04.06.2014 - Education Sector

Global citizenship education empowers to think, share and act for a more sustainable world

UNESCO/S. Chaiyasok

Global citizenship education (GCE) aspires to be transformative. Grounded in the belief that the most effective defences of peace are built in the minds of men and women, it seeks to empower learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are needed to forge more just and inclusive societies, capable of resolving existing and emerging global challenges.

There has been growing interest in GCE, especially after the launch of the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) in 2012 which made fostering global citizenship one of its three priorities. In response, UNESCO made GCE one of its key education objectives for the period 2014-2021 and is undertaking pioneer work in this area. 

On 16 May 2014 at UNESCO headquarters, UNESCO launched its first major publication on Global Citizenship Education (GCE):  Global Citizenship Education: Preparing learners for the challenges of the twenty-first century. Over a hundred country representatives, education specialists, civil society organizations and researchers attended the event to learn about this emerging approach and how it can be implemented. 

The publication provides a comprehensive and nuanced view of GCE and how it builds on well-established fields such as human rights education, education for international understanding, education for sustainable development. It also presents innovative approaches and good practices for delivering GCE. 

Borrowing concepts and methodologies from various areas and disciplines, it can fit into many different types of educational programmes depending on the local context. 

Country representatives attending the launch shared their experiences in improving the relevance of education from a GCE perspective. Examples include youth empowerment activities and community involvement programmes promoted through existing education policies; Civic education, life skills, peace education, democracy education, guidance and counselling, HIV and AIDS and education for sustainable development. 

Click here to read the presentations from Austria, Colombia, Kenya, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, and Tunisia at the launch event.  

The topics may vary for GCE but the core competencies it promotes remain the same. 

As underlined by Austrian Ambassador Stranzl, “GCE enables learners to understand and respect diversity and to critically analyse the status quo, encourages transformative action and empowers individuals, especially girls.” 

It is based on the principles of human rights, emphasizing  ‘entitlement’ (i.e. access), ‘empowerment’ (i.e. outcomes of education) as well as ‘universality’ (i.e. non-discrimination or exclusion) said the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Mr Kishore Singh, also attending the launch. 

Above all, GCE signals a shift in the role of education. Education should not only emphasise cognitive skills (e.g. reading, writing and numeracy) but also nurture the social and emotional skills that allow individuals to “learn to be” and “learn to live together” in peace. 

Implementing GCE is possible provided a certain number of enabling conditions are in place. 

For Dina Kiwan from the American University of Beirut, it entails encouraging not only intellectual but also affective (emotional) and practical changes to foster critical thinking, communication and proactive engagement and action. 

“The existence of an open social and political environment supportive of universal values, such as those promoted by human rights education, is also critical for the effective implementation of GCE” – said Barbara Schmiedl, from the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Austria. 

Chernor Bah, the Chair of the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) of the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), underscored the importance of engaging young people in the implementation of GCE, highlighting the value they can bring to the process especially since they constitute the biggest, the most mobile, the most connected and the most active young generation in history. 

Just returning from the Global Education for All Meeting in Muscat (Oman, 12-14 May 2014), the Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tang, reported that the international community acknowledged GCE as a key component of the future international education agenda (Target 5). The challenge is to know how to integrate this approach into curricula and learning processes as well as to find ways to measure progress in this area. 

For the Republic of Korea, the promotion of global citizenship is an important element of national education – explained Kioh Jeong, Chief coordinator for the preparation of the World Education Forum 2015. He also underlined that a GCE perspective is to be reflected in the vision of education post-2015. 

The newly released publication is based on the outcomes of two major consultations held in 2013 convened by UNESCO and its partners, which involved education experts, researchers and practitioners as well as representatives of youth, the civil society, media and other stakeholders from around the world: the Technical Consultation on Global Citizenship Education (Seoul, September 2013) and the first Global Forum on Global Citizenship Education (Bangkok, December 2013). 

The launch event was jointly organized by the Education Sector and the Austrian Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in cooperation with the Permanent Delegations of Colombia, Kenya, Mongolia and Republic of Korea. 

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tang, and the Ambassador of the Permanent Delegation of Austria to UNESCO, H.E. Mr Herald Stranzl, opened the event.

<- Back to: Human Rights Education
Back to top