Historically, global citizenship is a relatively new concept. With a few exceptions, the concept of a global citizen only developed in the 20th century. As technology made it easier for people to travel and communicate around the world, it also made people more aware of how we interact and affect each other regardless of national boundaries. Today, it is increasingly recognized that some issues need to be considered from a global instead of local or national perspective. Recent issues include rights to water, environmental issues, and responding to international disasters and events. The notion of World Citizenship encourages each person to “act locally, think globally”.
Young people are growing up in an increasingly global context. It is not unusual today to have a family member working or studying abroad. Many of us live, work and study alongside people from all over the world. Travel – both for business and leisure – is leading ever more people into contact with other countries and cultures. Today no country or culture is unaffected by the global community in which we all live. The global dimension to citizenship is more than learning about 'global issues' such as sustainable development or international trade – as important as these issues are. It is about understanding the global factors that interact with our individual lives and communities.
Understanding global citizenship also helps young people better understand issues that reach beyond borders: the plight of refugees and oppressed peoples, the worldwide impact of environmental change, international conflicts, and the importance of a global community to deal with these and other global issues. Educating all people about world citizenship will help us all make better use of our individual opportunities to make the world a better place in which to live by participating in all levels of society.
Global citizenship education broadly falls into five categories: political literacy, social and moral responsibility, community involvement, socio-economic development and global interdependence, and lastly global governance in particular the global role of the United Nations.
In the modern world, it takes knowledge, skill and understanding to participate as a full member of the global society. In fact, there are multiple factors to be taken into account, such as national and international laws including human rights legislation, the work of the United Nations, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. International political institutions affect almost every issue of importance today: global warming, immigration, arms trade, and prices of goods. World citizenship education assists individuals to critically assess the information they receive via the media to understand their consumer rights and responsibilities and to make informed decisions as consumers, employees or employers.
Students and young people should be made aware of the many international institutions to which they belong as part of their nation’s commitment to certain values: the United Nations, the European Union, the Commonwealth, the African Union, the Organization of American States and many others.
Social and moral responsibility
As discussed in the previous chapter, Common Ties That Bind Humanity, there are certain values and principles that are common to almost all people: a sense of what is fair and unfair, of what is right and wrong, and the importance of sustainable development. World citizenship education teaches the shared rights and responsibilities we have with others around the world. This global dimension gives people a sound foundation on which to base and build their value system and encourages them to respect the rights and dignity of others in an interdependent world. It builds an appreciation of and respect for different nationalities, ethnicities, religions and cultures. It also helps young people see that individual action can contribute to making the world a better place.
In an increasingly connected world, there is a direct link between global citizenship and community involvement. Individual actions at the community level can and have impacted the global community and inversely the global community helps individuals to better understand the diverse nature of the modern multicultural world. An individual can have many cultural associations and may live side-by-side with people of many other cultures as well. World citizenship education shows how action at the local level contributes to the wider, interdependent global community, of which we are all members.
Socio-economic development and global interdependence
UCI believes that world citizenship education is not complete without understanding the social and economic factors that tie us together in the new “Global Village”. The flow of essential goods and services for all nations is managed by national and international institutions such as the World Bank and the Regional Development Banks, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth, the European Union, and many other national and international aid agencies. Today, all countries are dependent in one way or another on international trade and all nations are influenced by the increasing contact international trade brings. World citizenship education needs to highlight this global interdependence of social and economic development.
Global governance, and specifically the global role of the United Nations
UCI also believes that world citizenship education also consider the practical mechanisms for governing global affairs with a specific focus on the sole international forum representing all nations of the world – the United Nations. In particular, citizens of the world need to know the UN Declaration of Human Rights agreed to in 1948, a key landmark document of how the emerging global ethics and humanitarian consensus are progressively being identified and written into the United Nations Declarations, Covenants and into International Law.