Horizons of Cooperation

In 1993, Turkmenistan became a full member of UNESCO — the document was ratified in London. Over the years, Turkmenistan has established itself as an active and dynamic partner in all areas of the Organization’s competence. 

Equal partnership

Turkmenistan became a full member of UNESCO on August 17, 1993, and a year later joined the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. In 1995, a representation office of Turkmenistan to UNESCO was opened in Paris. The Organization’s interaction with Turkmenistan is coordinated by the UNESCO Cluster Office in Tehran. Turkmenistan has the National Commission of Turkmenistan for UNESCO.

From 2013 to 2017, Turkmenistan was a member of the UNESCO Executive Board. Today, the country is a participant in the Executive Council of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission for 2021-2023 and the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme Intergovernmental Council for 2021-2025.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between Turkmeni­stan and UNESCO for 2021–2023, including an Action Plan, was another important milestone for Turkmenistan. Over three decades of its membership in UNESCO, Turkmenistan has acceded to UNESCO’s main international conventions.

Cultural and documentary heritage

The first palpable result of cooperation between Turkmenistan and UNESCO within the framework of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was the inscription of Turkmenistan’s historical and cultural reserves — Ancient Merv, Kunya-Urgench, and Nisa — on the World Heritage List. The inscription recognized the global significance of the monuments of ancient Turkmen architecture.

In 2011, Turkmenistan ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The country has the following Intangible Cultural Heritage elements on the UNESCO Representative List: the epic art of Gorogly (2015), the Kushtdepdi rite of singing and dancing (2017), traditional Turkmen carpet making art (2019), dutar making craftsmanship and traditional music performing art combined with singing (2021), and Turkmen-style needlework art (2022).

Turkmenistan strives to preserve, study and promote the documentary heritage of the Turkmen people. In 2023, the great Turkmen poet Magtymguly Fragi’s legacy was added to the International Memory of the World Regi­ster. Turkmenistan is going to nominate the Jamyg-ut Taryh (World History) manuscript by the Turkmen historian Salyr Baba Gulaly Ogly Hyrydary for inscription on the International Memory of the World Register. The only copy of the manuscript is kept in the Institute of Language, Literature and National Manuscripts of Turkmenistan.

Education and science

Turkmenistan implements UNESCO projects and programmes in science, education, and diplomacy. Important areas of cooperation between Turkmenistan and UNESCO include: science behind green economy; preservation of biodiversity; climate change mitigation; and conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Turkmenistan also gives prominence to UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme established in 1971. The programme is of particular importance to Turkmenistan due to the inclusion of the Repetek Biosphere State Reserve in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Turkmenistan participates in joint educational projects with UNESCO: UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs and the Associated Schools Network. As part of these programmes, UNESCO Chairs were established at two of Turkmenistan’s oldest universities, six secondary schools joined the Associated Schools Network, and ten higher educational institutions joined the Internatio­nal Association of Universities under the auspices of UNESCO. Also, UNESCO Clubs were established at three universities, through which young people endeavor to implement and promote the Organization’s goals.

Joint projects

Turkmenistan collaborates with other countries through UNESCO. Joint nominations inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity include: the International Day of Nowruz (Afghanistan — Azerbaijan — India — Iran — Iraq — Kazakhstan — Kyrgyzstan — Uzbekistan — Pakistan — Tajikistan — Turkmenistan —Turkey); sericulture and traditional production of silk for weaving (Afghanistan — Azerbaijan — Iran — Turkey — Tajikistan — Turkmenistan — Uzbekistan); the telling tradition of Nasreddin anecdotes (Azerbaijan — Kazakhstan — Kyrgyzstan — Tajikistan — Turkey — Turkmenistan — Uzbekistan).

Situated on the Silk Road, Turkmenistan facilitated trade and scientific and cultural exchange between different peoples. The nomination of the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List was a joint initiative of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Together with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan is working to have the desert ecosystems of the three countries inscribed on the World Heritage List. This transnational property consists of 15 protected natural areas, including Turkmenistan’s Bereketli Garagum and Gaplangyr Reserves, and Repetek Biosphere Reserve.

Within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are preparing the transnational World Heritage nomination dossier “Mountain Ecosystems of Koytendag.”

Plans and prospects

Turkmenistan strives to showcase its nature and culture in the best way possible through UNESCO. In 2022, the nomination dossier “Art of Akhal-Teke Horse Breeding and Traditions of Horse Decoration” was submitted for evaluation. If approved for inscription on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, it will help preserve and promote the unique element of Turkmen culture. Other nominations, such as “The Art of Breeding Turkmen Alabai,” “Goresh — Turkmen National Wrestling,” and “Felt Art of Turkmens,” are in the pipeline.

Looking back on its 30 years in UNESCO, Turkmenistan sets new goals. The most important goal is to enhance the visibility of the country’s unique historical and cultural heritage in UNESCO’s critical projects.

Chinar Rustamova,
Secretary General of the National Commission of Turkmenistan for UNESCO