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What is Global Citizenship?

By B. Schreiber
Updated May 23, 2024
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Global citizenship is an idea or concept that holds that, in addition to being a citizen of a particular state or nation, each person is also a member of the international community of all people. The idea of global citizenship is disputed and has supporters and critics. Those in favor argue that each person is a citizen of the world and has more in common with others due to shared humanity rather than nationality. Critics argue that the concept is too broad to have a definite meaning and can't include competing interests, among other things.

Advocates of global responsibility and citizenship say the idea promotes common goals across political borders. People in favor of this idea also see it as a way to provide relief and assistance to those in developing countries or places that experience difficulties for any number of reasons. These may include conflict, disease, and natural disasters. Supporters may also see it as a way to promote corporate global citizenship, the idea that corporations have a responsibility to the local and global communities.

One of the main criticisms of global citizenship is that the concept isn't helpful when people with different interests meet head on. Critics also argue that, in some cases, global citizenship could mean imposing one's values on people who don't share them. Those who doubt the idea may also say that the interests of powerful individuals and countries are more likely to receive attention than those of the less powerful.

In the 20th century, global citizenship was seen as a way to reduce differences in quality of life among countries, reduce poverty, and protect the environment. It was also seen as a cause that could address worldwide issues such as hunger, malnutrition, and clean water. Beginning in the 1970s, this concern for global responsibility was important in developing relief programs and promoting better economic partnerships. Protecting the environment and natural resources also became part of this concept of citizenship. Ongoing globalization has raised these and many other issues in relation to world citizenship.

The idea of global citizenship has meant various things at different times. After World War I, some saw the idea of the global citizen as a way to reduce international conflict. After World War II, the United Nations (UN) came into being. Some people had also seen the idea of global citizenship as a path to world government. Rather than being a world government, though, the UN has helped to negotiate disagreements between countries.

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Discussion Comments
By nextcorrea — On Dec 12, 2011

I think this article makes a really interesting point when it talks about global citizenship possibly imposing one's views on others who are not receptive to them. As much as I like the idea of global citizenship, it does seem to deny the great variety of human experiences and cultural practice.

To a certain extent we are all the same, but to an equal extent we are all different. I cannot claim that the life I lead and the values that I hold dear are the same as someone in Japan or Kenya. The world is a big and complicated place and people often have conflicting ideas about things. Its important not to forget this.

By summing — On Dec 11, 2011

I think that the concept of global citizenship is more important than ever. As we have seen, the earth is a fragile and deeply interconnected ecosystem. As science has progressed we understand better than ever how we are effected by things that happen on the other side of the world.

There has been a lot of talk recently about global warming and our continued failure to make any significant progress to slow it down. The only way we are going to effect change is if we think of ourselves as global citizens. We might address the problem here in the US, but if people in China and India don't take similar actions the problems will not go away. We are all in this together. Its too big an issue to think about from only a national perspective.

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