Belfast Learning City
Reducing the deep, persistent and long standing inequalities that exist across Belfast is too great a challenge for any single agency, or Government Department, to tackle alone.
Learning has the potential to transform lives for the better, to enhance quality of life, build better relationships and to create economic prosperity for all. There are many excellent learning opportunities in Belfast but not everyone can avail of them – many people face barriers to accessing opportunities including poor health, lack of confidence, lack of childcare, poor support networks, poverty, racism, prejudice and discrimination.
In 2018 Belfast joined the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities with a bid to using learning to tackle inequalities. As a learning city we have committed to work in partnership to develop a learning city plan which will address barriers to learning and extend opportunities to all citizens in the city, regardless of age or background, and deliver a better city for all.
“Belfast is a city where learning is valued in all its forms and promoted as a force for improved personal, social, civic and economic change in the city. All people in Belfast have equal access to lifelong learning opportunities, creating conditions for a better quality of life for everyone in the city.”
We want a city that puts people at the heart of learning and where communities are actively engaged as the foundation of a lifelong learning society.
A great example of what we mean by a learning city for all is the annual Belfast Festival of Learning which started in 2016. The festival aims to put people at the heart of learning, to inspire enjoyment in learning and deliver events which are free, accessible and fun.
The festival is now an annual fixture in the city’s calendar; the 5th Belfast Festival of Learning was planned for March 2020, however, in response to restrictions put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the entire programme of events had to be cancelled until further notice.
What is the Global Network of Learning Cities?
The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities is an international network providing inspiration, know-how and best practice and policy for learning cities.
Learning cities at all stages of development can benefit greatly from sharing ideas with other cities, as 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:
- ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ and
- ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.
The UNESCO GNLC supports and improves the practice of lifelong learning in the world’s cities by:
- promoting policy dialogue and peer learning among member cities;
- forging links;
- fostering partnerships;
- providing capacity development;
- developing instruments to encourage and recognise progress made in building learning cities.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic UNESCO GNLC has facilitated weekly seminars to enable cities globally to share their experiences, knowledge and best practice on supporting citizens regarding social, health and well-being, educational and economic needs.