An opening ceremony and plenary sessions of the fifth UNESCO International Conference on Learning Cities were held on Thursday in Incheon’s Yeonsu-gu.
The four-day event, hosted by Incheon’s Yeonsu-gu, began Wednesday under the theme of “From emergency to resilience: Building healthy and resilient cities through learning.”
The opening ceremony drew around 200 in-person participants from South Korea and 24 other countries, the Yeonsu-gu office said in a press statement on Thursday.
South Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena took part in the ceremony.
Around 2,000 virtual attendees, including officials representing 229 Global Network of Learning Cities member cities from 64 countries, also took part.
In her opening speech, Education Minister Yoo said that lifelong learning would serve as an “impetus” to develop society, highlighting the significance of the UNESCO international conference.
“I hope this will be an opportunity to share ideas on the direction of lifelong learning in the post-COVID-19 era and various ways to provide education for the underprivileged as well as bring harmony,” Yoo said.
The goal of this year’s conference is to shed light on the importance of distance education and to discuss global health education in cities, their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and actions to improve resilience in the face of future crises.
In his keynote speech, former UN Secretary-General Ban also called for the learning cities to join the movement to establish a culture of lifelong learning.
After the opening ceremony, the international conference, which comprises 24 sessions covering diverse topics, kicked off in earnest, according to the Yeonsu-gu office.
Two plenary sessions were held on a new paradigm of health education in the post-pandemic era as well as the improvement of local learning systems for community resilience.
Ko Nam-seok, mayor of the hosting Yeonsu-gu, on Thursday said the UNESCO international conference is taking place at a critical juncture.
“We initially planned to host the fifth UNESCO International Conference on Learning Cities with the aim of leading the change in global education and learning, which has evolved across multiple dimensions in the pandemic era,” Mayor Ko said.
Ko pointed out that erudite scholars are putting their heads together in Yeonsu-gu to address educational marginalization and help all mankind recover from the pandemic and make a leap forward.
The mayor also emphasized that the participating lifelong learning cities should take the initiative in paving the way for sustainability in the pandemic era.
“It is also crucial for lifelong learning cities to quickly acquire and absorb new technologies and knowledge created by mankind for combating viruses as well as to set the example of sustainable cities,” Ko said.
The four-day run continues through Saturday in Yeonsu-gu, featuring a number of colorful side events, including book and media festivals and Korean food fairs.
A separate exhibition, the 2021 ICLC Global Citizen Lifelong-learning Expo, will also take place at Songdo Convensia on Friday and Saturday, with 154 booths under nine themes on the sidelines of the conference.
Yeonsu-gu was selected to host UNESCO’s fifth International Conference on Learning Cities in December 2020, after being approved to join the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities in 2018.
Since 2013, the biennial conference has been organized by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and held in cities around the world, with the goal of promoting participating cities to develop policies and strategies of providing lifelong learning opportunities.
By Ji Da-gyum and Lee Hong-seok