We can make a huge difference: insights from Global Citizenship Forum 2013

A UK schoolgirl teaches a child in AfricaWhat is global citizenship? What makes a good global citizen? Can young people make a difference?

These were some of the exciting issues explored at The Global Citizenship Forum 2013 last week. The event was organised by Development in Action, a charity that engages young people in global issues and promotes global citizenship.

A key theme was the importance of education for young people to better understand global issues, and the need for them to develop a strong awareness that every action they take can impact someone else. From the chair we sit on, the laptop we work on, the tea we drink – all of these goods have come from somewhere, most likely not England, and have impacted on someone else’s life.

For young people to be effective global citizens they need not just the right knowledge but also the right skills. In this complex, globalised, interconnected world it is more crucial than ever that they have the ability to critically analyse what has been said in the media, to discern what information is useful and to empathise and act for those on the other side of the globe.

The three guest speakers each approached global citizenship from a completely different perspective, which shows what a diverse and broad area it is.

Academic Dr Nicole Blum discussed the findings of her research around embedding global issues and dimensions within the content of health related university degrees and how relevant students felt a global dimension was to their personal and professional development.

Writer Daniela Papi explored what it really means to ‘make a difference’ and the culture of tokenistic volunteering abroad that is growing among young people, which can end up doing more harm than good. She argued that learning and trying to understand other cultures was a far more powerful way to make a difference and be a citizen of the world.

Former journalist and politician Jonathan Fryer explained his belief that each individual in society has a duty to be a responsible citizen given the global, interconnected nature of the modern world. We often feel powerless in regards to issues in developing countries but as members of the EU, the largest donor of international aid, his belief is we can make a huge difference.

A mind-boggling event! My favourite nuggets of wisdom from our speakers: keep asking questions, don’t be ashamed to change your mind about an issue and vote with your money and your actions.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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