What does it mean to be a 'global citizen'?
Jeju, in its quest to become an international city including relative autonomous governance, minimal tourist visa requirements, and a “free” economic zone that provides benefits to investors, is well acquainted with the term “global mind.” Its meaning, however, is far from clear.
Dr. Nigel Dower, professor emeritus at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, recently visited Jeju in order to give a presentation on the topic of global citizenship at Jeju National University (JNU). He was invited by local members of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), who are in the process of translating one of his books, "An Introduction to Global Citizenship" (2003), into Korean.
Global citizenship, according to Dr. Dower, who acknowledges competing and often conflicting theories on the topic, at its most basic identifies both rights and responsibilities that transcend national borders.
In this age of globalization, it is tempting to assume that this idea is a recent one. Far from the truth, it stems from the concept of cosmopolitanism or “kosmopolites,” (citizen of the universe) first developed by the Greek philosopher Diogenes (4th century BCE) and adopted by the Stoics a century later.
Dr. Dower, who of late has been researching and writing on global ethics, based his work initially on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document developed by the United Nations in 1948 as one of its first acts and in response to World War II. While he admits this decree, which has come under criticism, is limited and now somewhat dated, he maintains that it is a good starting point to understanding global citizenship in today's world.
The Earth Charter, an international initiative begun in 1996 and finalized in 2000, is perhaps more directly relevant to the realization of global citizenship in the 21st century, Dr. Dower feels. The charter was first conceived in 1987, and redirected as a civic endeavor in 1994 on the initiative of Maurice Strong, who has visited Jeju on several occasions, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Global citizenship includes three types of rights: political, civic, and social. In turn, it requires that we involve ourselves in the formation of a global civil society, in such matters as the active promotion of peace, protection of human rights, social and economic justice, environmental sustainability, and good governance, among others.
While the details may differ from one cultural context to another, the concept rests on the premise of universal human values.
At Dr. Dower's presentation, Darren Southcott, a member of the audience with a specialization in human rights, posed a question regarding the present global shift of power away from Europe and North America in favor of Asia. What can be done to encourage global ethics, he queried, when the concept of “human rights” is not always supported by governments?
Dr. Dower in response advocated for ongoing communication and interaction among all cultures, in particular but not exclusively at the governmental level, in an attempt to increase awareness of these fundamental ethics.
When asked by this writer what Jeju, in its quest to place itself firmly in the global context and become an internationally recognized city, can further do to encourage the global orientation of its residents, Dr. Dower strongly advocated for the education of students at all levels in the ideas of global citizenship. Acknowledging that this would then take a generation or more to achieve results, he further encouraged Jeju officials to broadly provide such education for the adult community as well, in addition to both formal and informal opportunities for discussion on the topic in all its many facets.
This was Dr. Dower's first visit not only to Jeju, but to the Asia. He expressed regret that he had not traveled to this part of the world much earlier, and an eagerness to return.
In attendance at the presentation was Ambassador Chung Dalho, director of UNITAR / Jeju International Training Center; Ambassador Yu Ji-eun, International Advisor to Jeju Government; Councilor Lee Sunhwa, member of Jeju Provincial Council; members of KOICA-Jeju; JNU students; and, a number of community members both foreign and native.
Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist living on Jeju Island.