Global Citizenship

In April 1983, Max Stanley delivered an address as Honorary Rector of the University of Dubuque—describing his views on the concept of Global Citizenship.

“Like it or not, our great country is an integral part of the spinning globe we call the world; many Americans wish it were otherwise. The comfortable isolation we enjoyed prior to and following World War I is but a happy memory. The Atlantic to the east, the Pacific to the west, and friendly nations to the north and the south no longer assure security. Our once comfortable resource self-sufficiency has eroded. Our economy relies heavily on imported raw materials including petroleum and on manufactured products such as communication equipment and autos. We also rely upon such exports as grain, machinery, and high technology products. Yes, not only geographically, but also economically and for security we are integrally tied to the rest of the world.

Ready or not, World War II thrust the United States into a leadership role from which there is no withdrawal. Too many Americans, including President Reagan, would reduce this role if not reject it completely. As the war ended, the United States was a leader in creating new international institutions—the United nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and a host of the UN’s special agencies—destined to emphasize a multilateral approach to peace, security, and other global problems. Then followed the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, the cold war with intensified Soviet-American confrontation, and the frightening race for nuclear and conventional weapons superiority. Subsequent economic, political, and social developments have vastly complicated the critical issues and problems facing the world community. Today, our world drifts towards economic chaos and international anarchy because it lacks both a coordinated multilateral response to its problems and determined, innovative leadership—leadership that the United States and other powerful nations fail to provide. We shy away from this role which involves both heavy responsibility and enormous opportunity because too many of our leaders and the great majority of their followers are inadequately informed and motivated to respond to the demands of global citizenship.

Global Problems

As a member of the world community and as a country from which leadership is properly expected, we have both a high stake and a heavy obligation in managing global problems. What are these problems?

By far the most serious global problem is assuring peace and security. An alternative security system must be developed to replace current dependence on the threat and use of national military force. Adequate procedures and institutions must be created and used to assure peaceful settlement of international differences, protect nations from overt or covert intervention, and thereby allow general and complete disarmament.

Economic order is a second issue. The various systems and mechanisms comprising the world economic order must be improved to better handle ever-expanding trade, commerce, and development.

Achieving an acceptable pattern and a tolerable pace of economic and social development for the less developed two-thirds of the world’s population is a third critical issue.

A fourth issue concerns resource depletion and population growth. Use of the earth’s finite resources and population growth must be balanced to achieve and sustain a quality of life compatible with human dignity.

Protecting and managing the biosphere is a fifth issue. Hazardous deterioration of the biosphere must be avoided while enhancing environmental and resource contributions to the quality of life.

The sixth and most fundamental global issue concerns human rights. Elemental human rights need to be extended to all people, and better systems must be structured to protect these rights.

While these six broad global problems are not new, they have grown in seriousness and complexity as the result of technological and political change, especially since World War II. Technology has compressed the world. Transmission of infections—human disease, terrorism, or economic inflation—has accelerated. Through television we vicariously experience the jubilation of a royal wedding in Europe, the pain and anguish of an earthquake victim in South America, or the terror of a soldier in combat in any of too many global hot spots No nation is an island unto itself. Local crises immediately become global concerns. Nations are more economically interdependent. Through the development of powerful nuclear and conventional weapons, technology has had a direct, and mostly negative, impact on international peace and security. Human desires and aspirations are expanding.

The management of the six critical issues is made more difficult by the proliferation of nation states; UN membership has grown from the 50 Charter signers to 157 vastly diversified nations. It is further handicapped by the East/West or industrialized nation confrontation, the North/South or rich-poor confrontation, and power balances shifting from bipolar to multipolar.

I need not dwell on these six global problems. You are all well aware of their scope and the serious lack of progress in. finding solutions. Global problems are not well managed.


