Global Citizenship: A myth or a reality?

Dronali Talukdar

The idea of cosmopolitan citizenship is being explored by world’s ethicists who are alarmed by the endless clashes of nationalities, culture and the victims of religions and these issues can be seen mostly in the third world countries. With growing conflicts and natural disasters, humanitarian crises are devastating communities from Nepal and Equator to Syria and South Sudan. Peoples are impacted the most, forced to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere.  Thinkers have been searching for a common ground of minimal values, norms and identity for all. In this new world, people no longer have one clear adherence but rather various matrix of citizenship which are complex and uneven. People also keep asking what kind of position we have to take amid all the political conflicts gearing around the world and where to turn in search of justice. The situation becomes more intense and desperate for the migrants, refugees who are away from their homelands and have to rely on the international organizations for their identity.

Global citizenship is the umbrella term for social, political, environmental, and economic actions of globally minded individuals and communities on a worldwide basis. The term can refer to the belief that individuals are members of multiple, diverse, local and non-local networks rather than single actors of a particular community. It will also allow promoting sustainable development, creating social responsibility to act for the benefit of all societies, not just their own.

The concept of global citizenship is embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals though SDG 4: Insuring Inclusive and Quality Education for All and Promote Life Long Learning, which includes global citizenship as one of its targets. By 2030, the international community has agreed to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including global citizenship. The idea of global citizenship has to be promoted by teaching their students that they are members of a large global community and can use their skills and education to contribute to that community. A Global Citizen is someone who: is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen, who has to respects and values diversity, has an understanding of how the world works as the global homeland, the connection from the local to the global and who is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place to live in. Therefore, people need to be more flexible, creative and proactive. They need to be able to solve problems, make decisions, think critically, communicate ideas effectively and work well within teams and groups.

John Urry said it is the development of new machines, technologies, ideas that have shrunk time and space. It transcends societal control and regulations. Secondly, he has talked about various Scapes and certain scapes are responsible for amplification of the globalization of scapes and citizenships and these are UN, World Bank, WIPR organization (World Intellectual Property Rights), the court of Human rights etc. Thirdly, the environmental citizens as every individual’s future is our common future, no matter what we do personally with the nature but everyone is going to suffer the effects of it. The concerns, the critique of environment, population and resource distribution have a global dimension and this is also the other side of Globalization. With Globalization is no longer state centered, but national governance has become one institutional sphere among several. Governance has become a matter of international politics, supra national institutions. Slowly, this process has involved macro regional bodies, transnational corporations, media in a multi-centric way. There is a transforming image of the nature of the state. Today it is not the homogeneous state but the soft market orient state that tries to adjust between the demand of the citizens and the commands of the market. The point is that Globalization is the product of liberalism that believes in the free market and the social justice system. Though neo liberals support economic globalization, John Rawls has extended his views on liberal justice from within the states to among the states. Again, environmental activists like Richard Falk gives importance on environmental and peace issues and the role of global civil society. Andrew Linklater has borrowed his idea from Habermas, Kant and gives considerations to moral, historical and institutional arrangements to support global citizenship. Kant said all human beings are members of a single moral community. Adam Smith developed economic cosmopolitanism in regard to the free trade and free market economy. Hence, Marx and Engels categorized cosmopolitanism as the ideological reflection of capitalism. They regarded market capitalism as expensive, ruining the nation-state system. It is the shadow of capitalist globalization, bourgeoisie ideology which constantly tries to legitimize free trade in terms of freedom of individuals and this is the main reason of misery to millions of people.

However, the question arises whether the cosmopolitan citizenship is possible or it is just a imagination of the present thinkers. One of the crucial element of citizenship is that it says for a legally and politically defined status, ensures rights as being the member of the political community of the state, which is exclusive in nature. This allows the person to take part in politics and belief in fundamental, legal, political equality between and among citizens. Cosmopolitanism has been associated with the quest to end war between nation-states and from this perspective the idea of global citizenship is sometimes postulated as an alternative to national citizenship to signify a different kind of Political allegiance. If national politics can be guided by cosmopolitan principalities, then national citizenship and global citizenship would not be antithesis but would be complementary to each other. Again, the development of international law, pressure of migration has challenged the exclusivity of the nation-state and the old concept of the citizenship. Similarly, the question of refugees, starless person has also confronted the exclusivity of the national concept of citizenship, hence it suggested the need for a global guarantee of the minimum rights to those who have lost their original notion of citizenship.

Global citizenship tries to uphold world community’s political, economic, and humanitarian values are values that have been espoused by global leaders for the past one hundred years These include: human rights, environmental protection, sustainable development gender equity, religious pluralism, digital access, poverty alleviation and the reduction of resource inequalities, global peace and justice, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, and humanitarian assistance. Over the last decade, in places like Haiti, Japan, and the Philippines, the world has collectively responded to the emergency needs of the people involved. These issues are beyond the capacity of individual nation states to solve on their own. Yet because of the power of the nation-state; many of whom are more concerned with local than global issues; and the consequent reluctance of countries in working with others; many of our global issues continue to worsen.

Again, the rights of global citizens are embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, first drafted in 1948 after World War II. The core nature of the Universal Declaration—grounded in individual liberty, equality, and equity—has remained constant. The main problem related to human rights has been the difficulties that the world has had in enforcing them. There is a long and shameful history of disrespect for and abuse of human rights on the part of sovereign states, religious institutions, corporations and others. A growing number of international mechanisms have been established for reporting human rights abuses.

Lastly, A global citizen, living in an emerging world community, has moral, ethical, political, and economic responsibilities in promoting global citizenship is to educate and nurture a new generation of global citizen leaders. Responsibility to understand one’s own perspective and the perspectives of others on global issues. Almost every global issue has multiple ethnic, social, political, and economic perspectives attached to it. It is the responsibility of global citizens to understand these different perspectives and promote problem-solving consensus among the different perspectives and the building of common ground solutions. Secondly, responsibility to respect the principle of cultural diversity: The multiple perspectives that exist with most global issues often are a reflection of different cultural belief systems. Each of our major cultural belief systems brings value-added to our search for solutions to the global issues we face. In building a sustainable values-based world community it is important to maintain respect for the world’s different cultural traditions; to make an effort to bring together the leaders of these different cultural traditions who often have much in common with one another.; and to help leaders bring the best elements of their cultures to the task of solving global issues and building world community. Thirdly, responsibility to make connections and build relationships with people from other countries and cultures and make it more vibrant. Otherwise we will continue to live in isolated communities with narrow conflict-prone points of view on global issues. The Internet offers a range of opportunities to connect with people on different issues. So even without traveling abroad, it is possible to build a network of personal and group cross-country and cultural relationships. Fourthly, responsibility to understand the ways in which the peoples and countries of the world are inter-connected and inter-dependent, how their lives are inter-connected with people and countries in different parts of the world. They need for example to understand they ways in which the global environment affects them where they live, and how the environmental lifestyles they choose affect the environment in other parts of the world, how the global tide of immigration affects what goes on in their countries. There is a responsibility to understand global issues. For example, they need to understand the impact of the scarcity of resources on societies; the challenges presented by the current distribution of wealth and power in the world; the roots of conflict and dimensions of peace-building. As global citizens, we have responsibility for advocating for more effective global equity and justice. There are a growing number of cross-sectoral issues that require the implementation of global standards of justice and equity; for example, the global rise in military spending, the unequal access by different countries to technology, the lack of consistent policies on immigration. Global citizens have the responsibility to work with one another and advocate for global equality and justice solutions to these issues.

Dronali Talukdar
PhD Research Scholar, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam

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