An international conference on ‘Ecology, Environment and Sustainable Development of Silk Road Economic Belt’ was organized on 15-16 June 2014 by the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing, China. About 200 participants from more than 10 countries of Asia, Africa and Europe shared a common view of developing the ancient ‘Silk Road’ as a new ‘economic belt’. This initiative is a response to the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal to build the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) in his speech in Kazakshstan on 7 September 2013. His voice has received support and response from the countries of the Silk Road.
The conference has come up with a resolution of establishing the ‘International Scientific Alliance of the Silk Road Economic Belt’ whose secretariat will be hosted at the IGSNRR in Beijing. The objectives of the alliance are as follows:
1.enhancing international collaborative research and communication focusing on issues related to historical changes of the silk road, ecological and environmental investigation, and resource and environmental carrying capacity studies;
2.strengthening the innovative procedures on sustainable development, impacts of climate change and the responses;
3.promoting the international cooperation on the scientific data, information and knowledge sharing;
4.exploring new international cooperation schemes and projects on sustainable development;
5.promoting development of the ‘Silk Road’ regional and international cooperation platforms;
6.providing scientific think-tank support for governments of the related nations along the Silk Road; and
7.improving environment and promoting sustainable development.
The Silk Road Economic Belt covers the Old Silk Road in the higher latitude crossing China, Mongolia, Russia, Central Asian Countries and Europe; the stretch of Silk Road that extends longitudinally from the northern part of Mongolia to North-East India and from north of central Asia to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India; and the sea route connecting Europe, Africa and Asia. However, only the high latitude Old Silk Road has received attention so far.
Many academics and policy makers participated in the conference. Speaking at the inaugural session, Sun Hunglie, an academic and a former ICIMOD board member, and Fang Xin, an academic who is currently the Deputy Secretary of the CAS Presidium, emphasized the importance of scientific contribution in the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt. In his plenary lecture, Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations at ICIMOD, said that development programmes in the Silk Road Economic Belt should aim to improve the livelihoods of the local people while taking environmental safeguards into account. He stressed the need to promote trans-disciplinary research for achieving sustainable development and building a strong link between scientific findings and policy formulation . He also said a ‘Silk Road Economic Belt Information System’ should be established immediately, and that IGSNRR, as the host of the alliance secretariat, is the most appropriate institution for this taking up this task.
Finally ISGNRR called all the participants and institutions to join the International Scientists’ Alliance to promote the sustainable development of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’.