Is it possible for a world community of over four billion people represented by numerous sovereign nations varying in size, power, population, wealth, ideology, culture, experience, capability, and interest to manage critical global problems? Not, I believe, until their leaders face facts, restrain excessive nationalism, and cooperate to gain common objectives. Pursuit of short-term benefits must be subordinated to longer-range common goals. Better global and regional institutions must be structured and used. Progress must be made towards a world without war. Economic and political factors as elements of security must receive greater attention. These objectives will not be achieved, indeed will not be seriously pursued, without a greater sense of global citizenship.

Is it possible for the United States with its complex political structure, serious economic problems, expanding military establishment, and exaggerated fear of communism and Soviet military power, to provide better leadership in the management of global problems? Not, I believe, until our attitudes and approaches reflect a much greater sense of global citizenship.

If responsibility and opportunity truly parallel power and affluence—and I believe they do—the United States ought to be the world’s leading advocate of a more ordered world without war and the most dedicated activist promoting wise management of critical world issues. Competence, technology, affluence, experience and heritage all combine to equip us uniquely for leadership. The missing ingredient is a strong national will to provide such leadership. The development of national will depends upon vastly enlarging the American constituency supporting a stronger global leadership role.

Global Citizenship

Each of us—by virtue of our residence—is a citizen of the globe. Such global citizenship, however, is quite different from that enjoyed by citizens of a nation. As yet there is no central world authority or government to which one owes loyalty or from which one expects rights, privileges, and protection. (Parenthetically, I would suggest that difficult as achievement may be, global institutions with extranational, if not supranational, authority will, in the long run, be used to manage serious global problems and to provide rights, privileges, and protection to the inhabitants of the earth.) Therefore, global citizenship as the term is used here is not a formal legalistic status. Rather, it is some combination of beliefs, attitudes, and convictions concerning the policies and leadership of national governments regarding the management of global problems.

A global citizen, in conformity with this crude definition, would be both tolerably knowledgeable and positively concerned about global issues and the current inadequate efforts to manage them. One would understand the harmful impact of poorly-managed global problems upon the security and economic well-being of one’s own country and would have firm convictions about desirable national policy and leadership initiatives to deal with global issues.

If national policy and leadership in this or in any other nation are to be influenced, a stronger constituency of globally-minded citizens must be developed at three inter-related levels. One essential is an expanded group of opinion shapers in the private as well as the public sectors who forcefully advocate more sensible governmental policy and more consistent innovative and intelligent leadership in the international arena. These opinion shapers would help to inform the public and also to prod decision makers. A second need is a better informed public committed to support the advocacy of opinion shapers and influence governmental officials. Finally, more globally-minded persons must be advanced to decision making positions in the public and private sectors. They must not only be fully aware of global problems but strongly committed to solving them in concert with other nations. Obviously, decision makers influence the public and opinion shapers. Dynamic guidance from the White House is essential for, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, it is a “bully pulpit.”

How, then can we increase the number of informed, concerned, and committed global citizens?


Education has a great but largely unfulfilled role in stimulating global citizenship. More people must be motivated to influence US foreign policy toward better management of global problems. One’s attitudes and beliefs are influenced by many factors: opinions of family, friends, and associates; judgments of prominent persons and leaders; events at home and abroad as reported or misreported by media; and value judgments which usually reflect one’s early home, school, church and community environments. Nothing, however, does more to shape one’s attitudes and beliefs than knowledge and understanding of our world—its peoples and its problems.

While, for some, a unique or overseas experience may be a contributing factor, for most of us the educational process—informal as well as formal—is the primary source of knowledge and understanding. My sad lament is that our formal educational institutions from kindergarten to graduate level, including so-called adult education, fail miserably to provide the global prospective essential to global citizenship.

Through my work at the Stanley Foundation I am often in contact with some of our nation’s brightest young adults. I am often appalled at how little these holders of BAs, MAs, and PhDs comprehend or appreciate the United Nations, global problems, or the world itself.

