What is a Global Citizen?

We are all part of a global community. A complex catalogue of individuals who live our own lives and see the world through our own lenses. This community is a vast one, one that transcends borders both geographically and ideologically, and one that has stood the test of time. This community has grown and flourished and today there are 7.6 Billion of us, living in 5000 major cities, split between 195 countries, occupying 7 continents, on this 1 planet. All of us is part of this community.


UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

A Global Community

In society today, the ‘self-made’ individual simply cannot exist. No matter how independent one wishes to be, they will always need the support of others in order to succeed. Whether it be a friend, relative or mentor – success requires support as much as it inhibits succession. But before one can even think of ‘succeeding’ they must be able to survive. In many ways, our own lives depend on people we are never likely to meet. People such the farmers who have grown the food we eat, contractors who have built the homes we live in, and weavers who have woven the clothes we wear, will likely never be known to us. Yet on a daily basis we rely on them for even our most basic necessities.

Thus a realisation must be made, societies succeed due to networks of individuals, whose connection to each other may not be as explicit as a friend, relative, or mentor but is just as important. And in fact these networks do not have to be driven by a purpose, such as what would be expected of a farmer, or a contractor or a weaver, but by an implicit global contract of citizenship. Politicians often speak of this duty, something owed by a citizen to their nation by their mere existence. A poignant example of this was when John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In his time those words were meant to usher hope into a nervous population contemplating the reality of a nuclear war, but the sentiment that the success of a nation is only as strong as the belief of its people still stands.


A Global Citizen

This implicit contract is what creates the core of global citizenship. It is not something that one can sign, but instead it is determined by how people choose to live their lives. I believe there are two actionable steps associated with being a global citizen.

Firstly there is the obligation to be aware of one’s impact on people and place. There is two ways in which this can be conceived; a more dormant perspective – in which the goal is to not cause harm to others through one’s actions, and a more active approach – in which individuals aim to lead and inspire those around them to make sustainable positive change. Ideally, you would be able to utilise both approaches in any endeavour you pursue. Both these traits were exhibited by Gandhi during the British occupation of India, was was determined to only hold peaceful protesters void of violence, and he strove to be the change he wished to see in the world.

Secondly, there is the obligation for one to be active in their civic responsibilities. The term ‘civic responsibilities’ quite literally means ‘the responsibilities of a citizen’. This does not necessarily mean being involved in politics, but more so being an active member of society. The difference that just one person who chooses to better themselves and their community can make is monumental. Fundamentally this concept hinges on the idea that by bettering yourself you create an environment in which those around you can grow and thrive. In that same line of thought, if you are included in a community that chooses to better themselves, your own environment will mirror these elements. This comradeship can be expressed in an old African saying which loosely translates to “I am therefore we are and since we are therefore I am.”

In this day and age there are many forces that aim to divide us due to our race, our age, our  religion, our gender, or our sexuality, and while we may differ in the way we look, the way we speak, the way we act, and the way we live; our membership to this global community will never cease to bind us. Being a global citizen is not a box that we choose to tick, or a position that we earn the right to hold, it is a way of life that we chose to live in order to better ourselves and our global community.


By Ishan Kokulan


Paris: Looking at Human Rights, the OECD and a Boulangerie

Our last day in Paris was very intense and packed full of things to do and see before we left for Geneva. We had a brilliant morning meeting with Roger Duncan who works in the OECD but was originally from Wellington. The delegates who had been tested on the PISA tests at school were really surprised that they had contributed to the international statistics which shows how NZ students fare compared to other countries who also completed these tests.

 “Roger’s insight into Multilateralism allowed me to understand how large organisations such as OECD are constantly attempting to make the world a better place.” – Shereen

Meeting at the New Zealand House in Paris on the work of the OECD

The delegates were also really interested to see how the OECD is working across all sectors of the SDGs so that the SDGs are relevant to the continual work of the OECD. Comically, Roger mentioned there are over 100 committees, including one named the ‘Tractor Committee’.

We then went to a French bakery which was rated one of the best in Paris!

