Are You A Global Citizen?

The Global Citizen website document that ‘global citizen’ is a community of “people who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you”, adding: “Global Citizen is a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030. On our platform, Global Citizens learn about the systemic causes of extreme poverty, take action on those issues, and earn rewards for their actions — as part of a global community committed to lasting change.” It is to note here that Global Citizen shares a very similar vision to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) developed by the United Nations in 2015.

The BBC reported that “people are increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens”, according to their BBC World Service poll. The poll that was conducted by GlobeScan from December 2015 and April 2016 indicates that among the 14 countries that were tracked as part of the research, roughly one in two people saw themselves as global citizens rather than citizens of their country. The Chairman of GlobeScan, Doug Miller, added: “the poll’s finding that growing majorities of people in emerging economies identify as global citizens, will challenge many people’s (and organizations’) ideas of what the future might look like.”

The BBC added: “this is the first time since tracking began in 2001 that there is a global majority who leans this way, and the results in 2016 are driven by strong increases since 2015 in non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, including Nigeria, China, Peru, and India.

The non-profit organization, Global Citizen, records its impact since 2011, reporting that there have been 24,812,061 actions taken and $48.4 billion commitments made. They state that “since 2011, millions of Global Citizens around the world have taken over 24 million actions to target world leaders to end extreme poverty by 2030. To date, the actions by our global community along with our high-level advocacy efforts and with our partners, have resulted [in] commitments and policy announcements from leaders, valued at over $48 billion that have impacted more than 880 million people by 2030.” 

This suggests that the growing emergence of global citizenship through personal and economic transactions is having a considerable impact across the globe. However, the organization and the notion of a global citizen has faced critique. BBC Worklife in 2017 shared the complexities of surrounding the “world of the global citizen”. Irene Skovgaard-Smith for BBC Worklife reported that “the idea of being a “citizen of the world” is often associated with global elites – those who shelter their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest their way to citizenship wherever they choose using a “golden visa” route.” 

The journalist David Goodhart, known to refer to those who identify as a global citizen, as “global villagers”. Skovgaard-Smith further added, “this is the image of individualistic high flyers who benefit from globalization and want a borderless world. They live in their “global-citizen bubble” and value autonomy and mobility over local and national attachments, community and belonging” adding: “The reality is far more nuanced and complex.”

It is evident that the Global Citizen is weaving across the world, mobilizing people for change, whilst maneuvering an identity that some are taking ownership of. Although it is important to consider just how the notion of a global citizen is knitted across the world. The research by GlobeScan referenced a number of countries, but there are many more countries including urban and rural contexts, where an understanding of their perceptions needs to be understood. Further, the polling of attitudes on identity is problematic here, as are citizens defining themselves as global citizens based on shared values, connecting to dismantle inequalities or is this seen through the lens of globalization and economic connections and influence? Or, is this related to social media’s global connectivity and platform for expressing views? 

Aligned to the definition of citizenship and based upon the Global Citizen communications, I believe that their vision is underpinned by forming an identity that extends the moral compass of individuals across the world, using the interconnected world we live in to unite citizens in addressing the considerable number of inequalities experienced by different countries around the world. However, having noticed partners of Global Citizen includes the likes of the World Bank, who view the likes of poverty reduction through a particular lens, I question the direction and true intention of what being a global citizen really means. Here, I am acknowledging the impact and potential of forming a global civil society, although cautious to the extent to which global citizenship is grounded in citizen-led, not influenced by institutions.

I further want to understand how citizens on the ground as such, are not only evolving their identities but interrogating what this means for mobilizing social movements from the ground up so that global citizen is a movement led to scale by humans across the world. And to what extent this can be realized and practiced when so many countries are progressing with development respective of their internal challenges and navigating this beyond traditional development such as industrialization.

Ultimately, I ask who qualifies as a global citizen, what do the profiles consist of and how is this evolving identity monitored to understand the context global citizens operate in. Beyond the financial aid from Global Citizen, is one’s moral compass extending through the journey of the global citizen?


Jonathan Stephen
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