We live in a large village called the Earth. Thanks to the rapid development in transportation and communication, we can fly to the other side of the Earth in one day and hear news from all around the world in real-time. As countries worldwide influence each other in various areas including politics, economics, society, culture, and science, the world is becoming a single community.
However, as interdependence increases across the globe, many problems arising from such globalization are deepening. Climate change, pandemics, refugee crises, and other global problems all require international cooperation. The need for legal and institutional regulations that apply beyond national boundaries is becoming urgent and solving these global problems require an expansion of our perspectives beyond national borders.
In the age of globalization, we are already global citizens
We live in a globalized world and are impacted by the effects of globalization. Therefore, we are already all global citizens. Furthermore, we need to be aware of the common problems that the Earth as a single community is facing and work together to solve them. Such efforts are not only for the Earth but for all individuals that are members of the global community.
Let’s look at the definition of global citizenship. First, let’s look at the definition of a citizen. A citizen refers to a person who, as a member of a democratic society, has political rights and voluntarily and actively participates in national policy decisions. Following this definition, we can understand global citizens by extending the concept of nation that defines a citizen to the world. In other words, a global citizen refers to a person who, based on an awareness of the community, takes interest in the various global problems and actively works to solve them to create a peaceful global village. A global citizen does not reject other people based on their religion, race, or nationality and takes a continuous interest in solving the challenges faced by the global village.
Someone with global citizenship understands their identity to extend beyond the family and nation to the entire world and actively participates to solve global issues by fostering a sense of morality, inclusion, and other characteristics.
△ In November 2015, Syrian refugees arrived on the beach of Lesbos Island, Greece. A volunteer from Europe is helping the refugees who are full of fear and pain. Living in a globalized era, we must come together in solidarity.
Global citizenship is the attitude of accepting differences and trying to solve global challenges together
What attitude should global citizens have? A global citizen does not reject other people based on their religion, race, or nationality and takes a continuous interest in solving the challenges faced by the global village.
This is called global citizenship. In other words, global citizenship refers to recognizing oneself not simply as a citizen of one country but as a member of the global community and taking responsibility and authority as a global citizen.
△ Internationally known youth environmentalist Greta Thunberg demonstrates together with other youths at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) on February 28, 2020.
Important values that global citizens should possess
l Human rights
Human rights are rights that every person should enjoy as a human being. Regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, level of wealth, everyone’s human rights should be respected.
People from all regions of the world are in an interdependent relationship. We need to understand that all events - economic, environmental, cultural, social, and political – that occur across the world have an impact on us and that our actions also impact the world.
A necessary condition for diverse people to co-exist peacefully is acceptance and respect for what is different. We need to accept differences in race and religion; social, historical, and political background; language, and culture; and throw away stereotypes and prejudice and be open to diversity.
Sustainability refers to human beings having a long-term outlook and not destroying the natural resources for short-term growth. In other words, it refers to developing while maintaining harmony with nature.
Attitudes global citizens should take
l Empathy toward others
The human rights of all people should not be violated for reasons of race, gender, regional characteristics, religion, economic hardship, and others. Global citizens should look after the hardships of our neighbors in the global village whose human rights have been violated and have empathy towards them.
l Respect for what is different
Global citizens should respect differences among each other and accept cultural diversity.
l Critical and creative thinking
Global citizens should analyze the cause and effect of phenomena that occur in the global village and think about how to eliminate the cause and creatively solve the problem.
Once a problem is identified and the solution is found, action is required. Using the developed communication systems available, global citizens should listen to what is happening around the world, form an opinion and take action.
Global challenges that require joint efforts of global citizens
At the UN General Assembly in 2015, 17 common goals for humanity were agreed upon to be achieved by 2030. Under the slogan, “Leave no one behind,” the Sustainable Development Goals propose the direction humanity should take in the five areas of people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. The 17 goals are composed of 169 more specific goals.
l Seventeen goals for a better world
1. No poverty
2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and well-being
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality
6. Clean water and sanitation
7. Affordable and clean energy
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequalities
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
15. Life on land
16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions
17. Partnerships for the goals
l No poverty
Around the world, 1.3 billion people are living in absolute poverty (World Bank, 2012). These people in on less than $1.25 a day.
Despite rapid development that has raised the standard of living to its highest, the lives of 22.7% of the world's population suffer from poverty. Absolute poverty, in which survival is at stake due to lack of food and poor living conditions, is a problem that we all need to combine efforts to solve.
l Zero hunger
Currently, the world's malnourished population is about 800 million (10.7 percent). The United Nations aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, but its achievement is projected to be difficult.
There is enough food in the world for everyone to eat. However, hundreds of millions of people suffer from hunger because production and distribution are uneven and do not take into consideration the poorest people.
Poverty and starvation are also the results of social, political, and structural inequality, such as the lack of proper welfare systems, corruption, and unequal trade structures. Therefore, solving the issues of hunger and food inequality requires a holistic approach within political and social contexts, and a solution must be sought from a global perspective.
l Protection of the environment
Pollutants produced by a country spread to the rest of the world through the atmosphere and currents. Yellow dust, fine dust, ship oil, and radioactive materials are some of the representative pollutants. These can lead to conflicts and disputes between countries.
Since the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, fossil fuels used by humankind have been emitting greenhouse gases. An increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere produced a warming effect, and the average temperature of the Earth has risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years as of 2020. As a result, glaciers have been reduced, sea levels have risen, and various weather anomalies and natural disasters are threatening the Earth's ecosystem.
l Conflict and refugees
To this day, conflicts between countries and ethnic groups are occurring in many parts of the world due to differences in religion, race, and culture. Regional conflicts that start in certain areas expand into wars between countries and even into indiscriminate terrorism that spreads fear globally. Recently, conflicts and friction have intensified due to religious fundamentalism or exclusive nationalism. The conflict between Palestine and Israel and the civil war in Syria are affecting neighboring countries.
The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide who have lost their homes due to conflict and violence reached 79.5 million or 1 percent of the world’s population at the end of 2019 (UNHCR). This number is the highest since World War II. As conflicts in the Middle East and Africa intensified in the 21st century, the number of refugees has exploded.
Many refugees die in the process of crossing an international border. In many countries, there are conflicting opinions regarding the acceptance of refugees leading to a crisis in how to deal with the refugee inflow. Peaceful coexistence with refugees is an important challenge in the 21st century.
Urgent call for solidarity among global citizens in an age of pandemic
An unprecedented global epidemic has brought chaos to the entire global community. The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
What's even scarier than a virus is indiscriminate hatred. The COVID-19 virus is creating hatred, discrimination, and unconditional exclusivism against China, where the first case occurred, Chinese people and other Asians. This exclusivist attitude adversely affects the path toward resolution of the pandemic, which requires international cooperation.
COVID-19 cannot be overcome with nationalism. To overcome the pandemic, international cooperation and global solidarity are needed in developing vaccines and sharing quarantine best practices.
It should be recognized that the people who were already vulnerable, suffering from conflict, hunger, violence, and poverty before the pandemic, face an even more severe crisis, and greater attention and efforts need to be given to them.
We must foster our global citizenship at a time when problems requiring international cooperation are increasing