On 21 October, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, opened the first International Conference on Learning Cities, with Excellency Ms Liu Yandong, Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Excellency Mr Yuan Guiren, Minister of Education, and Honourable Mr Wang Anshun, Mayor of the Beijing Municipal Government.
“Innovation and resilience have deeper roots than financial or economic assets,” declared the Director-General.
“Solutions lie in the imaginations of women and men, in their rights and dignity, in societies that are just and inclusive. At this time of change, lifelong learning has never been more important – and cities, where more half of the world’s population lives today, have a leading role to play in creating new opportunities for learning.”
Ms Liu Yandong spoke of the importance of lifelong learning and cities for the realisation of the 'Chinese dream,' for equity, prosperity for all, social inclusion, public welfare and harmony. The concept of learning cities is important, declared the Vice Premier, in order to put people first in human development, to foster tolerance and harmony in sustainable cities, to catalyse creativity and innovation -- all of this, to promote lasting peace and a harmonious world.
Bringing together more than 500 mayors, city education executives and experts from some 200 cities across the world, the International Conference is co-organized by UNESCO, the Ministry of Education of China and the Beijing Municipal Government.
It draws on the leading work of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and is co-hosted by the Secretariat of the National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO and the Beijing Municipal Education Commission.
The aim of the Conference is to create a forum to mobilize cities to use their resources and potential to promote lifelong learning for all -- with the aims of promoting equality and social justice, maintaining social cohesion, and creating sustainable prosperity. Cities have a unique role to play in achieving these objectives.
“Cities are key actors for peace and development in the century ahead -- our challenge is to ensure this peace is lasting and this development is sustainable,” said Irina Bokova.
On this occasion, the Director-General met with the Beijing Municipal Party Secretary, Mr Guo Jinlong, where they discussed the importance of learning and education, along with creativity and innovation, for the sustainable, human development of Beijing. The Director-General thanked the Party Secretary for his longstanding engagement with these goals and his support to UNESCO.
On the margins of the Conference, Irina Bokova had the opportunity to meet with the Honorable Mayor of the Shenzhen Municipal Government, Mr Xu Qin. Shenzhen is a UNESCO City of Design and a leading city for the creation of knowledge, science and technology.
The Director-General met also with the President of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Mr Zhou Ji. This was an opportunity to discuss the forthcoming International Conference on Engineering, Science and Technology to be held in Beijing in June 2014, when the International Knowledge Centre of Engineering Sciences and Technology will be launched.
On the same day, Irina Bokova visited the Shi Jia Hu Tong Primary School in Beijing, part of the UNESCO clubs and associations in the People’s Republic of China -- a school devoted to inclusive opportunities for all with state of the art facilities for education.