COVID-19: From global crisis to global citizenship

Global citizenship education has an important role to play in ensuring that the world that emerges from the COVID-19 crisis is safe, fair and inclusive, argues Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

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The spread of COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for humanity. As well as taking a huge toll on healthcare systems around the world, it is also having a major negative impact on labour markets and economies. People get ill, many will die, but very many will also lose their jobs, and a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises will close.

The heaviest price will be paid by those who are already worst off, whose jobs are the most precarious and least well paid. While the virus does not discriminate, there is a danger that it will impact disproportionately on poorer people and poorer communities, thus exacerbating existing inequalities.

There has been a remarkable unanimity in the approaches taken by national governments to the crisis. While some take longer to get there than others, almost all countries are calling on their citizens to show discipline and patience in making the adjustments to their behaviour required to prevent the further spread of the virus.

As German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an appeal to the people of Germany, ‘We have to change our everyday lives — not gradually, but right now’. Solidarity, he said, ‘is the task of the hour’.

One source of light in the gloom of economic lockdown and self-isolation has been the positive action of communities and citizens, the expressions of support for critical workers, including medical professionals, and the spontaneous demonstrations of social solidarity, particularly with the most vulnerable.

Local and global communities and individuals all over the world have shown empathy with those in most need. Medical students and retired health workers have volunteered to help in hospitals, while neighbours help the elderly and vulnerable to get food. Musicians have organized virtual concerts so that people do not feel isolated at home, and countless acts of kindness have helped alleviate feelings of isolation and anxiety.

Such actions, whether intended to protect, support, comfort or overcome exclusion, show the difference that responsible, ethical citizenship can make. Of course, these gestures will not immunize anyone against the virus, but they make individuals and communities stronger and more resilient.

Active citizenship has a clear and critical role to play not only in enabling us to emerge strongly from this crisis, but also in helping us understand it and, crucially, think beyond it, to a future that is likely to be different, though in ways that are as yet indeterminate. Crises of this sort often result in far-reaching social and economic change. And we need critical, compassionate citizens to ensure the future is both fair and inclusive.

While there is a danger that the crisis will deepen inequalities and hit poorer communities to a disproportionate extent, it also presents us with an opportunity: to realize that we are all in this together and to gather our resources to common purpose.

This is why global citizenship education (GCED) matters. GCED is UNESCO’s response to global challenges, such as inequality and extremism, that threaten peace and sustainability. Building on the human rights education tradition, it aims to empower learners of all ages to take on active roles at both global and local levels in overcoming such challenges and creating a world that is more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure.

It has become obvious in recent years that the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals depends on the cultivation of this sort of citizenship. The advent of the COVID-19 crisis makes the need for GCED still more acute. But it also, in a way, creates a space for it. It makes it more obvious than ever that global security and prosperity depend on taking everyone with us. We can no longer afford to leave any community behind.

The circumstances through which we are living are a pointed reminder of the crucial role citizenship education plays in finding global solutions to global challenges. It is essential in building bridges to a future that is safe, fair and inclusive.

Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter is a Programme Specialist at UIL

5 thoughts on “COVID-19: From global crisis to global citizenship

  1. The global pandemic has indeed further raised the need for GCED. The challenge is to how to encourage or convince national education departments to include this in the school curriculum in countries that have not considered it important.

    Perhaps, there needs to be a global campaign for GCED to become a compulsory component or subject in the school curriculum.

  2. The spread of COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for humanity. The heaviest price has been paid by those who already lost their job. Almost all countries are calling on citizens to show discipline and patience. One source of light is the spontaneous demonstrations of social solidarity.

    Meanwhile the virus has shown how it hits in different communities, but at the same time, it showed an opportunity to realize and do things together to gather our resources for a common purpose. And this why GCED is important to involve people in global challenges, such as inequality and extremism, reinforcement on human rights, as well as empower learners of all ages to take an active role at global and local challenges.

    The advent of COVID-19 makes GCED more important. We need solutions and education to make a better future. All the people need to change to save more lives. But in order to do that, we need real examples of change.

  3. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has brought an unexpected change. This virus has affected all the citizens around the globe without exception in different ways. Some people have lost members of their families during this time and others have lost their jobs.

    The actions from NGOs during this time have been helpful for the world because they have supported people throughout these difficult times. However, people in disbelief allow disinformation to grow up among those who are unfamiliar with scientific evidence. They do this by avoiding the use of masks or the application of the vaccine, making the task of GCED harder. For that reason, it is important to promote education and the spread of information to all people regardless of their social status with the help of medical teams.

    There are other actions that have helped in these difficult times. It is good to know how globalization has permitted a connection between all those people who have had to be in social distancing making them stronger during this pandemic.

    When all COVID-19 cases increase, there is a challenging task for all of us: to be creative enough to create a reality similar to those days before this virus affected the world. We should keep learning to find global solutions for global problems, and when the pandemic finishes we may be able to go back to a better, safer, more fair and more inclusive place.

  4. COVID-19 has been a global challenge for more than a year. It has caused may troubles. Some examples of these troubles are that some people are unemployed and also many homes do not even have a minimum wage to survive. Apart from this, many people stay home waiting for economic to be stable and trying to live their normal lives.

    Education has been another problem. Students cannot go to school because it is unsafe and online education still needs improvement. One more problem is the emotions we have experienced. The freedom we used to have when doing different activities changed with the pandemic, and this brought many mental health problems.

    But the most important thing is to take care of each other and taking all the safety measures with responsibility, given that not everything is money.

  5. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly given a lot to reflect on. Not only because of its impact on the global health system and the lives of thousands of people who have suffered from it or who have unfortunately died, but also on the global economy, whose forecasts are not positive at all. Social distancing and the call to stay home have changed work, school, family and social dynamics of many people, who from one day to the next have had to adapt to home office or distance education schemes.

    This represents an important challenge, which is to adapt ourselves to a new lifestyle; for which many of us were not prepared, and that of course can impact our emotional health due to the lack of physical contact with other people, stress , anxiety, or fear that could be generated by the uncertainty of the situation. I think that we can all reduce this situation. We must be in solidarity with all those who are suffering from the disease, and also those who are most vulnerable. We need to sympathize with all those people who have to leave their home and maintain the economic stability of their country.

    We all have changed our way to live and have learned new values. Globalization has had an important role in this pandemic because we can be connected with other people. Globalization allows us to communicate and learn a lot of things through internet in an innovative way. During this pandemic, Internet has saved a lot of business and we have learned a new way to keep education and work taking place in order to create better global citizens. This is a new point where we all start a new way to live.

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