An opportunity for Vincentian Higher Education

by | Jun 30, 2016 | News, Vincentian Family, Vincentian Family at the U.N.

Education for Global Citizenship

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Summary Reflections of the 66th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea

In his opening remarks For the UN Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) conference on Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon recounted his own experience growing up in post-war Korea as it began to rebuild. He praised the role of NGOs – what he called “Networks of Global Opportunities” – in the process of Korea’s development and recovery from the war. He also encouraged all conference participants to embrace Global Citizenship Education (GCE) as a common framework to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.

Although Global Citizenship Education has been a focal point for UNESCO and many other organizations well before 2015, its focus became increasingly prescient after the adoption of the SDGs. Considering the pivotal role that Laudato Si’ played in the UN discourse, there is an opportunity for Vincentian Higher Education to embrace GCE as a way to highlight, connect, and celebrate its unique mission, heritage, and history. The Vincentian mission has much to offer the emerging global discourse on integral ecology and integral human development that is now central to the agenda of the United Nations.

Global Citizenship Education is a contested concept in scholarly discourse, and there are multiple interpretations of what it means to be “a global citizen.” Some define the concept as “citizenship beyond borders,” or “citizenship beyond the nation state” while others note that “cosmopolitanism” may be a better conceptual description. Regardless of the nuances of the term, it points to a basic sense of global solidarity that is foundational to Catholic social thought. GCE is, essentially, a discourse on the common good in the 21st century framed in language that has global appeal.

The framework of GCE has within it notable ongoing tensions, primarily that it can become excessively vague at times and that it can appear to draw attention away from local conditions and prioritize the international at the expense of the local. While these are all valid critiques, the GCE discourse has now taken a very specific turn toward the goals and targets that comprise the 2015-2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The title of 66th UN DPI/NGO Conference frames GCE as a way to achieve the sustainable development goals together because education is an essential foundation for the entire development agenda. Furthermore, there is a growing conviction that anything happening at a local level can also have global impact and vice versa; the boundaries between local and global are blurring.

Global Citizenship Education for sustainable development is a unique opportunity for Vincentian higher education in the 21st century for many reasons:

  • Our institutions are religiously diverse and our students must articulate the values of their Vincentian education in a way that is accessible to a broader, secular culture.
  • GCE could provide a framing language that both captures the aspirations of the Vincentian mission and provides concrete, contemporary applications and principles.
  • GCE could enable our universities to contribute to and participate more intentionally in a global discourse focused on sustainable development.
  • GCE could build relationships with other institutions across the world who share the same values and commitments.
  • But perhaps the greatest value of GCE is the explicit reference to the problems, issues, concerns and targets that are so closely aligned with the Vincentian charism. In short, it can help focus the attention of our learning communities to the concerns of the poor and marginalized in a way that is timely, relevant, necessary, and cross-cultural. Considering the Vincentian Family’s focus on systemic change, GCE could provide a framework to articulate those commitments in ways that directly connect to the foundational commitments of higher education.

In conversation with other university partners and NGO representatives at the conference, we identified a number of specific possibilities:

  1. To establish consultative status or support the work of the Vincentian family at the United Nations through study abroad and other programming;
  2. To develop relationships with the NGO community at the UN both to contribute faculty expertise on sustainable development issues and to provide educational opportunities for students who wish to pursue international careers in fields related to sustainable development;
  3. To leverage and market our unique areas of expertise at the UN to enhance Vincentian Universities’ international reputation;
  4. To use GCE as an internationally accepted framework to enhance internal collaboration across colleges, disciplines, and areas of study;
  5. To use the GCE framework to articulate the core principles of Vincentian Higher Education in language that is accessible to our religiously diverse community;
  6. To develop learning opportunities, online and in person, that connect the four Vincentian universities in a way that highlights our shared commitment to the goals and targets of sustainable development.

We are very grateful to have the opportunity to attend the 66th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference, and to share our reflections with you. We see great potential in this focus, and believe Vincentian Universities have much to offer the discourse on Global Citizenship Education and sustainable development.

Scott Kelley
Guillermo Campuzano, CM

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