“Regional cooperation is a key to help meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing poverty and promoting growth and equality,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in China, Khalid Malik, says of the Silk Road Regional Programme (SRRP).The five participating countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China – held the first SRRP meeting last month in Beijing, focussing on strengthening cooperation in trade, investment and tourism.The ancient Silk Road brought contact between different people for exchanging commodities and ideas, which led to the high living standards for communities along the road. The Silk Road countries should therefore learn from each other now and work together on transport networks, information services, management approach and policy regulations, says UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan, Fikret Akcura.“By strengthening trade and investment ties, the programme will help the Central Asian countries draw economic growth lessons from China which has developed at a very fast pace,” he adds. “We can achieve new miracles by opening tourism and realize the free movement of visitors, goods and services.”UNDP and the UN World Tourism Organization (WTO) will identify up to 10 cities along the route to be awarded the title of “UN Silk Road City” to encourage their commitment and long-term planning to the protection of cultural assets.Mr. Malik calls for increasing trade by abolishing remaining barriers and harmonizing procedures. He notes specifically the organization of the “Silk Road Investment Forum” to attract additional investment to the region through public-private partnerships. The first forum is scheduled to be held in China during the first quarter of 2006.Over time, the SRRP may extend to a broader area beyond the five participating countries, as neighbouring nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Mongolia have expressed interest in joining.