UNESCO-Turkmenistan International Conference Importance of the Great Silk Roads: Present and Future Development

UNESCO-Turkmenistan International Conference
Importance of the Great Silk Roads: Present and Future Development

Your Excellency Ms Bahargul Abdyeva, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers,

Dear Ms/Mr UNESCO,

Honorable participants, Ladies and Gentlemen

First of all, let me thank the organizers of such imposing International Conference for giving me an opportunity to participate in this event.

On behalf of all UN Agencies in Turkmenistan and in my capacity as UN Resident Coordinator, I would like to congratulate His Excellency Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan, all participants of the Conference on the remarkable achievement - inclusion of the Silk Roads to the Transnational World Heritage List. 

I am also pleased with the productive expert discussions on inclusion of the traditional Sports and Games that developed along the Silk Roads to UNESCO’s Interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Roads.

Indeed, the Silk Roads was a unique phenomenon in the history of humankind. Established as early as 130 B.C., the Silk Roads facilitated international trade for hundreds of years.

It connected various civilizations and was of tremendous importance to establishing a dialogue, economic and cultural interchange of peoples the vast regions of East and West. The Silk Roads played a significant role in reaching advancements in science and education, industrial and technological developments and enrichment of cultures of the nations of that ancient past. For thousands of years it allowed an exchange of ideas and cultures that has shaped our world today. And more importantly, it had a lasting impact on human capital development and prosperity.

In contemporary times, when the countries have become so interconnected due sweeping developments in transport, communications and digital technologies, the Silk Roads concept has acquired a new meaning. This is why in December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 67/104, proclaiming the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), which reinforced Member States’ commitment to foster mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue.

Dear colleagues,

In today’s world with many threats existing to global peace, security, well-being and development, the revived Silk Roads notion has the potential to promote friendship, mutually beneficial cooperation and sustainable development, thus contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the world community in 2015.  

It is not by chance that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in one of his recent statements, urged the world to draw experiences from the ancient Silk Road and "take that spirit to new heights for the benefit of all." Understanding the potential benefits of the renewed Silk Roads, a number of constructive initiatives to connect nations through improved transport infrastructure, new energy routes, sports and culture have been put forward in last few years.

Turkmenistan is one of such champions that has carried out tremendous work in recent years to revive and promote the modern concept of Silk Roads.      

It is proven fact, that the territory of modern Turkmenistan was at cross-roads of the ancient Silk Road routes. Caravans and goods passed through Turkmenistan in all directions, making it an important link in the interaction of civilizations. Given the contemporary realities of the development of Turkmenistan, when Turkmenistan can offer a lot more in terms of existing infrastructure and connectivity, it was natural that the President of Turkmenistan put forward an idea of turning Turkmenistan into the “heart of the Great Silk Road”.

We have witnessed a number of developments in the country that contributed to positioning Turkmenistan as the heart of Silk Roads and advancing the 2030 Agenda in Turkmenistan.

The country promoted cultural and sport dialogue among nations by hosting the Fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2017. The Games were remarkable as the Government generously invited the Refugee Olympic Team to compete in the Games. Further, Turkmenistan conducted international desert rally Amul-Hazar 2018, in which the renowned international rallyists crossed the country from east to west. 

The country has made considerable investments in construction of modern roads, railways, air and sea ports.

Turkmenistan takes active steps to create the regional transport links by mobilizing international cooperation to complete construction of the international railway Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan, in which the Kerki (Turkmenistan) -Imamnazar - Akina (Afghanistan) section has already been completed. Turkmenistan Government also supports the realization of the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor, which connects Afghanistan producers with markets in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and further Europe.      

In the area of energy, Turkmenistan has been promoting globally the concept of reliable and safe transit of energy to final consumers. The flagship project capable of bringing sustainable solutions to the Central and South Asia regions is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.     

In terms of sustainable development, TAPI, if realized, can support rapid economic growth without generating commensurate carbon footprints, provide access to affordable energy for households and industry in South Asia and connect local communities offering them potential development opportunities.

TAPI is also an example of the indivisibility and integrated nature of the global development, peace and security, and climate agendas. Without peace and security in South Asia, sustainable development in Central Asia will be difficult to achieve. If the world does not invest in gas and gas transport infrastructure, it will invest in coal instead—and climate risks will grow for everyone. 

The above initiatives nicely fit with the modern logic of the revived Silk Roads. It serves as a solid basis to promote political,  economic and cultural cooperation among nations, opens new avenues for fruitful collaboration, unleashes geo-economic potential of the nations. All these factors can ultimately lead to implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s main principle “leave no one behind” and ensure that the benefits of development are spread broadly and fairly.

Dear participants,

UN Agencies are maintaining productive cooperation with Turkmenistan in realization of its vision of the heart of new Silk Roads.  

Since 2014, UN supported the Government of Turkmenistan in promoting sustainable multimodal transport corridors in the region. A number of UN General Assembly Resolutions initiated by Turkmenistan were adopted in that respect.

In 2016, the country hosted the first United Nations Global Conference on Sustainable Transport, which brought together Governments, UN system, other international organizations, private sector and civil society. They engaged in a dialogue that emphasized the integrated and cross-cutting nature of all modes of sustainable transport in supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Ashgabat Outcome Document stated that without sustainable transport there cannot be lasting progress on climate action and lasting progress on the SDGs.

The United Nations welcomed Turkmenistan’s initiatives to promote reliable transit of energy through adoption of a number of important General Assembly resolutions initiated by the Turkmen Government.

UN support to the realization of these initiatives was provided in the form of expertise, technical assistance, brokering dialogue with international donors, financial institutions at global and regional forums.

Domestically, the United Nations has been providing assistance in building institutional and human capacities to transform investments in infrastructure into investments in sustainable development.

United Nations stands ready to assist in attracting investments. Including through innovative financing mechanisms, building partnerships with private sector, civil society and banks to mobilize resources for the 2030 Agenda and with Turkmenistan playing an important role of logistics hub in the region. 

Such discussion was launched during the Financing for Development Conference titled “Partnership for Development Financing at the Heart of the Great Silk Road”. The Conference concluded with signing two Memorandums between the State Bank for Foreign Economic Relations and UNDP on cooperation in mobilizing development financing for the achievement of SDGs in Turkmenistan and between the Bank and private Al Qamra Holding Group (Qatar) regarding financing of potential projects in Turkmenistan.

The concept of revived Silk Roads realized in Turkmenistan has also provided an opportunity for deepening cooperation on environmental issues. We welcomed Turkmenistan’s commitment to implementation of the Paris Agreement and are providing support to develop “green economy” approaches. The UN urged all international stakeholders to cooperate with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) to address the Aral Sea issues. UN assisted Turkmenistan to present the concept of the UN Special Program for Aral Sea Basin, agreed by the heads of Central Asian states – cofounders of IFAS to the international stakeholders at the sides of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. UN is ready to cooperate and provide possible assistance in addressing the environmental concerns and building resilience of communities living in the Aral Sea region.

The United Nations promotes the South-South and regional cooperation and exchanges bridging various actors across the countries along the modern Silk Roads. Such activities also contribute to realization of the full potential of the modern Silk Roads as a means of achieving sustainable development. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to wish successful and productive discussions during the Conference sessions and express confidence that the ideas expressed and agreements reached will be conducive to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and realization of its main principle of leaving no one behind.

Thank you for the attention.


Speech by
Elena Panova
UN Resident Coordinator
Elena Panova UN Resident Coordinator Turkmenistan
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office