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Cali, Colombia, welcomes the world’s most important forum on inclusion and equity in education

  • Organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Colombia and the city of Cali, the event is commemorating the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Special Needs Education held in Salamanca.
  • The objectives are to share and promote educational policies and practices that foster inclusion; to review the progress made in policy and practice since the Salamanca Conference; and to understand the potential of inclusion in education in order to offer new opportunities in a digitalized and globalized world.

Photo: Ministry of Education, Colombia

The UNESCO International Forum on inclusion and equity in education: every learner matters, is being held in Cali, Colombia, from September 11 to 13, 2019. It will explore the challenges and strategies to overcome persistent barriers for vulnerable and marginalized groups and celebrate progress in moving towards education systems that leave no one behind, a pledge made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The event will be inaugurated by Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education and María Victoria Angulo, Minister of National Education of Colombia and deputy chair of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee. The ceremony will be presided over by Maurice Armitage, Mayor of Cali.

Claudia Uribe, director of the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) explained that the Forum “is seeking to build a shared understanding and a renewed commitment towards reinforcing inclusion in education among education policy makers, education practitioners, civil society organizations, NGOs, UN agencies, development partners and the private sector.”

Manos Antoninis, director of the GEM Report will present preliminary findings of the new profiles of the laws and policies on inclusive education in the countries participating in the Cali Forum. These profiles will facilitate learning among peers and policy dialogue between countries, especially at the regional and sub-regional level. It will also enable a more systematic monitoring of the implementation of national and international policies for achieving SDG4, and make it possible to analyze key trends in education.

This work is being carried out to feed into the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education to be published in March of next year. It will also contribute to the regional report for Latin America and the Caribbean (June 2020) on the subject, to be created in partnership with the Research and Innovation Laboratory in Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (Summa) and OREALC/UNESCO Santiago.

The results of the profiles of the countries represented in the Cali Forum show that there is a strong commitment to inclusion in education, although ongoing work is still needed to ensure that inclusion covers all groups and not just one particular group

Almost all countries have ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, although only some 60% have ratified the optional protocol (which establishes an individual mechanism for complaints related to the Convention). According to the GEM Report team, the latest information available in the countries participating in Cali indicate that almost 70% of the countries have adopted inclusion as a central part of the provision of education:

  • El 19% of countries have mixed systems in which they promote inclusive education, but foster separate environments for severe disabilities.
  • 47% of them promote inclusive education –curriculum and learning materials, teacher training, without physical barriers– for persons with disabilities.
  • And 70% of them provide teacher training for inclusion.

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Expected outcomes from the Cali Forum

  • Provide a stronger platform for dialogue and cooperation in matters of inclusion;
  • Achieve greater awareness of policies and practices (from early childhood to higher education) that are effective in promoting inclusion in education, and in the areas where progress is needed, and
  • Issue a final document that supports Inclusion and Equity in Education.


The meeting agenda will focus on the following issues:

  • Formulate and adopt legislation and regulatory frameworks that lay the foundation for inclusion and equity in education
  • Provide educational or institutional quality support to value and respond to student diversity
  • Develop approaches that will generate inclusive learning environments for all learners
  • Foster cooperation and establish cross-sector partnerships to ensure inclusion and equity in education.

Around 500 delegates from more than 40 countries will attend the Forum, including representatives from ministries of education and other government officials; education practitioners and educators; researchers and experts; bilateral, multilateral and other development partners; private-sector stakeholders; representatives from youth organizations and the media, and representatives from non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations that support inclusive education.

More information:

    Background documents

        Key resources

          Contact:

          UNESCO: inclusion(at)unesco.org

          Colombia: sfernandez@mineducacion.gov.co

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