An Ex Student’s Perspective on a UWC Vision
by David Cichon (UWC AC 2005 – 2007)
‘Global Citizenship’ can represent a wide range of values and ideals. Values and Ideals that we believe the United World Colleges promote and install in us, so that we can continue to promote them around the globe. But what does it mean to be a global citizen?
The notion of citizenship is attributed to the state. Citizens are active members of the state in which they live and of which they are a part of. More importantly, they are members of the states that lets them be a part of it. Although the understanding of citizenship has changed since it was adopted as a libertarian concept and incorporated into liberal democracies, it still inevitable represents some form of exclusion. In today’s societies, and in particular in the so called liberal democracies of the minority world, this exclusion is exceptionally strong for asylum seekers, migrants and refugees – people that the state will not except as equal members, whether it would be on grounds of race, nationality, social standing, sexual orientation or otherwise. People within particular national territories are denied their basic and fundamental rights. These rights include political participation, the right to work and social security, the right to access basic health care, the right to education and many more. Nations that are generally accepted as having ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ human rights records, in this case the UK although the situation is very similar in other European and North American states, are using social exclusion that comes with the notion of citizenship as an excuse to restrict individual rights and freedoms.
So the question lies, should a ‘global citizen’ be a member of a ‘global state’ or a person that respects the notion that all human beings are part of a global community and therefore all have the same fundamental rights. I would support the latter. So does that mean that to be a global citizen one must demand or expect that no state can treat one person different from another, as both are equal members of a global community? Should we understand the idea of a global citizen as a passive or active role within that global community? I believe that if we are to pay tribute to the idea of a global citizen we need to actively oppose social exclusion worldwide. Global citizens can only exist if a global community exist and a global community can only be if it includes everyone and excludes none. This means not just within nation states but also between them. I believe that we can only claim to be global citizens if we aim to continuously oppose the systematic global inequalities that create a hierarchical global society that strives for the exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged; worldwide and nationally.
UWC Atlantic College will face huge difficulties in continuing to exist with xenophobia and racism being ripe within the UK government and increasingly strict immigration policy being proposed by a conservative administration. So much so that students from outside the EU may no longer be able to attend sixth form within the UK. With racial and religious distrust on the rise all around the world, the notion of a global citizen is becoming increasingly important. Not a citizen with allegiance to a specific political or financial elite, race, religion or nationality, but with allegiance to a shared notion that goes beyond statehood and beyond global market mechanism. The idea of global citizenship by default opposes a monopoly of force that states can exercise over its citizens. Global citizens do not need to sign up to a common declaration of rights and will not need to agree on whether individualistic libertarian or communitarian ideals should be the basis. I believe that global citizenship goes beyond that and challenges the inherent inequalities that in my opinion the United World College movement challenges. Being a global citizen means believing in equality. And not the restrictive and conditionality based equality that the minority world promotes.