Global citizens movement

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The term global citizens movement refers to a constellation of organized and overlapping citizens groups seeking to influence public policy in the direction of global solidarity. The term is often used synonymously with the anti-globalization movement or the global justice movement.[1]

The Global Scenario Group identified such a movement as the key change agent in a Great Transition to a socially and ecologically sustainable future, and the realization of a latent potential in the planetary phase of civilization.[2]


The concept of global citizenship first emerged among the Greek Cynics in the 4th Century BCE, who coined the term “cosmopolitan” – meaning citizen of the world. The Stoics later elaborated on the concept, and it is reflected in contemporary philosophy and political theory in the concept of cosmopolitanism, which proposes that all individuals belong to a single moral community.[3]

Arguments for the existence of a latent pool of tens of millions of people ready to identify with new values of earth consciousness have been put forth by such authors as Paul Raskin,[4] Paul H. Ray,[5] and David Korten.[6] Organizations, such as Oxfam International believe that a global citizens movement rooted in social and economic justice is emerging and is necessary for ending global poverty.[7]

In the last chapter of his book Red Sky at Morning, Gus Speth describes the potential for a new type of social movement composed of "we the people, as citizens" rooted in the principles of the Earth Charter to lead the transition in consciousness and values necessary for the emergence of a new planetary civilization.[8]


The idea of a global citizens movement is distinct from the existing fragmented civil society organizations and social movements active in the World Social Forum in that such campaigns and movements tend to be issue-specific—focused on labor, environment, human rights, feminist issues, indigenous struggles, poverty, AIDS, and numerous other interrelated but "siloed" efforts. Coherence among these movements would require a reframing of their work under the rubric of the struggle for a socially just and ecologically sustainable global society and the establishment of an institutional structure to defend the rights of humanity, future generations, and the biosphere.


Skeptics of the notion of a global citizens movement question whether or not a high enough level of global solidarity can emerge in light of nationalism, racism, and the dominance of the Westphalian state system. However, other scholars point out that the historical emergence of nationalism must have felt just as improbable in a time of warring city-states,[9] and yet in retrospect it appears inevitable.[10]

A more radical critique stems from the arguments put forth by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in their book Multitude and enshrines Michel Foucault's notion of a “plurality of resistance”[11] as the only legitimate path forward. Instead of leadership and organizational structures, Hardt and Negri put faith in the emergence of spontaneous coherence due to self-organized networks among various autonomous resistance movements. They critique the notion that legitimate leaders could be democratically chosen through a formal network of grassroots structures, acting on behalf of a big-tent pluralistic association of global citizens. However, it remains unclear how a network of autonomous movements would differ in practice from the vision of an authentic global citizens movement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Susan George, "Global Citizens Movement: A New Actor for a New Politics," Conference on Reshaping Globalisation: Multilateral Dialogues and New Policy Initiatives, Central European University, Budapest, October 18, 2001,
  2. ^ Paul Raskin, Tariq Banuri, Gilberto Gallopín, Pablo Gutman, Al Hammond, Robert Kates, and Rob Swart, Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead (Boston: Stockholm Environment Institute, 2002), See also the sequel to Great Transition: Paul Raskin, Journey to Earthland: A Great Transition to Planetary Civilization (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2016),
  3. ^ Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006).
  4. ^ Paul Raskin, World Lines: Pathways, Pivots, and the Global Futures (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006),
  5. ^ Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000).
  6. ^ David Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007)
  7. ^ Oxfam International, Towards Global Equity: Oxfam International's Strategic Plan, 2001 – 2006 (Oxford, UK: Oxfam International, 2001).
  8. ^ James Gustave Speth, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. A Citizen's Agenda for Action (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).
  9. ^ Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991).
  10. ^ Chella Rajan, Global Politics and Institutions (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006),
  11. ^ Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (New York: Vintage Books, 1980).


  • Florini, A. The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society. New York: Carnegie Endowment, 20000. ISBN 0-87003-180-5
  • Gelder, Melinda. Meeting the Enemy, Becoming a Friend. Boulder: Bauu Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9721349-5-6
  • Kriegman, Dawn of the Cosmopolitan: The Hope of a Global Citizens Movement (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006),
  • Mayo, Marjorie. Global Citizens: Social Movements and the Challenge of Globalization. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84277-138-9
  • Smith, Jackie. Social Movements for Global Democracy. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8018-8744-4

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