Global Citizenship Education – a Timely Term for Peace Education?

Werner Wintersteiner

Centre of Peace Research and Peace Education, Klagenfurt University, Austria
(Featured Article: Issue #108 September/October 2013)

“The future of the human genre [species] is now situated on a planetary scale. This is another essential reality neglected by education that should become a major subject. Knowledge of current planetary developments that will undoubtedly accelerate in the 21st century, and recognition of our earth citizenship, will be indispensable for all of us.” (Edgar Morin)

In his message for the International Day of Peace, 21 September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared:

“The theme for the Day this year is ‘Education for Peace’.  The United Nations will examine the role education can play in fostering global citizenship.  It is not enough to teach children how to read, write and count.  Education has to cultivate mutual respect for others and the world in which we live, and help people forge more just, inclusive and peaceful societies. This kind of education is a central focus of my Global Education First Initiative, which calls on Governments to place education at the top of their agenda.” (1)

As we see, the UN Secretary-General defines global citizenship as an aim of peace education. He is right. Thus, the recently passed International Day of peace is a good occasion to discuss the relation between peace education and global citizenship education.

The Inherently Global Approach of Peace Education

globalcitIs it really necessary to explain the global dimension of peace education to you, dear readers of this newsletter? Is not the very existence of this newsletter, and its large distribution, the best proof of the global nature of peace education?

However, it may be useful to remind some stages of the development of the international and global perspective of peace education. From its beginnings, peace education has always been an international endeavor. Since peace is unthinkable otherwise than as world peace, peace movements, peace researchers and peace educators always strived for global solutions. International cooperation among peace educators (in Europe) was already common before 1914, when they tried – alas in vain – to overcome enmity and hatred between nations by creating common summer camps with French and German youth, on the eve of World War I.

After the Great War, the International Bureau of Education IBE (founded in 1925, today integral part of UNESCO), The International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation (CICI, founded in 1922) and its executing agency, theInternational Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IICI), and especially the League of Nations dealt with peace education on a global scale. The foundation of UNICEF (1946), and of UNESCO, in 1945/1946, marked another important step in extending the scope and the international impact of peace education. International understanding, underpinned by an appropriate education, was the guiding idea. The landmark documents, like Education for international understanding, co-operation and peace (1974) or the Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy (1995), as well as the documents regarding human rights education, are still very relevant. In 1999/2000, the Hague Appeal for Peace Global Campaign for Peace Education was established, a global network that is on the origins of this newsletter.

From International to Global: Global Citizenship Education

However, in times of globalization, a new approach and a new attempt became necessary. Globalization, understood as “complex connectivity” (2) in the economic, the political and the cultural sphere, is also leading to major changes in international relations, and in questions of war and peace. International organizations, like the UN itself, are the answer to the insight that combined efforts of all countries and peoples is required to establish and to maintain peace. International NGOs emerged as a counterbalance to the power of multinational companies and imperial super-powers. This leads to new educational strategies, as well.  

At the beginning of what we call today global citizenship education, there are two groundbreaking books, Elise Boulding’s Building a global civic culture (3) and Betty Reardon’s Comprehensive Peace Education (4) (both published in1988). Bouldings’ book focuses on the structures of the new world order, at a moment where terms like globalization were not yet in use, while Reardon’s introduction to peace education, drawing from her familiarity with world order studies, emphasizes the awareness and values of a global citizen, as her subtitle shows: educating for global responsibility.

Beside this development inside of peace education, new educational approaches emerged, especially global education. The aim of this educational current is, in the words of the North South Centre (5) of the Council of Europe, “to give learners the opportunity and competences to reflect and share their own point of view and role within a global, interconnected society, as well as to understand and discuss complex relationships of common social, ecological, political and economic issues, so as to derive new ways of thinking and acting.” (6) A milestone was the Maastricht global education declaration (2002). It states:

“Global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the globalised world and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and Human Rights for all. Global education is understood to encompass Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education; being the global dimension of Education for Citizenship.” (7)

This is consistent with the curriculum of the Global Campaign for Peace Education, Learning to Abolish War, which defines itself as a “conceptual framework for peace education for global citizenship,” stating that “peace education must become even more action-oriented, educating students for active, responsible global citizenship” (book I, p. 24). It links peace education closely with global citizenship and human rights education.

Defining Global Citizenship Education

Global citizenship education, having its roots in global education as well as in peace education, is insofar a new strategy as it emphasises the citizenship dimension. Thus, it is a more political approach than some tendencies in global education or peace education. (8) However, for some scholars, like Vanessa Andreotti, global citizenship education runs the risk of promoting a new ‘civilising mission,” an educational form of neo-colonialism. Therefore, she proposes a critical global citizenship approach, addressing issues of inequality and injustice, and aiming at empowering “individuals to reflect critically on the legacies and processes of their cultures, to imagine different futures and to take responsibility for decisions and actions”.  (9)

With her critical approach, Andreotti goes far beyond the classic definition of global citizenship education by the Oxfam Curriculum:

“Global citizenship goes beyond simply knowing that we are citizens of the globe to an acknowledgement of our responsibilities both to each other and to the Earth itself. It is about valuing the Earth as precious and unique and safeguarding the future for those coming after us. It includes understanding the need to tackle injustice and inequality, and having the desire and ability to do so actively.” (Oxfam, 2003, p.5)

While this definition takes the issue of inequality and ecological disasters into account, claiming for responsibility of each of us, it neglects the issue of post-colonial power structures and (ideological) colonial heritage. However, the citizenship approach that helps establishing international networks of students and educators, is an ideal premise for an intensive debate on these issues at an increasingly global scale.


glocalGlobal citizenship education is an expanding field. It is based on the claim of democratic participation of unequal citizens, being aware that today this participation is not yet achieved, especially not on a level beyond the nation state. In so doing, global citizenship education can rely on real existing global movements of the civil society, like the World Social Forum. On the other side, global citizenship is not simply a global, but rather a glocal approach. It is a cosmo-politics rooted in the local and the national. It does not anticipate the world society, but it contributes to creating it by local action with a global perspective. Like any peace education, it is transformative education rather than formative education.

Beside the global citizenship education practice, its entrenchment in the academia is also advancing. There is growing literature of the field, with specialised journals and book publications. And a new generation of scholar-practitioners is emerging: For example, at Klagenfurt University, Austria, a three year master course for teacher training in global citizenship education was established in 2012.

Professor Werner Wintersteiner, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Centre of Peace Research and Peace Education, at Klagenfurt University, Austria. His main research fields: peace education, global citizenship, culture and peace, literature and peace. Email:

Notes and References:

1. SG/SM/15099 (12 June 2013)
2. John Tomlinson: Globalization and Culture. University of Chicago Press: 1999.
3. Boulding, Elise:  Building a global civic culture: education for an interdependent world. New York: Teachers College Press 1988.
4. Reardon, Betty A.:  Comprehensive peace education: educating for global responsibility. New York: Teachers College Press 1988.
5. The Centre, based in Lisbon, was established in 1990. See:
6., p. 10.
7. Pamphlet of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe:, p. 10.
8. This is discussed in: Wintersteiner, Werner (2013): Global Citizenship Education: Bildung zu WeltbürgerInnen. In: AKTION & REFLEXION. Texte zur transdisziplinären Entwicklungsforschung und dialogischen Bildung, vol 10, 18-29.
9.   Andreotti, Vanessa (2006): Soft versus critical global citizenship education. In: Development Education: Policy & Practice – A Development Education Review, issue 3, pp. 40-51, here p. 48.


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