International Conference on Learning Cities

Every three years, mayors and further representatives of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) come together to share challenges, solutions, and best practice in furthering lifelong learning for their residents.


Fifth International Conference on Learning Cities

UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) member Yeonsu, Republic of Korea, hosted the fifth International Conference on Learning Cities (ICLC 5), which took place from 27 to 30 October 2021. The event welcomed education experts and representatives of the 229 members of the UNESCO GNLC to deliberate on the conference theme ‘From emergency to resilience: Building healthy and resilient cities through learning’. 

The fifth International Conference on Learning Cities is an opportunity to explore how learning cities can promote health education and contribute to emergency responses, such as those established during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities have a front-line role in responding to health crises. In addition, the ICLC 5 is a chance to take stock of the progress being made in connection with the network’s strategy for 2019–2021, and has provided a platform for the approximately 700 participants to share examples of best practice and lessons learned.


Fourth International Conference on Learning Cities (2019, Medellín, Colombia)

The fourth International Conference on Learning Cities was dedicated to the theme of ‘Inclusion – A Principle for Lifelong Learning and Sustainable Cities’, and took place in Medellín, Colombia, from 1 to 3 October 2019. At the conference, the President of Colombia joined around 650 participants, including 50 mayors, as well as government representatives and experts from all UNESCO world regions, to learn how learning cities are investing in education that benefits everyone, including often marginalized groups such as youth-at-risk, migrants, older people, digitally excluded populations and persons with disabilities. With the adoption of the Medellín Manifesto, members of the GNLC pledged to boost inclusion in their communities in the coming years. The conference has set the path for a renewed focus on the so far under-researched challenges confronting vulnerable groups, showcased how lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

Conference report


Third International Conference on Learning Cities (2017, Cork, Republic of Ireland)

The third International Conference on Learning Cities took place from 18 to 20 September 2017 in Cork, Republic of Ireland. It gave further impetus to the cause of inclusion. The resulting Learning Cities and the SDGs: A Guide to Action underscores that ‘responding to the learning needs of all groups in society fosters equity and inclusion’ and thus supports both Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG) 4 (‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’) and SDG 11 (‘Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’). During this conference, attention was directed towards green and healthy learning cities; equitable and inclusive learning cities; and decent work and entrepreneurship in learning cities.

Conference report


Second International Conference on Learning Cities (2015, Mexico City, Mexico)

The second International Conference on Learning Cities, held in Mexico City, Mexico from 28 to 30 September 2015, defined the role of learning cities in achieving sustainability and launched the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. The Mexico City Statement on Sustainable Learning Cities recommends that policies and strategies for building sustainable cities ‘involve all citizens, especially vulnerable people such as indigenous groups, women, persons with disabilities, refugees and displaced people, and place them at the heart of learning city initiatives’. Social, economic and political inclusion are at the core of learning cities, ‘ensuring that all citizens, irrespective of age, sexual orientation or economic, cultural, religious or ethnic background, acquire the literacy and basic skills they need to assert their rights’.

Conference report


First International Conference on Learning Cities (2013, Beijing, Republic of China)

At the first International Conference on Learning Cities (21–23 October 2013 in Beijing, Republic of China), the Beijing Declaration on Building Learning Cities and the Key Features of Learning Cities were adopted. They are testimony to the importance of learning cities’ role in promoting social inclusion, economic growth, public safety and environmental protection. Learning cities can effectively mobilize resources in every sector to promote inclusive learning from basic to higher education.

Conference report