Global citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity. It emphasises political, economic, social and cultural interdependence and interconnectedness between the local, the national and the global. Given the compelling necessity to tackle critical global challenges such as the prevalent trends of growing intolerance and violent extremism, global citizenship is a fundamental aspect of a necessary approach to living together. Its purpose is to champion and spread what many, but not all, regard as desirable universal values, including improved human rights, gender equality, cultural diversity, enhanced tolerance, and environmental sustainability. For the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), a key approach to help achieve these aims is to improve education, especially for the young, in relation to other faiths and cultures. The article seeks to examine a fundamental component of the Alliance’s activities—improved education for the young about other cultures—in the context of increasing international concern with violent extremism and terrorism. It assesses the achievements of the UNAOC in this regard since its founding in 2005. The article explains that over time the Alliance has made several false starts in relation to its educational programmes and policies but recently, with the recent appointment of a new High Representative and the strong support of the UN Secretary General, there are indications that the UNAOC is now focusing more on developing closer partnerships, both within the UN and without, in order to achieve its educational goals. The first section of the article examines the emergence of the UNAOC and explains its focus on improved inter-cultural education for the young. The second section identifies the post-9/11 focus on violent extremism and terrorism at the UN as a trigger for a shift in the educational activities of the UN to a concentration of preventing and countering violent extremism. The concluding section assesses the record of the UNAOC in relation to its educational goals and the achievement of enhanced global citizenship, especially among young people from various cultures.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited