UN seminar highlights global citizenship education
NEW YORK — On June 15, UN permanent missions from France, Korea, Nigeria, Qatar, and the United States co-organized a seminar titled "Global Citizenship Education for a Just, Peaceful, Inclusive and Sustainable World", held at UN Headquarters in New York City. The Baha'i International Community and UNESCO were among seven NGOs and UN organizations that co-sponsored the event.
The seminar—archived on UN Web TV—engaged diplomats, UN officials and civil society actors in a dialogue on fostering global citizenship. The focus was on education that engenders universal human values conducive to the construction of a more peaceful and sustainable world.
Daniel Perell, a representative of the Baha'i International Community to the UN, moderated the second of two sessions, titled "Opportunities Based on Application in the Field", which focused on efforts to explore models for global citizenship education.
In his brief introductory comments, Mr. Perell connected global citizenship to the principle of the oneness of humankind, which he described as having a material as well as spiritual dimension, quoting a well-known passage from Baha'i sacred scriptures: "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens."
"Global citizenship education receives wide support at the level of concept," he said. "The challenges come when we talk about what it looks like in practice."
The seminar, he explained, was a place for actors from various institutions and fields of endeavor to exchange insights and experiences and advance understanding.
Ambassador Oh Joon of the Republic of Korea to the UN gave the introductory remarks for the seminar.
"Global citizenship education is now more widely recognized in the context of a shifting paradigm regarding the role of education in the twenty-first century," he stated.
"Given the strong need to tackle global challenges, such as violent extremism, global citizenship education shares the importance of a common understanding of universal values, such as justice, human rights and dignity, gender equality, and cultural diversity."
Ambassador Oh also strongly linked global citizen education to sustainability and explained that it had been "incorporated into the UN's sustainable development goals as an important dimension of development for all".
The event featured a range of panelists, including diplomats from the sponsoring countries, representatives of civil society, and educational experts. Prominent among the themes was the idea that education alone will not necessarily result in constructive participation in society. There was a consensus among panelists that education must incorporate human values if it is to result in a sense of responsibility to the well-being of society, from the local to the international spheres.
One of the panelists, Ramu Damodaran of the United Nations Academic Impact Secretariat, spoke about the important role civil society has played in bringing new ideas to the United Nations. He noted, for example, that among the first mentions of the concept of "world citizenship" as an element of sustainable development came in a 1993 statement from the Baha'i International Community to the first session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
In recent years, the idea of education for global citizenship has taken on increased prominence because of its inclusion in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for "all learners [to] acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development", including the promotion of "global citizenship".
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 launched the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), which seeks to spur renewed efforts to reach global education goals. Fostering global citizenship is one of three priority areas on which the program focuses.