Allgemein,Europe and the EU

A short introduction to global citizenship

Cosmopolitans, people who are according to the Oxford dictionary familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures, are not a new phenomenon. The ongoing globalization affects, directly or indirectly, every human being in the world. The globalization, mainly describing interconnected economies and international trade, is accompanied by political and social cosmopolitanism. But increasing cooperation does not automatically lead to world peace, yet the globalization is neither an irrepressible beast.

As Stefan Zweig describes unequivocally in his posthumous published autobiography “Die Welt von gestern” (the world of yesterday), Europe grew closer together in the early 20stcentury. People and goods were crossing borders increasingly more naturally than ever before. Still, the developing cosmopolitanism was characterized by a global and mobile (intellectual) elite, it was not equally represented by the broad society. It might be dramatizing to draw analogies between the pre-war years in the early 20th century and todays Europe, but fact is that the idea of cosmopolitanism must be communicated beyond the group of well-educated, well-travelled and, in this regard, privileged people.

The United Nations introduced the term of global citizenship to a broader audience as part of a global citizenship initiative against the background of an agenda to eradicate poverty. While the term “cosmopolitan” can be integrated in the term “global citizen”, latter goes further. A global citizen is part of a global community he or she can identify with. It is therefore important that citizen worldwide are taught about values, human rights, about solidarity in particular and about consciousness towards the one world they all share as their homes. While active exchange with different cultures is crucial for the understanding of diversity, it is less important to actually travel the entire world. A person who has seen every country in the world, is not automatically a global citizen in modern understanding. He or she would not be considered a global citizen, if he or she is not willing to accept his or her foreignness and fails to see the potential in diversity, but tries to judge everything from his or her point of view.

The term of global citizenship goes hand in hand with global consciousness and with global competencies. It means to see oneself as part of a group and to actively strive for the well-being of the entire community. It is therefore most important to begin with small communities: everyone needs to identify as member of a certain, inclusive group and needs to be aware of the own rights in this environment. Since global citizenship itself is not based on any legal basis, it is therefore inevitable that everyone in the global community can – at least prospectively – enjoy the same rights and protection through his or her national citizenship.

The role global citizenship education takes, is to naturally implement aspects of human rights education, civil society education and “regional” education (hence education in topics such as history, politics, religion, ethics etc) going beyond national borders. Being a global citizen can only indirectly taught. Being global mustn’t necessarily be taught – but being attentive, sensitive and caring citizen in a globalizing world must be communicated, shown and lived in order to ensure sustainable development of the entire world community.

June 2015

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