What Does It Mean To Be A Global Citizen?

Bani Adam:

“All human beings are members of one frame

Since all, at first, from the same essence came.

When time afflicts a limb with pain.

The other limbs cannot at rest remain.

If though feel not for other’s misery

A human being is no name for thee.”


The inscription of this Persian poem, from poet Sa’adi Shirazi, is woven on a carpet that was gifted to the United Nations by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005 and now hangs on the wall of the UN building in New York.

This poem has also been used in an address to the Islamic Republic by former United States President Barack Obama and a Coldplay song. The utilization of this poem, both politically and culturally, further contributes to its global properties. It is only fitting that this poem is globally recognized because it reflects, at the core, what it means to be a global citizen.

A global citizen is “someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices” (Open Democracy). With the evolution of modern technology, the concept of global citizenship has developed and grown into a more pertinent role. Exposure to global events has been able to tie individuals together out of a humanistic urge to do good in not only local communities but global as well.

In terms of global citizenship, Gordana Vlahovic, MSc, the head of international affairs at the University of Novi Sad Faculty of Sciences in Serbia, believes, “One must be open-minded at heart to comprehend and embrace the idea, while the world must become as borderless as possible to sustain the entire construct,” (NAFSA).

Vlahovic understands that identifying as a global citizen means taking action because belonging to something, whether that is a community, group, or organization, means that you’re responsible for that something.

People can voluntarily identify as a part of the emerging worldly community as a result of an intersection of national identities caused by relevant and ongoing global movements. For example, social media movements have helped individuals begin to recognize their global citizenship. Movements like #MeToo, which began in the United States via MySpace in 2006 to call out actions of sexual harassment and assault, saw around 85 countries participate in the movement following its resurgence in 2017. Similarly, #BlackLivesMatter, a movement to call out racially motivated violence and police brutality against black people started in 2013, resulted in citizens protesting and calling for a change in London, Sydney, Rio de Janerio, Belgium, and more.

The idea of globalization refers to the interdependence of cultures, economies, and resources of different countries. Globalization of cultures, ideas, and philosophies, which can be seen in social media movements, lends itself to the idea of global citizenship. This digital approach to globalization encourages individuals to engage in discourse, work together towards common goals, and create global change. The globalization of economies and resources, however, has contributed to the scarcity of resources such as food, water, land, and energy.

Issues of scarcity are becoming a catalyst for nations to collectively address global undertakings. While globalization is successful in other areas, action needs to be taken so that its expansive reach can become sustainable and equitable. As global citizens, individuals should also be mindful of how their actions can contribute to scarcity issues. Global commerce networks, for example, have created ways for individuals to be more aware of how their purchases and donations can have an impact.

Thanks in part to modern technology, global citizens now have the opportunity to partake in global commerce networks. Individuals can purchase from small businesses that can be housed in different countries and contribute to that country’s economy. Additionally, digital marketplaces have begun to introduce their ways to contribute to global organizations through donations.

Sparo, for example, is a Microsoft for Startups company that encourages customers and marketplaces alike to “purchase with a purpose.” Sparo operates through a plugin that is already incorporated into the payment process of different merchants. When a customer goes to their cart for checkout, the plugin will allow you to donate a percentage of your purchase to a charity of your choice. Once the purchase has been processed, Sparo will show the customer the amount of money that has been donated to the charity of their choosing.

With its plugin, Sparo hopes to make donating and philanthropy become second nature to even the most seasoned shopper. With access to global marketplaces, social and global responsibility is likely to become essential to consumers and their global identity.

Carpet from Iran made by Mohammad Seirafian.

Inscription: Poem by Sa’adi (.c 1184-1292), Classical Persian Poet, Translated from the Persian: un.org/ungifts/content/persian-carpet