By Khurram Riaz, CIVICUS member from Pakistan
With 207.74 million people in the country, having more than 50% youth population and 22.8 million children out of school, Pakistan faces the grave challenges of human rights violation, gender based violence, insecurity and extremism. Heavy influx of refugees and temporary displaced persons, cross-border tension and the latest economic project, Global Citizenship Education is the most important agenda to be taken forward by the government but completely neglected.
In Pakistan, which termed as a postcolonial state where citizenship agency is low, national identity very strong, and foreign influence extremely high, what can the future be for a framework of global citizenship? Although taught in schools in many developed countries e.g. UK, global citizenship is a new terminology in Pakistan and having talked to some of the citizens, students, professionals and friends, the general mindset in Pakistan is more local than global, more politically affiliated and it does not extend beyond nation states. Yes the postcolonial state of mindset is still prevalent, where citizenship is tied to nation state only. Today we, in Pakistan, still consider that the ideology of global citizenship stems from a western perspective.
But, this is not the case. I attended the one daylong conference on Building Global Citizenship and how we can unlock the power of global citizenship education on October 3, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. This was hosted by Bridge 47 - a network of 16 European and International Organisations which CIVICUS is a steering group member. As many as 100 participants attended, representing an extremely diverse group, from a range of developed and developing countries and with unmatched enthusiasm and acknowledgement of the power of working together.
I was participating as a CIVICUS member, travelling all the way from Pakistan with a great FEAR in MIND: “I do not know anyone”. When I met the first Bridge 47 person: Tania, followed by Marina, Jamil, Claudia from CIVICUS, in a short time I felt myself part of the family. It felt so easy to talk to each one of them as if this was not the first time I was talking or even meeting them. When I started discussing about my country situation, I got the sense that they were bonding so much with me that they felt the issue and they provided expert advice. All of them are part of my family now and that's what Global Citizenship is: bringing the people together and seeing how the connections work.
I am grateful for this collective CIVICUS experience and meeting such fantastic people. I believe that the way we are bonded now, we can work for each other, support each other and even contribute to bringing peace and harmony in areas where we cannot even dream of going. This is Global Citizenship and together we can work for it.