EDUCATION: Cork City to host UNESCO 3rd International Conference on Learning Cities

27 June 2017
By Bryan T. Smyth

Cork City awarded prestigious honour of hosting UNESCO 3rd International Conference on Learning Cities

Cork City will host the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Third International Conference on Learning Cities. As the first European city to host this prestigious global conference, Cork will welcome over 650 participants from over 95 UNESCO member countries to Cork City Hall from Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th September 2017.

Pictured (l to r) at the Wishing Hand of the Department of Education and Skills, Dublin for the official announcement of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Third International Conference on Learning Cities being held in Cork City, are Arne Carlsen, former Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton. Picture Maxwell Photography

The announcement was made by Arne Carlsen, former Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and members of the UNESCO team on a recent trip to Ireland, in which they met and visited key lifelong learning partners, building relationships ahead of September.

This bi-annual international conference is the third conference of its kind in which the theme of Global goals, local actions: Towards lifelong learning for all in 2030 will be at the heart of discussions. Conference delegates will include mayors, city education executives and UNESCO experts, along with international organisations, non-government organisations and private-sector partners who are experts in the field of lifelong learning.

Securing the conference was a competitive process, and a huge honour for Ireland to become the first European city to host this global discussion platform for Lifelong Learning. Cork has a long-standing record in developing education within the wider community and the success of its annual Lifelong Learning Festival is one of the aspects which Cork, as the host city, hopes to share with visiting delegates. The festival, which encourages citizens to investigate, participate in and celebrate learning, will act as a source of inspiration for other cities both within Ireland and internationally.

“It is my immense pleasure to announce Cork as the host city for the UNESCO Third International Conference on Learning Cities, along with the theme for this year’s conference. The theme of global goals, local actions I believe will act as a breakthrough in identifying how lifelong learning strategies can make a city achieve their sustainable goals. We have had the pleasure of seeing first hand some of the practices which the city of Cork implement in their effort to achieve these global sustainable development goals on our visit to this fantastic educational stronghold. The conference is all about the sharing of ideas and best practice lifelong learning tactics, which we feel both Cork and Ireland display in abundance. We know that Cork will give visiting guests the famous Irish land of a thousand welcomes greeting, and are very much looking forward to the third international conference which has an array of extremely important and engaging topics to discuss”, commented Arne Carlsen, former Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Lifelong learning includes not only the textbook definition of education but any and all courses and skills which individuals can develop throughout their lifetime form crafts, dance and arts to computer skills or hands-on apprenticeships. The aim of learning cities is to ensure that education and learning are accessible for all, regardless of age, formal or informal settings.

The International Conference on Learning Cities is an opportunity for the exchange of ideas, best practice for lifelong learning, 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 took place in Beijing in 2013 and opened the global discussion on learning cities and defined the UNESCO concept of a learning city. The second conference took place in Mexico City in 2015 and 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. It was at this conference that Cork City received the Learning City award and joined the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities.

We now look to the future and the upcoming conference in Ireland which will focus on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, laid out by the United Nations in 2015, which include targets to end poverty, combat climate change and to fight injustice and inequality to name but a few. These goals are the most ambitious attempt in history to make the world a better place, and fundamental to their success is the promotion of lifelong learning for the sustainable development of cities. Cork has demonstrated tremendous commitment to the learning city approach and its’ reputation as a learning city has been recognised internationally, being awarded a UNESCO Learning City Award in 2013.

Commenting at the conference launch, Conference Committee Co-Chair, Willie McAuliffe of Cork ETB spoke with great pride in relation to this fantastic honour and opportunity for Cork City as a whole;

“We were absolutely thrilled to receive the news that Cork City is to play host to this global conference of lifelong learning following in the footsteps of mega cities such as Beijing and Mexico City.
“We have already begun preparations for this enormous task, which is a fantastic opportunity not only for the lifelong learning partners throughout the city but for Cork businesses as we will have over 650 delegates eating, drinking and staying in Cork for the duration of this three-day conference. While this is an international conference with important global issues at its core, we are so excited to showcase some of what makes Cork unique as a lifelong learning city, not only to our visitors but to the Cork and Irish public. Our city’s very effective multi-sectoral approach to development which is exemplified by the hugely successful annual Lifelong Learning Festival is just one example of our unique approach to learning.”

An international festival of this magnitude would not be possible without the support of multi-stakeholder partners such as Cork City Council, Irish Government departments; Department of Education & Skills and the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government, Cork Education and Training Board, CIT and UCC. The topic of learning not only concerns the Department of Education, but is a fundamental principle across a wide range of departments such as urban planning, technology, family, employment and family.

Cork South Central TD Simon Coveney is Minister for Foreign Affairs

Voicing his support for this upcoming Irish conference Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney commented; “This is such a fantastic achievement for Ireland and great recognition of the hard work and dedication which is ongoing in the area of lifelong learning. This is a hot topic across all government departments who recognise the continued need for skilled individuals to ensure the sustained development of our country. This is a unique opportunity for Cork and Ireland to project itself to the world as a great place in which to study and learn, visit and do business. We look forward to welcoming our distinguished guests in September and learning new ideas from them which we can implement across the island of Ireland. Speaking as a biased Corkonian I was obviously thrilled for my friends in the Cork City Council and look forward to making the trip home for the conference, all going well.”

The full conference programme is currently in development and will be announced in advance of the conference along with a number of high-profile keynote speakers. For more information on the UNESCO Third International Conference on Learning Cities check out the conference website or keep up to date with live updates on the conference following #learningcities2017 or check out Facebook pageCorkLearning or Twitter @Corklearning.

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