Global Citizenship

Section1: Global Citizenship Explored

Global Citizenship - meanings explored


In this section we aim to:

  • explore the many meanings of the term 'global citizenship'
  • highlight particular themes that arise
  • reflect on what aspects of global citizenship are particularly important to us

Begin the enquiry next

Global Citizenship

Throughout this enquiry we use the term 'global citizenship'. The term means different things to different people, so as a first step in clarifying the meaning, please tell us what global citizenship means to you. Remember there is no right or wrong!

Type your definition in the box below:

Here is a short video giving other people's definition of what they think it means to be a global citizen. Watch it and think about what statements you particularly agree with, and why.

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Your meaning of Global Citizenship

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What does Global Citizenship mean to others?

Over 600 MMU students filled in an online Global Citizenship survey and were also asked to come up with three words or phrases they thought of when thinking about 'Global Citizenship'. Here is a Wordle of the results:

Diagram showing most popular words when thinking about Global Citizenship: World, international, community, culture, equality, together, worldwide, culture,everyone, rights, responsibility, travel

See a larger version of this Wordle (opens in new page)

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Quotes about the meaning of Global Citizenship

Below you will find six quotes that discuss meanings of global citizenship. Read through the quotes, think about which quote (if any) most closely fits in with your own understanding of global citizenship, and then rank the quotes in order of how much you agree with them (1 = agree most, 6 = agree least):

  Click on a title to see the quote
Quote 1: Competing successfully

‘If we are to achieve the Government’s purpose of sustainable economic growth and compete successfully in world markets, young people must develop an awareness of global issues and events, and the skills and confidence to be effective contributors in an increasingly global society.’ International Education: responsible, global citizens, HMIE, Scotland (2010)

Quote 2: Connections between local and global issues

Global citizenship is more than learning about seemingly complex ‘global issues’ such as sustainable development, conflict and international trade – important as these are. It is also about the global dimension to local issues, which are present in all our lives, localities, and communities. (Brownlie , A. (2001). Citizenship Education: the global dimension, guidance for key stages 3 and 4. London, UK: Development Education Association.)

Quote 3: Global Citizenship is nothing new

‘(Global) citizenship should not be assumed to be a modern phenomenon; the beginnings can be traced to the Greeks, the Confucianism and even Hindu philosophy, for example the oneness of all human beings as described in the Isha Upanishad: “He who sees all beings in the Self and the Self in all beings, he never turns away from It (the Self)”.’
Lynne Parmenter (2008) Linking national education and cosmopolitan Citizenship (kosmopolites) beyond the school gates

Quote 4: Membership of a worldwide community

"If global citizenship means being a citizen of the world, it is neither practicable nor desirable … such a world state would inevitably be remote, bureaucratic, oppressive, and culturally bland… (Parekh, B (2003), "Cosmopolitanism and Global Citizenship", Review of International Studies 29: 3-17)

Quote 5: Acting on our responsibilities to each other and the earth

‘Certainly, global citizenship is not determined merely by the number of languages one speaks, or the number of countries to which one has travelled. I have many friends who could be considered quite ordinary citizens, but who possess an inner nobility; who have never travelled beyond their native place, yet who are genuinely concerned for the peace and prosperity of the world.’
Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship, a presentation by Daisaku Ikeda (1996)

Quote 6: Justice, not sympathy

‘The globalisation of trade (and our impact on climate change) converts us (unavoidably) into participating in the lives of people we have never met and are never likely to meet. We are as complicit in their lives as if they sold us their produce over the garden fence. The ties that bind are … chains of cause and effect that prompt obligations of justice rather than sympathy, pity, or beneficence.’(Andrew Dobson (2006) ‘Thick Cosmopolitanism’, Political Studies, Vol 54, pp. 165–184)

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Summary of Section One

In this section you have explored the many different conceptions of global citizenship including your own. You have seen that while some people are quite guarded about the term thinking it may reduce the sense of people’s local identity and citizenship, others think that due to rapid globalisation over the last few decades global citizenship is an everyday feature of life.

One definition of global citizenship, that pays reference to the complexity of the term, yet is quite clear, is from the United Nations Academic Hub on Global Citizenship. It states that;

‘Global citizenship is an umbrella term for the social, political, environmental, or economic actions of globally-minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale. The term can refer to the belief that, rather than actors affecting isolated societies, individuals are members of multiple, diverse, local and non-local networks. Global citizenship is an interdisciplinary lens through which to analyse the history and development of our changing world. Although there is no standard definition of global citizenship, there are common topics that guide conversations in the field.’

It goes on to state that common global citizenship topics are ‘corporate responsibility, cultural identity, economic fairness, education, environment, gender equality, globalization, health, human rights, peace, social entrepreneurship, social justice, and sustainable development.’

This demonstrates that there are many aspects of the term Global Citizenship and that your own definitions will be influenced by your own interests, experiences and perceptions. Overall, there is no right or wrong meaning!

That's the end of this section!

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