Since the age of 18, Lenneal Henderson, a Government Professor at the College of William and Mary, has tried to get out of the country at least once a year to work with public policy issues such as energy, agriculture, poverty and health. With this experience, Henderson says, “it’s made me aware of the connection between my citizenship and the citizenship of folks in other countries.” Similar to Henderson’s global connection, a survey recently came out through BBC World Service in April 2016 suggesting that more people are beginning to think globally rather than nationally.
The survey was taken between December 2015 and April 2016 with a group called Globe Scan who has been conducting these surveys for over 15 years. The report’s conclusion said that “Among all 18 countries where this question was asked in 2016, the poll suggests more than half (51%) see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country” while 43% identified nationally. As this trend for a global citizen increases, we continue to see the beginnings of global change around the world for issues such as poverty, women’s rights, education, and climate change.
Hugh Evans, a big mover and shaker in the global citizen movement said at a TED Talk in April, “that the world’s future depends on global citizens.” In 2012, Evans founded the Global Citizen organization, which promotes global action through music. This organization now reaches over 150 different countries, but I promise I will talk more on that in a little bit.
What is global citizenship?
Henderson defines global citizenship as asking yourself “how does [national citizenship] enable me to participate in the world, and the world to participate in this country?” Kosmos Journal says that a “global citizen is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.” If neither of these definitions resonate with you, the Global Citizen organization has a great video of different people defining what global citizenship really means.
Why is the Global Movement Happening Now?
When we talk about this movement happening now we have to remember that it has been floating around since the 40’s and 50’s with the start of the United Nations in 1945 and Eisenhower’s move to create sister cities in 1956. So, why are we seeing it really pop up and gain motion in the past several years? You can probably think of a couple ideas…
Poverty has always been a global issue. This isn’t a new concept, but the prospect of actually being able to end extreme poverty is still pretty new and exciting. For example, Global Citizen’s current goal is to end extreme poverty by 2030!
Two other related issues that affect everyone around the world are women’s and reproductive rights. Women around the world still suffer from lack of education due to forced and child marriages. Additionally, according to the United Nations Population Fund, “every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth.” Add in pregnancies that did not make it to birth because of maternal death or unsafe abortions and there are a whole lot more. All of these usually unintended pregnancies also often limit the girl’s ability to pursue an education and cause an increase in poverty.
Next, education in itself is its own global issue. Even if the public schools are free for children, some families do not have the means to purchase uniforms or books. Others may need the children to be working instead of going to school so that the family can have enough money to buy food. Again, you can see how all of these global problems end up morphing together a little to cause this vicious circle.
Lastly, climate change is quickly becoming more and more of a threat and will only continue to get worse unless we can take global action. From droughts in the Horn of Africa to heat waves in the Arctic it almost seems as though our world is falling to pieces. What I personally end up pulling my hair out over is how even though all this is happening, oil drilling and burning continues and because no one can agree on something, we don’t do anything. Sounds like a problem calling for global citizens to me.
The internet provides us with more instant information than we have ever had as a society. It’s almost hard to imagine how we survived without Google at this point (the fact that google has pretty much become a verb says enough). As global information becomes more accessible through websites and search engines like Google, people around the world are becoming more globally aware.
Additionally, with the world wide web at our fingertips, global communication becomes practically as easy as turning on your computer. Social media, email, and video chat all allow people from all over the world to communicate in seconds. This simple mass communication makes the prospect for global citizenship even more likely in the future.
What is Already Happening?
Sister cities is a program intended to promote citizen diplomacy. Cities in the United States connect with a “sister city” in a different country to create cultural exchange and collaborate with each other on issues that both cities deal with.
One example of these relationships that Henderson explained was a sister state relationship between California and Chile on “grape and wine production, which helps industries in both of the countries and therefore the people who are employed in those industries as well as the customers and consumers of those products.”
This type of collaboration could easily lead to much more communication between countries and help to broaden people’s viewpoints on global issues. Even though this program has been going on since the 50’s, I personally only heard about it for the first time through Henderson. Given a greater amount of publicity, the program could easily spread beyond industries and politics into general outreach among communities and throughout the school system within a few years.
I promised I would talk more on the Global Citizen organization and now I plan to follow through on that promise. The way that this organization works is that you can earn concert tickets that the performer has donated or earn a ticket to the Global Citizen festival in New York City that happens every year. This past year, there was was also a festival in Mumbai, India which had 80,000 people attend.
This year in New York City the lineup included Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Selena Gomez, Major Lazer, Metallica, Usher and Ellie Goulding with hosts including Deborrah-Lee, Hugh Jackman, and Neil Patrick Harris. In India, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and rapper Jay-Z performed.
The Global Citizen website boasts the 2016 festival’s accomplishments saying the festival caused “47 commitments and announcements worth $1.9 billion set to reach 199 million people.” The India festival brought about 25 commitments that represent “an investment of nearly $6 billion set to affect 500 million lives.”
While action like this is already happening, there is still a huge amount to be done in the future to end extreme poverty around the world. However, if famous performers continue to donate some of their time and as long as the organization continues to gain more active members I think that goal is very possible.
The most direct impact for the future from the increasing global viewpoints is Global Citizen’s goal to end extreme poverty by 2030. Through ending poverty, women’s rights, reproductive health, and education will likely improve. Global Citizen also works with all of these issues including “girls and women, health, education, finance and innovation, food and hunger, water and sanitation, environment, and citizenship so with the continued rise in global citizenship these causes should also start to see change.”
Additionally, as citizens come together, hopefully governments will follow suit and we may finally start to see more sustainable energy and climate change agreements before 2030.
If we bring it even further, the impact may well be that national lines and national ties become much less important into the next generation and onward. With more students and people traveling to other countries or having dual citizenship, perhaps in the future we can move to a position where countries become more intertwined; an understanding among people that no matter what nation we live in, we all share this planet and can share a global community.