At the second regional AFS forum in the Caribbean, “Education and Global Citizenship: Developing Essential Competences for the 21st Century,” earlier this year in the Dominican Republic, speakers from all over Latin America shared their different views and bast practices for global citizenship in various countries. Carlos Torres, UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education, delivered an inspiring keynote address at the Forum – and we bring you some of the key points he made on global citizenship education.

Global citizenship and interculturalism are closely intertwined in theory and practice, both of them trying to find the answer to how people can learn to peacefully live together in a world becoming more and more diverse and interconnected. The need to educate for global citizenship arises from the drastic changes societies are undergoing in terms of international mobility, migration and refugee crisis. We must stop watching and start doing. In this context, the question “What is global citizenship?” is essential. In the words of Mr Torres:

“Any definition of Global Citizenship needs to take into account what has become a trademark of globalization: cultural diversity.”

(Global Commons Review, February 2017)

Cultural diversity is a central issue in the work AFS undertakes along with educators, students, volunteers and our participants. Our aim is to raise awareness of the necessity to build bridges so as we can learn to live together in peace, understanding that diversity is an inescapable fact in the current world. With that in mind, we can start developing intercultural skills. Getting to know oneself is the initial step to develop any intercultural approach.

At the Forum, Mr Torres also emphasised the fact that in order to educate for global citizenship, it is essential that school systems all over the world undergo a massive change. According to him, global citizenship education can be taught in classrooms, but it is also a non-formal, lifelong learning. Global citizenship pedagogy needs to be holistic, combining information and knowledge with everyday practices. It is of foremost importance to interact with people coming from all walks of life and having diverse views, because those are the ones with which we can put into practice the values being taught (The ABC of Global Citizenship Education, UNESCO).

Teachers and educators are the local driving forces enabling this global change and, as such, their role is decisive. AFS Intercultural Programs are fully committed to this cause, which is why we provide our teachers with various opportunities of training courses on these subjects (find out more here).

As Carlos Torres said at the Forum, “We educate to change the world.”

This article was written by Julia Taleisnik (@julitaleisnik), Volunteer Development Director for AFS Argentina & Uruguay and an International Qualified Trainer for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program.