Our next meeting was with Antoine from the International Federation of Human Rights. The federation is an international human rights Non-Governmental Organisation representing 184 organisations from 112 countries.

“There were interesting discussions from Antoine about the need for more critical-thinking skills at an earlier age because of the proliferation of fake news and questionable sources for news gathered through social media. But it was cool to see that everything that the IDHR did in terms of human rights advocacy was related to the SDGs.” – Julia and Lara

The aim of the organisation is to defend all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The delegates brought in a lot of topical events such as the Arab Spring and France’s controversial prohibition on religious dress and how that relates to Human Rights.

Meeting with the International Advocacy Director of the International Federation of Human Rights

After our meeting with Antoine finished, we hustled back to catch our evening train to Switzerland!

Paris: ‘Qui vivra verra’

Charles Dickens noted that Paris “is the most extraordinary place in the world” and as a delegation, we understood its charm. Our first two days were a wintery weekend in Paris but we were lucky enough to explore the city’s many gems.

Arriving early to the Louvre to observe the Pyramide designed by I.M. Pei

Photo Credit: Jason

We headed first-thing in the morning to the Louvre to see the iconic permanent artworks (a.k.a. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and other artworks) before the lines became too unmanageable. The delegates were very impressed with the variety of collection of artworks here including sculptures from Antiquity, artwork from Africa and Oceania, and Northern Renaissance pieces.

After the Louvre, we walked down Champs Elysees, the famous shopping district of Paris. Delegates had free time to spend around this area before we re-grouped to go to the overarching Arc de Triomphe.

Outside the Arc de Triomphe

After the Arc de Triomphe, we went to the beautiful Parc Monceau to make the most of the sunlight while we had it. It was built in the 17th century, and is one of the most elegant gardens in Paris.

Delegates posing outside a structure in the Park Monceau

We concluded our first day with a lovely dinner at a French restaurant to try the local fare, all very much looking forward to another day of exploring this exciting and creative city.

The next day was a leisurely Sunday and we were fortunate enough to walk along a full Seine River. We were also fortunate enough to listen to part of a service at the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Delegates were able to visit the Crypt and learn more about the ancient history of Paris (previously known as Lutetia during the 2nd and 4th century) or to walk up to the top of Notre Dame.

We then went to the Eiffel Tower and although we were not able to climb to the top due to construction, it was a fine day to be seeing it from the base.

After we had time for photos and viewing of the Eiffel Tower, our delegation went to see more modern art at the Paris MOMA. There were key American and French modern artists including Monet, Matisse, Delauney, Holzer and Kruger as well as contemporary exhibitions.

And as Parisians say in the title of this blog above, “he/she who lives, shall see.”

Berlin: The Reichstag, ‘Refugee Crisis’ and Ready-set-go!

This morning we received an informative tour of the German Bundestag (Parliament) including the terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building. There were interesting art installations which reminded the members of Parliament of its precarious past and interesting architectural features such as concrete silos for tree roots in the underground tunnel connecting the different section of the Bundestag. The symbol of the Reichstag was designed by Norman Foster to represent freedom and power. The dome of the Reichstag Building is also constructed of clear glass panels to represent the transparency of the German Parliament.

Delegates inside the main chambers of the Reichstag Building

After our tour we headed over to a meeting with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Berlin to learn how they work to assist and protect refugees. The UNHCR acts as a monitoring body to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to eventually returning home, integrating in the new country or resettling elsewhere.

The delegates found this meeting informative because of recent events back in New Zealand and thought it was interesting to view New Zealand’s role in this issue from the perspective of Germany and other larger states.

After our meeting we walked over to the remains of the Berlin Wall. In particular, we walked down the East Side Gallery and got to witness some thought-provoking and poignant murals. Some of the delegates even got a replica stamp on their passports of the old stamps which were given when one passed from West to East Berlin. Overall, the delegation thoroughly enjoyed our last day in Berlin.

Delegates posing outside an East Side Gallery mural

And with that, we were off to Paris!