Global citizens see themselves as part of a wider community. It is a community that is rapidly emerging as a result of increased interconnectivity and interdependence between individuals and nations. A global citizen acts to support the political, social, economic and moral values of this international community.
Global leaders have espoused these values for over 100 years. Such values include: human rights, gender equity, environmental stewardship and sustainable development, the reduction of poverty and income inequality, good governance, and global peace and justice. Such values are reflected in the expanding number of international agreements, conventions, and treaties that countries have signed since the end of World War II.
The personal and moral values of our global community can be found in humanity’s great spiritual traditions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and many more. In his book Creating a World that Works for All, Sharif Abdullah highlights the universal values shared by these ancient religions, including love, peace, nonviolence, compassion, justice, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, humility, truth, joy, gratitude, and happiness.
A global citizen has rights and responsibilities in relation to his or her membership in our world community. These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed by all countries in 1948. The Declaration’s 30 articles are grounded in the values of liberty, equality, and equity. In many parts of the world, individuals can still be unjustly arrested and punished for upholding the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. Yet there is a growing body of international legal scholarship that can aid in your defense, as well as an array of international legal institutions willing to hear your case.
A global citizen also has certain responsibilities to sustain our world community, just as citizens have responsibilities to the health of their local and regional communities. Global citizens must understand one’s own perspective and those of others. They protect the principle of cultural diversity. They make connections and build social and working relationships with people from other countries and cultures. They strive to understand the ways in which the people and countries of the world are interconnected and interdependent. They work to understand leading global issues and their impact within and across countries. And they advocate for the practice of global citizenship by their own countries, especially in the implementation of international agreements, conventions, and treaties.
Global citizenship does not preclude having citizenship in one’s country. In fact, given that there is no world government, almost all global citizens are dual citizens—of their home country and the planet.
It is important to note that individuals are not the sole standard bearers of global citizenship. The growing interdependence and connectivity between countries means that organizations, especially governments, must also be global citizens. National leaders need to support the practice of global citizenship by collaborating with leaders from other countries in efforts to address global problems that no single country can solve on its own. These challenges include climate change, human rights violations, poverty and income inequality, and furthering global peace and justice.
At the moment, many countries are unfortunately retreating from global engagement. At the helm are a new set of populist leaders who conjure up fear of the outside world and decline to recognize the existence of a global community. These new nationalist leaders blame the forces of globalization, free trade, and immigration for social and economic problems that beset rural, poverty-stricken parts of their countries. From their perspective, it is every country for itself.
While it is true that free trade agreements must do more to protect workers rights, and that immigration policies need to strengthen a country’s workforce and not take away jobs, this does not necessarily mean that we do away with these institutions entirely. Free trade, carefully done, provides benefits to millions of people. And closing borders to those displaced from their own countries by civil conflict, extreme poverty, and climate change, and who can add value and skills to our countries, is shortsighted at best.
The countries and peoples of our planet are increasingly interwoven—our destinies inextricably linked. Today’s brand of populism will wither on the vine in the face of this reality. Our most pressing need now is to speak out against nationalist walls, and respond to the reality of global connectivity by building a sustainable world community for all. This is the mission of global citizens, to which we must ascribe.
• Global Citizenship: A Path to Building Identity and Community in a Globalized World, by Ron Israel, Amazon.com, 2011
• Creating A World That Works for All, by Sharif M Abdullah, Amazon.com, 1999
• Visit the TGCI Country Report Card to learn more about the practice of global citizenship in countries around the world