At the other end of the scale, we were amazed several years ago to discover how little teaching to encourage global knowledge and understanding occurred in the primary, secondary, and, yes, in the community college of our city. Curricula were such that most high school graduates had only the faintest knowledge of the geographic and demographic nature of the world, and almost no perception, let along understanding, of the global problems which would inevitably impact upon their lives. We responded with a program called “Project Enrichment,” which provides teaching aids and assistance to instructors and sponsors extracurricular activities. This program has helped to overcome some deficiencies, but it is far from enough.

Preparation for global citizenship places two demands upon educators. First, traditional curricular patterns from kindergarten to graduate school should be modified and augmented to better prepare graduates for citizenship in the vast, complex, and ever-changing world. Particular attention should be given to curriculum and requirements at the collegiate and graduate levels where the leaders of the next generation are being prepared. Greater international and multidisciplinary emphasis will produce more global citizens and strengthen domestic citizenship as well.

Second, educators, along with media executives and NGO activists, must enlarge and improve the informal educational opportunities for the general public—those voters and the leaders who will influence US foreign policy in the near future. Too few governmental officials, opinion shapers, and private sector leaders have yet developed a truly global perspective. Listening recently to congressional debate on foreign issues convinced me that many members of Congress are sadly lacking in knowledge and understanding of the world and its problems.

Constituency Building

Fortunately, a solid base of globally-minded citizens exists in this country, but it must be enlarged and strengthened. A considerable number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are actively dealing with issues related to global problems. The varied activities of these NGOS include research, education, advocacy, and lobbying. Some NGOs are membership organizations; others are institutes, centers, foundations, and departments of educational institutions. Many of these organizations focus on a particular area such as disarmament, development, human rights, or the environment. Others have a broader scope of activity. Whatever their scope or focus, these NGOs and the people involved in them recognize that multilateral action is necessary to manage global problems. Hence, they think and act as global citizens.

Numerous individuals are influenced towards global citizenship by participation or contact with these NGOs. Additionally, many other persons reason their way to a global outlook as a result of education, travel, or study. During the past few years, increasing numbers at home and abroad, alarmed by the potential hazards of nuclear war, have recognized the urgency of managing global problems—at least those related to peace and security. Some, but far from enough, governmental and private sector leaders have already joined the ranks of convinced global citizens.

The complications of influencing public opinion on global issues is illustrated by an educational program to enlarge the disarmament constituency which was suggested at a recent Stanley Foundation-sponsored conference on public opinion and disarmament priorities.

To attract more people, education must be on a larger scale with an emphasis on activities that:

  • Demonstrate in understandable terms that the military power, particularly nuclear, of the United States and its NATO allies and that of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, is essentially balanced.
  • Counter the misconception that a major buildup of US nuclear weapons must occur before there can be a nuclear freeze or negotiated limitations and reduction.
  • Moderate the unreasonable fear of the Soviet Union by clear presentations of its security problems and its economic, social, and diplomatic difficulties.
  • Explain the harmful domestic impacts of excessive military spending and significant economic, social, and political benefits of freeing financial and human resources to cope with vital domestic problems.

Similar want lists could easily be prepared for the other major global problems.

Building upon foundations such as those just cited calls for effort in two areas. The first, largely educational in nature, as already discussed, involves increasing people’s knowledge of the world and its problems and making them more aware of the urgency of better management. Otherwise, few people will be motivated to advocate and support changes in US policy and leadership. The second effort concerns changing some of our approaches to international affairs and modifying some of the widely-held opinions that now handicap US leadership in the international arena.

Style and Approach

While an expanding constituency of global citizens is essential to more effective leadership in the international arena, changes must also be made in the way we deal with other nations.

Many of our current operational patterns reflect conditions prevalent during the period before World War II when we enjoyed isolated security or the decade of unparalleled US power just after World War II. Others are strongly influenced by widely-held value concepts and attitudes. Both our philosophic approach and modus operandi must be modified if the United States is to be an effective leader in managing global problems.

Nationalism—The United States as well as most nations is afflicted by excessive nationalism. It is the major block to effective management of global problems. We need not abandon warranted pride and strong belief in our country. We need, however, to moderate our nationalistic spirit with a greater sense of global concern.

