UNESCO Youth Forum on Creativity and Heritage along the Silk Road

The youth participants from eighty-six countries along the maritime and terrestrial Silk Road ⓒ Phan Van Quyen

The Third International Youth Forum on Creativity and Heritage along the Silk Road (IYF3) with the theme “Youth Creativity and Innovation in the Age of Media Arts” was held in Changsha and Nanjing, People’s Republic of China, from 31 March to 5 April. More than 125 young people from 86 countries along the maritime and terrestrial Silk Road participated in the week-long capacity-building forum.

The IYF3 sought to provide an avenue for young people to engage in intercultural dialogue, share their passions and interest, and explore the potential of innovation and creativity in the promotion, safeguarding, and preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage towards sustainable and inclusive development. The participants also advocated for the inclusion of young people in cultural and creative industries through various platforms of media arts. There were series of youth panel discussions and workshops on the themes “Innovation of Cultural Heritage” and “Art for Social Integration.”

During the opening ceremony in Changsha, Ms. Marielza Oliveira, UNESCO Representative and Director of the UNESCO Office in Beijing, expressed her conviction on the potential of young people to take leadership roles in transforming societies and the world as a whole. According to her, “We will not tell you that youth are the future,” because she believes that nowadays, young people are already changing the world in their own capabilities.

The Changsha Initiative (download .pdf) was adopted at the end of the forum, an outcome document that presented ten concrete recommendations of the youth participants on the following areas: creativity and innovation, youth space for mutual learning and exchange, and capacity building. The recommendations build upon the innovation of creativity and protection of heritage, which are all geared towards achieving the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Youth participants after the sharing sessions in Changsha, China ⓒ Phan Van Quyen

The young participants were also exposed to the intangible cultural heritage elements of the People’s Republic of China. During a cultural visit to the Tongguan Kiln, an ancient town in the city of Changsha, they were introduced to traditional pottery making practices and the ceramics culture during the Tang dynasty. In Nanjing, they learned about the craftsmanship of Nanjing Yunjin brocade, which was inscribed in 2009 on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The weaving of the Nanjing Yunjin brocade is usually done by two culture practitioners who operate the upper and lower parts of a wooden loom. Silk is the primary material used in the weaving technique. During the olden days, the Nanjing Yunjin brocade was known as the finest silk fabric used for producing royal attire.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are the underlying groundwork for the forum, which has been held annually since 2017. According to the State Council of the Republic of China, “the Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European, and African continents and their adjacent seas; establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road; set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered, and composite connectivity networks; and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.”

IYF3 was organized by UNESCO, National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO, the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations, the Changsha Municipal People’s Government and the Nanjing Municipal People’s Government.