Global citizenship as a new ethics in the world system

Global citizenship as a new ethics in the world system
Section: From the Editor

Invariably citizenship education is related to ethics and morality, and the politics of culture and official knowledge of the nation-state responsible for public education. Global citizenship education is different because it plays a role in the global system and does not depend on the politics of a particular nation-state. With the impetus of the concept, it should not be a surprise that is already playing a major role in building the seeds of a new ethics in the world system. What follows is my personal rendition of the twelve most important principles of this new ethics¹.

1) Global Citizenship Education, or GCE, should promote an ethics of caring, or what Saint Ignatius termed Cura personalis².  The care for the individual person and human rights remains a central characteristic of GCE. A global ethics of caring is central to the implementation of Global Citizenship Education, embracing as well a key concept from Feminist Theory.

2) GCE is framed within a social justice education framework. Without bare essentials, we cannot fully accomplish citizenship. Bare essentials speak of economic citizenship, including the right to a job, education, health care, affordable housing, and learning over the course of life. Global Citizenship cannot substitute for national citizenship but has to add value to local, national, and regional citizenship(s). 

3) GCE helps to produce a new narrative in education. The new GCE seeks an education beyond numbers and technocratic thinking, and beyond cognitive learning. It pursues holistic learning that encompasses ethics, aesthetics, spirituality, art, and includes the goals of peace-building in the spirit of Jacques Delors’ UNESCO Commission, Learning: The Treasure Within, particularly the principle of learning to live together, as well with the rest of the Earth³.

4) GCE will seek to identify new models of conflict resolution and negotiation strategies for different regions of the world. For example, in contexts riven by conflict and post-conflict situations, GCE is seen in the rubric of peace education. GCE as civic education is a premise for democratic participation prevailing in those contexts that have experienced totalitarian regimes or dictatorships. Slightly different are areas where regional cooperation mechanisms have placed much emphasis on other critical elements of GCE, such as civics and citizenship, democracy and good governance, as well as peace and tolerance.

5) Based on an ethics of caring and compassion, GCE seeks to understand, explain and solve the migration crisis of today. The question of the human rights of immigrants remains elusive for the human rights regime.

6) The world is changing, at an unprecedent rate cultures are intersecting, and borders are more permeable than ever. Global citizenship education will be able to respond to one of the most important impacts of globalization: the growing cultures of hybridity that crisscross the world. Hybridity is everywhere – in music and youth cultures, taste, dress and speech codes, culinary delights, and aesthetic expressions – and it is also changing identities. 

7) Global Citizenship Education is a way of learning with a strong emphasis on the collective dimensions of knowledge in a rapidly evolving epoch where we are bombarded by ‘self-directed learning’, ‘individualized modules’ or ‘possessive competitive individualism,’ these mostly connected to neoliberalism as outlined by Mayo4. As Werner Wintersteiner et al argue, global citizenship education: “responds to globalization by expanding the concept of civic education to global society”; adopts the ethical values of peace education and human rights education; draws upon the “global society” perspective provided by global education, which not only investigates global topics, but more specifically merges the global and the local into the glocal; combines mainly these three pedagogical fields through the concept of global citizenship in terms of political participation as such, but particularly on a global scale.”5

8) Global Citizenship Education will help to connect the global and the local dimensions, synchronizing national educational policies to the global policies advocated by the United Nations. The sixty-ninth session of the United Nations Assembly set 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets demonstrating the scale and ambition of a new universal post-2015 development agenda. For global citizenship education, goal 4.7 is most relevant: “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 of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”6


The most complete formulation of public education responsibilities is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), a document issued in the aftermath of World War II when the international community, shocked by the recent tragic events, convened to find ways to prevent such conflagrations from ever happening again. The Universal Declaration states in Article 26:

“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”

In this spirit, GCE brings together the agendas of different fields of education including Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention, Intercultural and Interfaith Education, and the global dimension of Education for Citizenship.

9) GCE will enhance the threshold of a new global consciousness based on human rights and universal values, but also incorporating diversity and a critical analysis of power relations and global inequalities. A key component of research should focus on teachers and teacher’s education. Research methods such the practice of participatory action research which will cultivate strategies that work in promoting GCE. 

10) GCE can address issues of the youth bulge by contributing to develop new 21st century skills for youth worldwide who are growing restless and facing a jobless future. And the future is already here. In the faces and dreams but also in the anguish and hopelessness of those children and youth who wonder about their own future; wonder how they can participate in politics and society and help their communities; wonder how they can understand and solve local and global crises; wonder whether they will have a job; wonder if those jobs will produce inner satisfaction; and wonder if they will be able to pay their bills. A large number of the youth today do not work, study, or actively participate as citizens. Through GCE research, policy, and practice, we should seek to understand, address and offer viable sustainable solutions for disenfranchised and marginalized youth.

11) GCE employs a new lifelong learning perspective in the transition of education to work. Challenging inequalities of many kinds, we face the need to incorporate more poor and underrepresented people as well as women and girls, and racial, ethnic, sexual orientation and religious marginalized minorities in different educational environments; this particularly entails reshaping the investment in higher education. For instance, we may consider implementing GCE as a diversity requirement course throughout undergraduate education in the USA and worldwide; perhaps even to create a network of GCE courses as a diversity requirement in many universities of the world committed to quality of education and the interruption of inequality. This would be compat- Global Commons Review 1 s Oct. 2017 s Cover s Contents s About Us 11 ible with the strategy of internationalization being pursued by quality universities in the world system.

12) In a world that is increasingly interdependent, GCE promotes a sense of belonging and active responsibility to the global community and the planet. It emphasizes a shared common humanity and destiny between people and a critical stewardship of Earth’s biosphere and natural environment.

These twelve principles should illuminate not only the ethics but also the epistemology of Global Citizenship Education social movements.


1. Carlos Alberto Torres, Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Critical Global Citizenship Education. New York, Routledge, Taylor and Francis, 2017.

2. If one scratches a theory finds a biography. The ethics of Saint Ignatius have been important in my own education. Yet, we should notice the similarities with the proposals of the 13th century Andalusian scholar, Ibn Khaldun, one of best philosophers and historian of the Middle Ages, who defended the idea that the influxes of new peoples have always reinvigorated and renewed civilization.
4. Peter Mayo, Hegemony and Education under Neoliberalism. Insights from Gramsci (New York City & London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis 2015).
5. Wintersteiner, W., Grobbauer, H., Diendorfer, G., and Reitmair-Juárez, S. (2015), Global Citizenship Education Citizenship Education for Globalizing Societies. Klagenfurt, AT: Zentrum für Friedensforschung und Friedenspädagogik. Retrieved from: http://www. (14 January 2016).
6. Retrieved October 6, from asp?symbol=A/69/L.85&referer=/en glish/&Lang=E.

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