The Fourth International Conference on Learning Cities, was jointly organized by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UiL) and the Municipality of Medellín; during the 2-day Conference from 1-3 October 2019, there were around 650 conference participants, including 50 mayors, as well as government representatives and experts in the field of education.
The Conference was devoted to the theme “Inclusion – A principle for lifelong learning and sustainable cities”. Under this framework, focus was placed on vulnerable groups that for different reasons have been left behind and their needs for learning opportunities that have been overlooked; these included youths-at-risk, migrants, older people, digitally excluded populations and persons with disabilities. In this light, Lifelong Learning practices are recognized as powerful mechanisms to tackle inequalities and support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.
The Learning City Award stands as international recognition of determination and exemplary progress made by cities in promoting lifelong learning and inclusive education: This year, the cities of Aswan (Egypt), Chengdu (People’s Republic of China), Heraklion (Greece), Ibadan (Nigeria), Medellín (Colombia), Melitopol (Ukraine), Petaling Jaya (Malaysia), Santiago (Mexico), Seodaemun-gu (Republic of Korea), and Sønderborg (Denmark) received global acknowledgement for their good practices in lifelong learning policy implementation.
The Municipality of Medellín is particularly distinguished as a city that has committed great efforts and resources to tackle poverty and inequalities, and remarkably crime rates and drug-related violence that has affected severely its development and prosperity.
As part of opening ceremony, the president of Colombia, Ivan Duque Marquez, mentioned that “during the last decades Colombia has left behind times of pain and built hope, the education system of the country has developed substantially, we are making monumental efforts to change for the good of our country”.
In this regard, Federico Gutierrez, mayor of Medellín, pointed out that: ‘only with education do we close social gaps. Only with education do we overcome the vicious circle of violence and poverty. Medellín is a city that is known for rising from its darkest hours. Its people have found in education a possibility of resilience and transformation’.
As part of the activities organized by the Municipality of Medellín, mayors and experts attending the Conference had the opportunity to visit one of the transformed neighbourhoods in the city, the Comuna 13, once known as one of the most dangerous and murderous districts in the world, which through education opportunities and cultural promotion has restructured its social foundations to become a place full of motivated and thriving people where street art and music have reshaped the face of the district.
Key points emerging from the Conference
Members of the Global Network have agreed on a new strategy to fund and support lifelong learning programmes in cities. In particular, UIL have launched a multi-donor funding modality to support the operation of its programmes in cities around the world. They have invited all partners and donors to contribute to this initiative.
Moreover, seven thematic groups have been formulated as part of the concerns and demands deemed by the mayors to be of highest priority.
The University of Glasgow participated actively in the development of the Conference. PASCAL director for Europe, Professor Michael Osborne and PASCAL Member Sergio Hernandez, contributed the main general paper on ‘Inclusion for lifelong learning and sustainable cities’. Dr Catherine Lido, Deputy Director of PASCAL in Europe together with Dr Lavinia Hirsu and Professor Bridgette Wessels produced a further background paper on digitally excluded populations. These two papers alongside four others set the basis for the Background paper for the conference “Inclusion – A principle for lifelong learning and sustainable cities” that is attached in English and Spanish.