UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities

What is the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC)?

The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities is an international policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how and best practice. Learning cities at all stages of development can benefit greatly from sharing ideas with other cities, as solutions for issues that arise as one learning city develops may already exist in other cities. The Network supports the achievement of all seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 4 (‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’) and SDG 11 (‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’). The UNESCO GNLC supports and improves the practice of lifelong learning in the world’s cities by promoting policy dialogue and peer learning among member cities; forging links; fostering partnerships; providing capacity development; and developing instruments to encourage and recognize progress made in building learning cities.

What is a learning city?

A learning city promotes lifelong learning for all. UNESCO defines a learning city as a city that:

  • effectively mobilizes its resources in every sector to promote inclusive learning from basic to higher education;
  • revitalizes learning in families and communities;
  • facilitates learning for and in the workplace;
  • extends the use of modern learning technologies;
  • enhances quality and excellence in learning; and
  • fosters a culture of learning throughout life.

In doing so, the city enhances individual empowerment and social inclusion, economic development and cultural prosperity, and sustainable development.

Why learning cities?

Lifelong learning lays the foundation for sustainable social, economic and environmental development.The idea of learning throughout life is deeply rooted in all cultures. However, it is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s fast-changing world, where social, economic and political norms are constantly being redefined. Studies have shown that lifelong learners – citizens who acquire new knowledge, skills and attitudes in a wide range of contexts – are better equipped to adapt to changes in their environments. Lifelong learning and the learning society therefore have a vital role to play in empowering citizens and effecting a transition to sustainable societies.

While national governments are largely responsible for creating strategies for building learning societies, lasting change requires commitment at the local level. A learning society must be built province by province, city by city, and community by community.