‘We need to convey the message that safeguarding our common property, humankind, will require developing in each of us a new loyalty: a loyalty to mankind. It calls for the nurturing of a feeling of belonging to the human race. We have to become world citizens.’ – Norman Cousins.
Citizenship is a term that is constantly evolving. Though it’s often used to describe a person’s right to hold a passport in a particular nation (especially in the investor immigration industry), it is not limited by this definition, and is also a matter of rights and freedoms. A hundred years ago, a citizen was more likely to be born in a specific country with little hopes of ever branching out to other nations.
Now, with the introduction of economic citizenship programmes in the last 40 years, new opportunities have brought a whole new meaning to citizenship, especially for those who enjoy less freedom and rights in their birth nation. As more people hold multiple citizenships, or choose to denounce one for another, what does this mean for younger generations? Is the meaning of citizenship changing? And how does the current social and political climate impact on our perceptions of citizenship?
57 percent of Millennials believe themselves to be ‘citizens of the world’
In November 2017, The Western Union Company conducted a global study comprised of more than 10,000 millennials across 15 countries, and the consensus seems to show that 57 percent of the respondents believe themselves to be ‘citizens of the world’ (The Western Union Company, 2017) rather than confined to the country of their birth or residency. This further demonstrates the shifting tide of what it means to be a citizen.
With the rise of digital communication, coupled with more accessible travel opportunities, the concept of global community has grown substantially, providing millennials with a unique identity that stems from international responsibility rather than local governance.
Technology has allowed people access to knowledge faster than ever before, permitting individuals to share global news and connect with one another, despite differences in nationality, identity or language. In addition, worldwide issues such as climate change have become more pertinent and therefore require global engagement to face the challenges. This pushes the ideals of being a ‘citizen of the world’ even further.
90 percent of millennials believe ‘a better global future can be achieved through collaboration’
Technology is not the only factor to contribute to our changing ideals. Political and economic discourse also plays a role in how we view citizenship. Political events like the election of Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have been widely opposed by younger generations who see themselves as a part of the world, rather than part of just one country.
It can be argued that a dissatisfaction in leadership has led to a younger generation feeling underrepresented by their country of origin. This friction pushes individuals to adopt a more global mindset, and perhaps fuels the desire to look for more flexible opportunities abroad, creating a life in a country that they may not have any previous history with.
Utilising more than one passport has allowed individuals and families to live with greater freedom and mobility, and has provided an insurance policy against an unpredictable climate of change. Upon living a more global life, comes a more global outlook.
That 90 percent of millennials believe ‘a better global future can be achieved through collaboration’ is therefore unsurprising. For the younger generation, principles of nationalism have taken a back seat to the concept of being a ‘citizen of the world’, and with that comes the notion of global responsibility, rather than being a responsible citizen in any one country.