Ten cities with outstanding achievements in the implementation of the learning city strategy will receive the UNESCO Learning Cities Award 2021 on 27 October 2021, the first day of the fifth International Conference on Learning Cities in Yeonsu (Republic of Korea). Whether they are megacities or smaller urban areas, all of the awardees have shown how learning opportunities empower citizens of all ages when suitable policies and programmes are put in place.
The awarded cities are the UNESCO learning cities of Al Wakra (Qatar), Belfast (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Clermont-Ferrand (France), Damietta (Egypt), Dublin (Ireland), Huejotzingo, (Mexico), Jubail Industrial City (Saudi Arabia), Osan (Republic of Korea), Shanghai (People’s Republic of China), and Wyndham (Australia). They were selected by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), upon the recommendation of an independent jury of international experts.
“With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities have a central role to play in providing learning opportunities. This year’s UNESCO Learning City Awardees enable their citizens to adapt to a rapidly changing world and acquire the knowledge necessary to act jointly to solve global challenges. Through lifelong learning they pave the way for fairer, more just and sustainable societies and a better future for all of us!” underlined David Atchoarena, Director of UIL, ahead of the awards ceremony.
The ten UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities Awardees are:
Lifelong learning in Wyndham is implemented by a broad network of stakeholders, ranging from the city administration to learning institutions, the private sector and the general public, among others. The City’s Learning Community Strategy 2018-2023 promotes a learning culture for more than 270,000 citizens from 162 countries, emphasising equity and inclusion as drivers of planning, engagement and delivery. With a focus on celebrating learning, Wyndham has not only hosted its own Wyndham Learning Festival for six years but also works with the Australian city of Melton to coordinate a Global Learning Festival, and has successfully collaborated with five other local governments to host a ‘Learning for Earning Festival’ with activities that help people acquire the knowledge they need to find employment and ultimately contribute to the economic and social well-being of the community.
Through lifelong learning, Damietta seeks to promote sustainable development, advance basic skills among adults, and improve public health for a population of over 330,000. Its municipal departments – Education; Women, Childhood and Motherhood; Youth and Sports; Social Solidarity; and Health – work with the city’s local libraries, Palace of Culture, and media & information centre to ensure that lifelong learning is implemented cross-sectorally. With the implementation of the ‘Safe Cities’ project, Damietta has placed a particular focus on the promotion of entrepreneurship for women.
Lifelong learning informs all of Clermont-Ferrand's public policies. It is a learning city comprising 25,000 companies, 35,000 students, 1,300 researchers, 35 research laboratories, and a number of further business incubators. It devotes more than 43 per cent of its budget to education and youth, and 10 per cent to the cultural sector for activities that are accessible to all. In 2021, in line with the city’s aim to develop a culture of participatory democracy, Clermont-Ferrand earmarked more than 2 million euros from its annual municipal budget to fund 380 learning projects submitted and chosen by its citizens.
Investing in human capital is crucial to Dublin’s successful development, and lifelong learning is key to this endeavour. As a learning city, it pursues the principle of ‘learning for work, life and fun’ through wide-ranging initiatives coordinated by six local colleges and institutes together with further partners. The ‘Your Place is Here’ campaign encouraging enrolment in higher education regardless of educational background, age, or individual circumstances, and the Healthy Dublin City project offering six learning programmes to improve citizens’ personal, physical and mental health are just two of the many initiatives available to Dublin’s population of more than 1.2 million.
By placing lifelong learning at the centre of its development, Huejotzingo has transformed itself from an agricultural community to the industrial heart of the Mexican state of Puebla. Through a comprehensive learning strategy that prioritizes equity and inclusion, sustainable development and entrepreneurship, and the implementation of 140 learning projects over the past 10 years, the city has made major steps forward: decreasing illiteracy by 50 per cent; expanding access to the internet and new technologies; supporting 1,000 female entrepreneurs in setting up projects; and organizing Huejotzingo’s first ever Festival of Learning with the participation of more than 25 per cent of the city’s more than 90,000 inhabitants.
People’s Republic of China: Shanghai
Shanghai has always been committed at a high level to the learning city concept. It has formed a learning city construction model characterized by "government promotion, department collaboration, social support and citizen participation", providing various lifelong learning opportunities for the city's 24.8 million residents. Based on the principles of inclusiveness, openness, excellence and sustainable development, Shanghai focuses on implementing public health education, education for the elderly, vocational education and training (VET) for adults, education for sustainable development (ESD), and reading for all.
Qatar: Al Wakra
Al Wakra has evolved into one of the largest cities in Qatar with over 80,000 inhabitants. It has made lifelong learning a priority as part of its sustainability plan. The municipality places a particular emphasis on vulnerable groups, such as women and older people. A variety of programmes aims to ensure that women hold leading positions in the city administration and society at large.
Republic of Korea: Osan
Osan’s objective is to serve as a place ‘where citizens and learning are united’. With contributions from a broad range of learning institutions, young and old benefit from learning opportunities that focus on health and well-being, entrepreneurship, equity and inclusion, literacy, global citizenship, and sustainable development. The city’s Stepping Stone initiative is at the heart of its lifelong learning strategy: offices, churches and university spaces are used off-hours to provide citizens with venues for learning activities that are no more than a 10-minute walk from their homes. Pre-COVID-19, 41,824 learners per year benefited from this initiative, participating in lifelong learning programmes held in 216 locations across the city.
Saudi Arabia: Jubail Industrial City
As the world’s largest petrochemical industrial city, Jubail Industrial City must further promote sustainable industrial production by ensuring that its population of more than 200,000 is equipped with comprehensive knowledge and skills. By focusing on education for sustainable development, entrepreneurship, and health and well-being, the city has succeeded in upskilling more than 168,000 citizens through evening classes, enhancing the literacy skills of over 5,000 beneficiaries, and helping its citizens – and women in particular – to found small and medium-sized businesses.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Belfast
The city of Belfast uses learning to tackle inequalities and improve quality of life for all of its citizens. Under the umbrella of the ‘Learning Charter’, employment training academies offer support for unemployed and hard-to-reach groups. Easter, summer and after-school programmes provide literacy and numeracy support which benefit disadvantaged children and young people. With over 500 events as part of the annual Belfast Festival of Learning, Belfast promotes the city’s exciting array of learning opportunities and helps build a culture of lifelong learning for all.
About the Global Network of Learning Cities
The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) is an international, policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how and best practice. Members benefit from the sharing of lifelong learning policies and practices, the production and exchange of knowledge on key challenges and solutions, capacity-building and training initiatives, and participation in global events such as the International Conference on Learning Cities.
- Fifth International Conference on Learning Cities (27–30 October 2021)
- Livestream of the conference
- UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities
Media contact: Katja Römer, firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 (0)40 44 80 41 54