The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities is an international policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how and best practice to cities around the world. It is absolutely magnificent the extent to which 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’). Lifelong Learning Platform’s Director Brikena Xhomaqi and eucen’s President Balázs Németh were invited to the Fourth International Conference of Learning Cities, in Medellín (Colombia) from 1-3 October 2019 to steer the discussions on governance structures for inclusive lifelong learning policies with Cities Mayors across the globe.
The conference was a fertile environment for best-practice sharing, for networking and for us to learn the great things that happen on the local level, metaphorically far away from the decision-makers and their natural habitat. In the words of David Atchoarena, Director of UNESCO UIL, “the city level is where lifelong learning policies meet the needs of citizens”. It was inspiring to witness the commitment that enlightened city mayors from across the globe put into making inclusive education a reality. And, most of the time, with great success. While we acknowledge the potential of city levels to address the needs of learners at the local level, the national and regional governance structures are often disconnected and considered a barrier to inclusive local policies.
The conference ended with the adoption of the Medellín Manifesto, which highlights and stresses inclusion as the founding principle of education. It dwells into the many links between sustainable development and lifelong learning, that can fruitfully cross paths at the local level; and indeed, whose scopes shall be widened to other sector and areas of life. Because “limiting the focus of lifelong learning policies to a single sector, to the formal education system or to skills related to work or employability, reduces its potential impact substantially”.