The overall theme of the third International Conference on Learning Cities is:
Global goals, local actions: Towards lifelong learning for all in 2030

The following critical sub-themes to be discussed in pursuit of the objectives of the conference

Sub Theme 1

How lifelong learning supports the achievement of the SDGs at local level

Lifelong learning and the development of learning cities are crucial to the achievement of the SDGs. We have a global agenda to meet and we know that all Sustainable Development Goals are, ultimately, local goals. We know too that it is at the local level that poverty and inequality need to be tackled, health and education services provided, ecosystems protected, and human rights guaranteed. A set of actions to address local challenges is therefore required. This necessitates, first and foremost, the empowerment of citizens to respond to challenges and lead change in their individual environments. We know that education and lifelong learning are key to empowering citizens; however, we need to clarify how lifelong learning supports the achievement of specific Sustainable Development Goals and what actions can be taken to implement lifelong learning for this purpose. In striving to implement lifelong learning to support the achievement of specific goals related to sustainable development, this session will address the following critical questions:

  • What role does lifelong learning play in contributing to achieving the SDGs?
  • How can cities tackle specific development challenges through lifelong learning?
  • What are the main elements in a local action plan to implement lifelong learning for achieving the SDGs?
Sub Theme 2

Promoting integrated governance and multi-stakeholder partnership for your city’s sustainable future

Promoting lifelong learning to tackle development challenges in cities requires the breaking down of traditional sector-based governance structures and the promotion of multi-sector planning and actions to adopt learning as a fundamental and sector-wide approach for sustainable development in all its aspects. We know that learning not only concerns the department of education, but must also be a fundamental principle across departments concerned with urban planning, technology, family, employment, health, and so on. We know that government alone will not be able to address all the learning needs implicit in the realization of all the SDGs and that multi-stakeholder partnerships are critical to success. We know too that success depends on the effective integration of the efforts of different government departments in promoting lifelong learning and bringing about transformation. We also need to understand which stakeholders need to be involved in order to achieve specific Sustainable Development Goals and how to involve them. Through sharing and discussion, the session aims to find answers to the following questions:

  • How can cities build an integrated governance structure to implement lifelong learning for sustainable development?
  • How can cities establish accountability in using a multi-stakeholder approach for implementing lifelong learning to achieve the SDGs?
  • What are the challenges and how can cities tackle them in order to deliver integrated governance and multi-stakeholder partnerships?
Sub Theme 3

Sub Theme 3: Successful ways of implementing and measuring the impact of local actions for sustainable development

Localized actions and ensuring that those actions have impact are crucial for the successful implementation of lifelong learning to achieve sustainable development. Cities need to localize the SDGs and targets according to the specific challenges they face. Cities also require lifelong learning policies and strategies that address their particular local challenges, goals and objectives. In implementing those strategies, impacts and outcomes of actions taken need to be monitored and evaluated to ensure long-term success. Cities must also reflect on what did and did not work well in order to improve. Key Features of Learning Cities[1] provides a monitoring framework and a set of indicators to guide cities in measuring progress in building learning cities. Defined action lines that enhance local monitoring approaches in cities also need to be developed. To better understand how to monitor actions, this session will be guided by the following questions.

  • What steps do cities have to take to establish a robust mechanism to monitor the impact of lifelong learning?
  • Which elements for monitoring cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches are important?
  • How can cities monitor the impact of lifelong learning with regard to specific SDGs?

[1] This document provides an overall framework of the key features of learning cities and a comprehensive checklist of action points to enhance and measure the progress of learning cities.

Conference Purpose

The International Conference on Learning Cities is an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and good practice, the creation and strengthening of partnerships and the fostering of twin cities. It is also, and most importantly, a platform on which to build the future of learning cities. The first International Conference on Learning Cities[1] (ICLC) (Beijing, 2013) opened the global discourse on learning cities and defined the UNESCO concept of a learning city. The second International Conference on Learning Cities[2] in Mexico City was marked by the opening up of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) to membership and defined the role of learning cities in achieving sustainable development. Today, the network consists of around 200 cities from more than 40 countries; united in their determination to promote lifelong learning and, ultimately, achieve sustainable development in their cities.

Given the need for urgent intervention to ensure a safe, liveable planet for future generations, we must develop a concrete action plan. The third International Conference on Learning Cities will therefore move from global discourse to local implementation in implementing lifelong learning to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The aim of the conference is to guide cities in implementing lifelong learning to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at the local level.

More specifically, the objectives of the conference are to:

  • Develop an understanding of the role of lifelong learning in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Propose actions for implementing lifelong learning in cities for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Enable peer learning by showcasing best practice.
  • Forge links and partnerships (e.g. twin cities) among member cities and partners of the UNESCO GNLC.

[1] The conference resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration on Building Learning Cities and the Key Features of Learning Cities.

[2] The conference resulted in the adoption of the Mexico City Statement on Building Sustainable Learning Cities.