Greta Thunberg, a Swedish student and climate activist, has become a household name in the world. She has returned to her home country from Madrid where the Conference of Parties (COP25) under the UN umbrella, unfortunately, failed to reach a conclusion on the urgency to deal with climate change. Thunberg is fatigued not only by the arduous train journeys she has been undertaking for quite some time. She is also hurt by the patronising and condescending comments by the people in power from around the world. Thunberg is undaunted, regardless. What has motivated her to go on a school strike and become a crusader of a global movement to control global emissions? After all, she is just one of the seven billion people living on the earth right now.
Roots of Thunberg’s concerns, speeches and the clarion call lay in an identity that she embodies. And that identity is global citizenship. Our identities characterised by our work, families, location, and ideologies get submerged into a common core – Global Citizenship. Mahatma Gandhi nudged us to this path when he said that his status as a citizen of the universe is more encompassing than the one as a Gujrati, an Indian, or that he spent several years outside India. Therefore, it brings us to the conclusion that the more we broaden our identities, the more we move closer to Global Citizenship.
Oxfam International, a confederation of 19 independent charitable organisations, offers a useful working definition for global citizens. A global citizen is someone who:
is aware of the full world and has a sense of their role as a world citizen.respects and values diversity.has an understanding of how the world works.is outraged by social injustice.participates in the community at a range of levels, from the local to the global.is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place.takes responsibility for their actions.
Global citizenship should be the vision for each of us on this planet. And the good thing is that global citizenship can be cultivated. Therefore, global citizenship education should be the agenda of educators. The United Nations has accorded an essential place for global citizenship as target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goal 4. The target reads: "By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and culture's contribution to sustainable development.”
An effective global citizenship education requires young people to be sensitised towards the needs and the problems of society. They need to be able to solve the problem, make a decision, take a stand and communicate their ideas effectively. These are the same 21st-century skills and attributes which the world has recognised as the essential qualification to succeed at workplaces and in life. Global Citizenship education is about placing our young children in a larger context where their idea of the universe is broad and deeply connected with the world outside their immediate community.
We must encourage children to make choices, indulge in exploring and inquiring, and help them to feel free to ask questions. They must also take affirmative actions based on kindness, gratitude and responsibility. Accountability must move beyond their books to the environment. Deprivation and lack of opportunity, which many of our children and adults are facing should agitate each one of us. John Dewey has rightly remarked that "Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself."
The education for global citizenship and Sustainable Development become more critical, as societies become interconnected and interdependent through media and telecommunication, culture and economics, sharing of environmental resources and international exchanges. The youth of today will assume leadership tomorrow. It is imperative that we support their voices.
The author is Chairperson, Council for Global Citizenship Education.
This article was first published in Campus Care magazine.