Global Citizenship: humanity & interdependence

The idea of Global Citizenship is not new. However, the definition of being a global citizen (GC) does not translate well to most people. In fact, I was one of those commoners, who only learned about the meaning and the obligatory needs for all of us to be a GC recently (after became the trainer teaching GC).

To objectively conceive the concept of being a GC, one must comprehend what citizenship is. According to Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), “Everyone has the right to a nationality, and no one should be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor the right to change his nationality” (Draft Committee, 1948). The status of belonging to a particular nation would grant a person certain civil and political rights, along with other social welfare and privileges. Except for someone like Edward Snowden, the most tangible way to determine one’s citizenship is to look at the validity of the passport that a person is holding on. The entitlement of citizenship is not absolute; rather it is subjected to your allegiance to a state. In other words, you must swear your loyalty to your country over others during the times of conflict. Such political custom has indirectly created a divide whereby citizens from a developed country tend to discriminate against people from developing nations.

So, what is Global Citizenship then? It is just “a frame of mind”; GC is not legally recognized. There are no global organizations to sanction and protect GCs. The referred “a frame of mind” is a human affection to others, whereby the right to care and rally for others disregarding nationality is a voluntary act that comes from GCs themselves. Being a GC is not something that out of reach. It is an individual choice that you and I can make. Often, our ability to experience and feel for others is an indirect realization towards interdependence. In His Holiness, the Dalai Lama (2007) had it explained best, “Our general condition in human society is that we all depend on each other. We are social animals, and we must live, interact and care with one another.” And, to put it simply, a GC is someone who has the wider sense of humanity and benevolence.

Dalai Lama pencil illustration by lin chou cheng

“But, why should we care about events and other kinds of people that are geographically far apart from us? Aren’t we already have enough of problems of our own within our shore?”

The former US President, Bill Clinton (2009) had it answered for us, “Whether we like it or not, the problems of one country will spill into another.” The recent years EU Migrant and Refugee Crisis is a good vivid “bad example” that spilled from the Syrian war (Stearns & Tirone, 2015). Besides the aptitude to value diversity, a GC would also care about the environmental and other economic issues as well. And, among all, what a GC most concerned about is social justice and equal rights.

The choice to be a GC is to assume a new responsibility on top of your existing citizenship, and working together across national boundaries to secure our common fate. To differentiate Global Citizenship from National Citizenship, Oxfam (2015) had provided us some technical information that we can reference at. For example, GC is someone who:

• is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen
• respects and values diversity
• has an understanding of how the world works
• is outrage 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

Although the choice to be a GC seems like just having a heart for others, actually, there is more to it. In fact, there are some skills and competencies involved if you want to be a GC.

Venn Diagram of the skills and competency that required as a global citizen

Among all these key elements, having intercultural competence is one of the most important skills that you must acquire. Any persons that are interculturally competent will have the ability to function according to the cultural rules of more than one cultural system. The basic requirements for cross-cultural competence are empathy, an understanding of other peoples’ behaviors and ways of thinking, and the ability to express one’s way of thinking.

Lastly, a citizen of the world is not someone who travels widely and at home in any country. It is about having the conscience for humanity and being selfless for oneness. The path becoming Global Citizen is a life long journey. We are fortunate to live, work and study in Singapore. Though there are inherent limits and contractions for Singapore to become an ideal global city (Low, 2013), we just need to take a small, smart step by caring for the well-being of our local community.



Oxfam. (2015). Education for Global Citizenship: A guide for schools

Stearns, J, & Tirone, J. (2015, September 11). Europe’s Refugee Crisis – QuickTake. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from

Low, D. (2013). Has ‘global city’ vision reached its end date? Retrieved January 28, 2016, from

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