, it proved Central Asia’s importance as a key region in the heart of the Silk Road.
At present, fourteen countries, including Turkmenistan, are cooperating on the serial nomination of the Silk Road to the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the light of the growing interest, UNESCO has launched a new initiative, the Silk Road Online Platform for Dialogue, Diversity and Development. Thus, not only does the Silk Road embody the valuable past and vibrant present, it also teaches us lessons for the future about tackling common regional and global challenges.
Speakers at the plenary meeting included ministers of culture and senior officials of other related institutions from different countries. They focused on diverse aspects of the Silk Road’s mission, its role in the exchange of not only commodities and goods, but also philosophy, scientific knowledge, and literature through the centuries. Those speaking at the meeting were in agreement that it is a cultural dialogue that can soften the tone and enliven the human spirit, while teaching people simple truths and words of wisdom and helping them to develop the ability to listen to other people, understand them and make friends. It is the channel that opens the door to a violence-free world.
The human spirit is like water separated by jugs. Even though split apart, water drops can join together again. This metaphor from oriental poetry represents the very essence of a cultural dialogue – something that people, who are constantly deluged with information, badly need today, according to the speakers.
Re-creation of the Silk Road routes in different countries, construction of railways, transport transit corridors, and efforts to establish shipping lanes and trade networks also received attention during the meeting. Thus, the common heritage of the ancient Silk Road has taken on a new meaning, promoting peace and friendship. Turkmenistan has seen enormous changes and dramatic transformation in this field in recent years, which earned high praise from the foreign guests.
Organized during the conference, exhibitions featured photographs of the UNESCO Youth Eyes on the Silk Road Photo Contest, arts and crafts, and book products from Turkmenistan and other countries.
As part of the cultural program, the guests have watched a theatrical performance, “Gerogly and Agayunus”, at the Alp Arslan National Drama Theater today. Tomorrow, they will visit the Magtymguly National Music and Drama Theater to attend a concert given by the Galkynysh Turkmen-Austrian Symphony Orchestra.
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