The UNESCO Beijing Office collaborated with the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO, the Changsha Municipal Government, and the Nanjing Municipal Government to organize the 2021 International Youth Forum on Creativity and Heritage along the Silk Roads: Special Dialogue on Youth Leadership in Creativity, Heritage, and Resilience (hereinafter “the 2021 IYFSD”) online in Beijing, Changsha and Nanjing simultaneously on 17 December 2021. More than 80 youth from 46 countries participated in the Special Dialogue to share and exchange their thoughts, stories and actions on the topics.
The 2021 IYFSD consisted of a plenary session and two parallel sessions that respectively focused on “Youth leadership in innovation and creativity for resilient World Heritage conservation” and “Youth leadership in innovation and creativity for resilient and inclusive cities”.
At the beginning of the plenary session, Ms. Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO, encouraged youth actions and underlined the importance of youth power in her opening remarks. “We need youth for more critical thinking, we need youth for more ambition, we need youth to really consider all the elements that you have learned to build a much better, resilient, and inclusive world. This is really important as we move into the last decade for action. You are really key players.”
Mr. Tian Xuejun, Vice Minister of Education of the People’s Republic of China, Chairperson of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO, made three proposals for youth’s further initiatives, which are “upholding the Silk Road Spirit, giving full play to your leadership, and Leveraging creativity,” to “build a community with a shared future for humankind.”
The Changsha and Nanjing Municipal Governments also sent their messages to celebrate the opening of the 2021 IYFSD. Mr. Xia Xinmin, Acting Mayor of Nanjing city, pointed out the significance of global cooperation in his opening remarks. “We are all in a community with a shared future for mankind. We must uphold true multilateralism and unite as one to face all future challenges”. Mr. Zheng Jianxin, Mayor of Changsha city, emphasized on the value of cultural exchanges. “Civilizations have become richer and more colorful with exchanges and mutual learning. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, cultural exchanges and development continue to thrive.”
Apart from the mentioned messages, professionals from UNESCO and youth representatives were invited to give keynote speeches on UNESCO Youth programme, youth participation in the 44th session of the World Heritage, World Heritage conservation in China and outcomes of the 12th UNESCO Youth Forum.
During the parallel session 1, youth participants actively shared their own opinions on the topic. The usage of modern technologies, including 3D Scan and Audio Guides in World Heritage conservation and its drawbacks were deeply emphasized; Cultural heritage preservation in different countries and regions like Sudan, Turkey and Latin America were also discussed. Participants also showed their efforts and demonstrated their future leadership in World Heritage conservation.
Participants of the parallel session 2 had a dynamic discussion on Youth leadership in innovation and creativity for resilient and inclusive cities. Some youth shared their own inspiring experiences: they involved in diverse programmes to contribute to resilient and inclusive city development: a youth based in Hong Kong SAR, China shared her story on establishing a Hanfu brand to promote the integration of modern and traditional Chinese culture. Young people also shared their insights on inclusiveness: a youth from Jamaica introduced her experiences and projects at the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) that focuses on the resilience of adolescent mothers.
At the closing, Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director of the UNESCO Beijing Office, applauded the outcomes of the 2021 IYFSD and reaffirmed the significance of youth engagement. “At a fundamental level, in order to strengthen youth leadership for sustainable development, we have to understand that young people must be at the table for dialogues and decisions about the future,” said by Prof. Shahbaz Khan.
Mr. Qin Changwei, Secretary-General of the National Commission of China for UNESCO, reaffirmed the commitment to youth development and encouraged youth to uphold the Silk Roads Spirit to make the world more sustainable and prosperous. “Looking into the future, we hope young people along the Silk Roads could make further contribution to world peace and sustainable development, as well as a community with a shared future for humankind,” underscored by Mr. Qin Changwei.
UNESCO has collaborated with the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO and the Municipal Governments to organize the International Youth Forum on Creativity and Heritage along the Silk Roads since 2017, with the aim to provide a platform of exchange, mutual learning, and mutual inspiring for young people all around the world.