3 July 2017

Global citizenship is a responsibility of everyone

Global citizenship education has become a major topic at the United Nations (UN) and among member states as well as in civil society and the private sector. To further raise awareness of and promote the topic, the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), in collaboration with the Boston Global Forum (BGF), hosted a panel discussion entitled “Unlearning Intolerance: National and International Perspectives on Global Citizenship Education”. Representatives from all sectors were invited to join the discussion on Tuesday, 27 June 2017, at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

H. E. Ambassador Nguyen Phuong Nga, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations, opened the discussion in reaffirming the importance of education within the UN system and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Referring to SDG 4, quality education, she offered insights into the Vietnamese approach on how to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. She reported about the successful incorporation of the SDGs into national plans and the introduction of new communication techniques to schools in order to give students in even the most remote areas the ability to pursue their education. Picking up on the title of the event, the ambassador stressed that “in order to build a global house, we need global citizens” but also pointed out that it is important to retain national identities and strengthen diversity—a point upon which moderator Finn Summerell had touched in his introductory remarks.

Following up, Nguyen Anh Tuan, Chief Executive Officer of BGF and Chair of the International Advisory Committee of the UNESCO Chair on Global Citizenship Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, introduced BGF work on promoting global citizenship education through a recently created network. Dr. Eunhee Jung, Executive Director of IVECA International Virtual Schooling, shifted the attention to unlearning intolerance. She suggested that the term ‘tolerance’ had a negative meaning since it does not entail any action but rather suggests a permissive attitude towards others. Ms. Jung then addressed the importance of intercultural education and the promotion of intercultural competence and reported on her work at IVECA International Virtual Schooling. Le Phuoc Vu, Chairman of the Hoa Sen Group, spoke as a businessman in stressing the importance of responsibility, both on a local and global level, emphasizing of its relation to global citizenship. Roya Mahboob, Chief Executive Officer of Afghan Citadel Software, expanded on this point through the autobiographical note that the internet allowed her to expand her horizon beyond her Afghan village and discover the world; and that she trains afghan girls and women in technology so they can experience the same eye-opening moment. Bruce Knotts, Director of International Resources of the Unitarian Universalist Association, also shared a personal story of unlearning intolerance based on same-sex interracial marriage.

The ensuing discussion for questions and remarks from the floor approached the topic of global citizenship and the unlearning of intolerance from many perspectives and enabled attendees to attain an even richer perspective on the topic.