Following Assif's question under the topic of "New in 2011" as to where the Silk Road nomination stands I thought it worthwhile trying to trace the history of the project to achieve inscription, both for future reference and to try to assess the current situation. It would appear that the project has some major issues and may well not be that close to formal nomination! I have started a new Forum topic so that we can record further discoveries and views about this subject.
The entire concept seems originally to have been very much UNESCO-initiated and supported, commencing as long ago as 1998 with a so called "Integral Study of the Great Silk Road - the Road of a Dialogue"
. A resumee of some of the early events, workshops etc is here http://www.silkroad.travel/unesco
This all seems to have culminated with a UNESCO mission in Aug 2003 perhaps to try to move things along more substantively!! The Report was published in May 2004 and sets out a recommended approach for identifying and nominating sites http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001381/138161eo.pdf
Among interesting aspects are
a. The splitting of the entire route into 3 parts "Oasis Route", "Steppe Route" and "Maritime route"
b. The suggestion that The Oasis Route in China running from Xian to Kashgar should be given priority other countries could come along later with their own "clusters"
c. UNESCO was interested in "taking the Chinese section of the Silk Road as a case study, and thereby facilitate the identification and nomination of other Cultural Routes in different parts of the world to the World Heritage List"
. The Inca Road is mentioned. The hope is expressed of "Cultural routes" becoming a widely adopted type of inscribed site in much the same way as "Cultural Landscapes"
d. The need to include "support sites" and those providing "physical setting" as well as the "pearls" in order to provide context and continuity
e. The management problems of such widely spread sites and how these might be solved.
f. The need to include both Xian and Kashgar. N.b in particular the comment "It is difficult, therefore, to perceive a nomination of the Oasis Route, which doesn't include both these cities."
Notwithstanding the proposal in the UNESCO Mission Report that China should take the lead in developing its own national nomination as a first step, a multinational conference took place in Turpan in Aug 2006 which produced an agreement for an "Action Plan for Multinational Application for Silk Road in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List"
. I have been unable to find out anything more. Here is the Report http://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/177178.htm.
Note the comment :- "China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan .... are expected to make the joint application"
and the suggested timescale for this of "3 to 5 years"
! All the involved countries agreed to take action to preserve their elements of the route as an "initial step of the multi national application"
. In particular "China began this year a comprehensive protection plan for more than 20 key historical sites along sections of the Silk Road in Xinjiang. Investment for these projects is estimated at 420 million yuan (US$52 million)."
So what has happened since then?
Well first of course both Kyrgyzstan (2009) and Tajikistan (2010) have achieved the inscription of their first sites - but neither is really Silk road-related, whilst Kazakhstan achieved its third site in 2008. Uzbekistan hasn't been active with new nominations but faces pressure regarding its poor record in preserving Samarkand which has been placed under "reinforced monitoring". Not exactly an indication of a lot of action from those countries on Silk Road matters! I have searched the Web but haven't been able to find anything.
Conversely, Iran achieved inscription for the Tabriz Bazaar, which has significant Silk Road connections but Iran hadn't, as far as I can discover, been involved in the earlier discussions. It does however have a Silk Route site on its T List , added in 2008 ( http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5268/
Furthermore this Iranian link ( http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20091225071137
) rather surprisingly claims that "China planned to register the road on the list without regarding other countries located on the route, but the UNESCO World Heritage Center rejected the country's application, because a large part of the Silk Road passes through Iran".
And what about China's own "Silk Road" sites? In 2008 it added a selection of some 48 sites to its T List within a single entity titled "Chinese Section of the Silk Route"
. This contains 12 locations in Xingjiang but the only one in Kashgar is the Mehmud Qeshqeri Tomb. It also includes Jiaohe city - a ruined Silk road city in Xingjiang deferred by the WHC as long ago as 1994 and 2 sites described as being part of "the Sea Route of the Silk Road"
- thus going beyond the "Oasis Route" identified for progressing back in 2004. So, despite the comments in the 2004 UNESCO Mission Report it appears that China is intending to progress without "Kashgar" in any significant element of its part of the Silk Road. See http://heritage-key.com/blogs/rebecca-t/would-unesco-world-heritage-status-stop-uighu r-kashgar-destruction
. And this is hardly surprising! In 2009 the province of Xingjiang was the location for significant ethnic conflict after years of growing discontent - with Uigurs fearing being overwhelmed by Han. Moreover China has embarked on a massive demolition/reconstruction job in Kashgar (around 60% of the old town!!) causing considerable disquiet about its motives and the effect, both on the local population and on the historic value of the city :- "Now the old city itself is coming down, with only a zone to be rebuilt "in Uighur style" for the million tourists who visit Kashgar in search of silk road romance. They will be shown what a local official calls "an international heritage scenery"."
(The Guardian May 2009).
And what of Xian? Having left out one end of the Silk road China could hardly ignore the other and the T List Silk Road site contains around 6 sites within Xian (in addition the Walls are on China's T list in their own right!). So China has embarked on a typically MASSIVE "restoration project for Daming Palace"
( http://heritage-key.com/blogs/malcolmj/daming-palace-xi'-undergoes-major-restoration- national-relics-park-created
) for completion in Oct 2010. But the creation of this rather worryingly titled "National Relics Park" might well run into authenticity problems!! "The project is a perfect integration between [the] preservation of ancient cultural heritage and [the] construction of ecological landscape,...It is hoped to be a "masterpiece," that makes the most of the building's aesthetic features, while also fulfilling more utilitarian goals such as accommodating citizens' needs of recreation, residence and environment, and mirroring the international standards for improving the humanistic ambience and building up [of] new urban districts."
Hmmm.... And here too there have been problems. See http://english.cri.cn/6566/2010/08/25/902s590891.htm
So it is not surprising to find this rather pessimistic report dated July 2009 and titled "The Silk Road Unravels"
which seems to encapsulate the latest reality -http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/email/the-silk-road-unravels
Note these 2 quotes from UNESCO's Giovanni Boccardi (Dir WH Centre E Asia)
a. "As far as UNESCO understands, Kashgar is for the time being not part of the intended nomination."
b. "the complex nomination [of the Silk Road]... might be proposed in more than one stage, by successive extensions" [or, more conventionally], "as two or three self-standing World Heritage properties, under the overarching theme of the Silk Road."
There would certainly seem to be quite a long way to go, if ever, before any "Transboundary" Silk Road nomination could emerge and UNESCO sits uncomfortably between a desire to stimulate preservation actions, its vision of a trans-boundary site encompassing the Silk Route's geographical spread and pressures for National inscriptions!