A global citizen. I was often curious about what it really meant. I am from that era when we lived without wifi – so it took a long time for the world to become a global village for me. As a teenager, I wondered how a person could be a citizen of the world. After all, no country issues a global passport. For me, it was the idea of living or traveling in many countries and knowing different cultures. Becoming someone like Ibn Battuta – one of the greatest explorers in history.
At the same time, I naturally considered myself a global citizen because I had to call many countries my home because of my continuous movement. I don’t exactly remember where I heard this term first – but when I was participating in my university’s leadership program, I found a category called “Global citizenship”. It asked me to participate as an exchange student, a volunteer or an intern in a foreign organization either online or in person.
So, I developed a notion that a fragment of global citizenship is about mingling with different cultures through diverse experiences which can come through education, work or maybe travel. As a landscape photographer, I would personally like to add traveling to this list. I have to travel a lot because of different projects where I meet new people with unique cultures that have made the world a global school for me.
Global citizenship can be a tool for global development
Global citizenship is much more than just learning and being respectful of different cultures. It is an intersection of human rights and sustainability with cross-cultural awareness. It can be so powerful to create meaningful changes in the community that an educational field has emerged called global citizenship education (GCED). I had an eye-opening opportunity this year to get training in the 9th Youth Leadership Workshop on GCED where I finally realized what it takes to be a global citizen.
No, global citizenship does not come with a global passport. Neither is it about gaining a certificate in global citizenship training. Rather it is a sense of responsibility toward the community beyond boundaries. Global citizens think of themselves as a citizen of the world and feel belonging to a border community. Thus, a global citizen crosses the boundary of nationalism and becomes aware of the global policies that can bring positiveness across the whole world, protecting the human rights of every gender and social class in every race and nationality.
A unique approach to sustainable development
The issues of human rights and peace are often targeted issues within the sustainable development goals. One can argue – how is the practice of global citizenship unique to achieve these goals?
If we look at the changemakers who are working as frontiers of SDGs – most of them work mainly in one domain. Or maybe two or three. But a global citizen will be mindful of all the umbrellas – human rights, sustainability, peace – although keeping one goal as primary. So an important aspect of global citizenship is that we can practice all the basic moral regulations that we already read about a long time ago in our social sciences textbooks in elementary school.
A global citizen is also a changemaker
Global citizens are often active in change-making in their communities. A little difference is a global citizen is usually aware of the responsibilities for community development but not all change makers are aware of the concept of global citizenship. So global citizenship education can significantly develop the leadership qualities of a changemaker through a lens of ethics and empathy.
Practicing global citizenship as an individual
Since the day I started thinking of myself as a global citizen, I have been more mindful of nature and the environment. I feel a strong sense to minimize my carbon footprint. Later I realized I started living an eco-friendly lifestyle in every aspect. For instance, I buy local sustainable cosmetics brands or food products that practice fair trade. This year when I traveled to a hill station called Cameron Highlands – I went to try their local homemade ice cream. Recently, I also bought a recycled straw that can be used many times. I always carry that with me so that I don’t have to use a new straw every time while drinking outside. I don't go to the fast food chains anymore, rather I look for local cafes and restaurants that promote local culinary craftsmanship using organic ingredients. In essence, local citizenship is a set of values that can be adopted on a personal level.
This brings to a common myth about global citizenship – one does not always have to be in a leadership role to practice as a global citizen. The concept can be looked at through the concept of traditional citizenship. Not all are politicians or policymakers; but the fate of a country holds in how the commoners practice their rights and responsibilities through voting, ethical consumerism, honesty and moral obligations towards each other. Just like that, one can be a global citizen by practicing the core ideology of it – that is taking actions that are needed by each human being for a sustainable world.
Global issues such as poverty, climate change, and conflict do not adhere to borders. They require collective efforts and global collaboration to find sustainable solutions. Hence, the education of global citizenship is more important than ever in our increasingly interconnected world. This will empower the young people to become advocates for social justice, human rights, and sustainable development to make our planet a happy, safe and healthy place for all to live – which is still a dream to make true.