Cooperation—The name of the game in managing global problems must be cooperation among nations. We need to overcome our tendency to unilaterally make a decision or take some action and then expect others to agree. This domineering and sometimes arrogant approach is usually counterproductive; witness the recent confrontation with our Western allies over the Soviet pipeline and intermediate range nuclear force negotiations.

Multilateralism—Bilateralism, the diplomacy of the past, will never be eliminated, but only multilateralism can solve most global problems. Even in the area of disarmament, where some nuclear issues involve only the Soviet Union and the United States, the multilateral approach such as the two UN Special Sessions on Disarmament is essential.

Long-Range Thinking—Americans are oriented to expect instant results whereas managing global problems is slow and tedious. Eleven years were required to negotiate the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. While short-term national benefits are not to be overlooked, the United States must exhibit more concern for the long-range objectives beneficial to both the world community and our country.

Power—National power and influence do not depend on military strength alone; economic and political strength are fully as important. Overemphasis on military buildup diverts. Human and financial resources from critical domestic needs, detracts from our efforts to deal with global problems, and weakens our political relations with other nations. A better balance of the three elements is needed.

Nature—Only within the last fifteen years has the world community been shocked into realizing that we must protect and enhance our environment. Adjustment of US policy to this reality is only partially accomplished. We should emphasize better management of the biosphere. Joining the rest of the world by ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea would strengthen the US approach in this area.

Security—To achieve secure peace with freedom and justice, nations must break the mental shackles imposed by centuries of reliance on the threat and use of national force. A world without war requires an alternative security system with mechanisms to resolve peacefully controversies among nations, comprehensive disarmament, and international techniques to deter imminent aggression and to deal effectively with breaches of peace. Until our country gives more than lip service to this concept, we will be severely handicapped in dealing with the most critical global issues of peace and security. For much too long, our emphasis has been on planning war rather than on preparing for peace. Our efforts to negotiate disarmament agreements pale in comparison to our efforts to develop and amass ever greater weapons of mass destruction. Too many of our leaders, as well as those of other countries, are crippled by a near paranoiac obsession that only unlimited armaments assure peace and security. This narrow mindset severely restricts the possibility of radically changing the way we think about security and defense.

Human Rights—The status of human rights throughout the world is an important yardstick for determining how well other critical issues are being managed. The US approach to human rights worldwide has deteriorated from dynamic leadership to evasive disregard. Rhetoric, yes, but refusal to ratify numerous UN human rights conventions and continued support of dictatorial governments which are disregarding human rights are deeds that speak louder than words.

We value political and human rights—freedom of worship, speech, assembly and movement, and rights of equal treatment, privacy, dignity, fair trial and property ownership. We need to expand our definition of human rights to recognize the rights of food, shelter, health care, employment, and education—the needs of those suffering from extreme poverty and malnutrition. We need to include the most elemental and inalienable human right to which every citizen of this globe is entitled—the freedom from the insecurity and trauma of war, terrorism, and barbarism.


I will conclude these remarks by mentioning another element essential to better management of global problems. Wisdom and intelligence, cooperation and coordination, innovation and determination are all necessary, but they are not enough. We need greater compassion. Understanding, respect, and love are needed to accommodate our differences and unite our efforts to enhance the livability and grandeur of this tiny ball spinning in space.

U Thant, a quiet, thoughtful man from Burma, who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations for ten years, repeatedly stressed the moral and spiritual aspects as important elements of the human approach. In a farewell speech to the Planetary Citizens he said:

What was my basic approach to all problems?…I would describe it as the human approach or the central importance of the human element in all problems: political, economic, social, colonial, racial, etc.

The problems we face are global in proportion, but their solution begins with individuals. I challenge each of you to think and act as global citizens and to commit yourselves to educating your friends, family, associates, and students for a greater sense of responsibility concerning this fragile planet we call home.”