When talking about the normative meaning of global citizenship, one can easily recall Socrates’s response when he was asked where he was from. Instead of replying he was Greek or Athenian, he said that he was a “Kosmospolits”, which means a ‘citizen of the world’. Essentially, what he meant was that all human beings were his brothers and that he identified himself first and foremost as being part of this large community containing all people in the world.
Today, many International Organizations, including the United Nations, emphasize the idea that since we all inhabit the same world, it naturally follows that we must protect and improve it. In this respect, the term ‘global citizenship’ has been directly linked to “sustainability” or “sustainable development” and its role in enhancing our awareness about how we can keep growing economically while protecting and preserving the environment in which we live.
Part of being a global citizen is being aware that there are many challenges that face us today; which include but are not limited to climate change, financial contagion, and urbanization. These problems are global, in that they affect us all, and therefore, they require deliberate actions by each and every citizen of this world. In this context, the ability to communicate in multiple languages becomes an indispensable tool in creating global citizens and ultimately achieving the goal of information sharing regarding the global issues. Additionally, multilingualism helps one to become more open minded and therefore more tolerant of other peoples’ cultures. To put this differently, multilingualism is an effective tool in the creation of a culture in which diversity is celebrated as a core part of our global culture.
Indeed, the idea of global citizenship, which the UN’s mission stresses in all aspects, reveals the fact that instead of belonging to several different communities based on nationalism, we in fact can belong to one universally human community. The UN through its global mission reflects the fact that a universal identity and a national one can co-exist simultaneously, just as a smaller local identity exists within all of us, but is embedded within our national identities, and that by viewing oneself as a global citizen we can be part of a larger human community without losing the ability to connect with our unique national identities and cultures.
The UN’s role in promoting tolerance and intercultural communication through information sharing reflects the fact that mutual recognition, along with mutual respect and acceptance, can lead to a more universal community that appreciates the uniqueness of some of our smaller national or local identities, instead of viewing them as opposing our own national identities.
Finally, a big part of the global citizenship’s aim is to make citizens aware of the problems of sustainability, poverty, and injustice that transcend national boundaries. These are issues that most people agree on and are therefore issues that could potentially unite the world for a noble cause. As global citizens, we have overlapping interests that we all share in this world that we call ‘home’. Therefore, probably the time has come for us to work on the reformation of the concept of ‘citizenship’ by allowing ‘cultural plurality’ to be part of its definition.
Featured image via Rudi Dundas
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