Global Citizenship in the 21st Century

September 10, 2015 - UN, Vienna
At-the-UN/Vienna/Global-Citizenship
By: Injoo Riehl and Elisabeth Riedl

A New Educational Landscape!

"Let us advance together until education is no longer a privilege for some - but a right for all.  When we put education first, a life of dignity will follow.  Thank you for your commitment."   United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Women's Federation for World Peace, Austria, hosted the 6th WFWPI Education Forum at the United Nations in Vienna. Three panels were held with experts, including a youth panel. A recurring reference among several of the speakers was to the family as the natural and traditional starting point of education.


Special Advisor of the Global Women's Peace Network, Dr. Lan Young Moon, introduced by Dr. Maria Riehl, gave the Keynote speech on Global Citizenship in the 21st Century. She thanked the 120 gathered participants for their interest and for taking the time to examine the subject more closely and share ideas in order to cultivate an active educational environment surrounding Global Citizenship. A film was shown about WFWP's Korean Chapter's work assisting refugees from North Korea.

Mamadou Kone, Mali advisor for the Club Foot Project Initiative, chaired the first session on "Global citizenship in the 21st Century."


Hans Göttel of the Europahaus Burgenland, Eisenstadt, spoke on "Global Citizenship Perspectives." He posed the questions, "How to serve the world through service to our Nation? How to serve the nation through service to the World?" He gave a philosophical overview with references like this one: "What keeps a community together is the law above beings, but what creates a community is friendship that lives within these beings, thus the primeval word for community is - Philia (Béla Hamvas)." Göttel also referenced Ivan Illich, who proclaimed the de-schooling of society in the 1970s. Illich said, "Learning is not the result of instructions; it is the unhindered participation in open and meaningful surroundings."

Zhannat Kosmukomedova, UNODC, spoke on "Women's Leadership towards Global Citizenship." She identified tolerance as a virtue requesting the participants to respect different ways of living, thinking, and behaving. She asked "Who identifies with world problems/issues?" She highlighted the role of women as natural educators, nurturers for a culture of peace, and transmitters of values, tradition and culture.

Carolyn Handschin, International Vice-President and director of the UN office for WFWPI, spoke on "SDGs and Civic Participation by Educating for Good Character and Responsible Citizenship." She remarked that linking education and sustainable development will require rethinking educational methods and content as well as all components of education. It will also require different aspects of development and a higher order of thinking skills (HOTS). In fact, a higher order Mind-Set would be needed (HOMS) to guide such skills. An underutilised structure in accomplishing this "higher order of thinking" is the Family, which is a vessel for learning norms and ethical life choices. SDGs can only thrive with passionate and inclusive civil society partnerships. Let governments give a prominent platform/voice for sustainable good global culture to interfaith and intercultural pro-family lobbies and youth.

Session 2: Youth Civic Engagement and SDGs, Chaired by Mrs. Yoshiko Pammer.


Theresa Habjan: UNESCO promotes international education, science, knowledge and technology. Austria joined in 1949. Global citizenship education focuses on three main skills: cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural. A vision for peace is more than just security and an end to wars. We need the minds of men and women to create peace with an intergenerational approach. Online tools available at Aspnet in Action: Global Citizens connected to Sustainable Development; and a UNESCO house on global citizenship education. Just recently, on October 14, 2015, in Paris, a Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) was created as a partnership of UN entities (UNESCO, UN-DESA, UNEP, Global Compact, and UNU) in the run-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

Ewald Schenkermayr of UPF Youth is a teacher in one of the UNESCO schools. He outlined the five UPF "Principles of Peace": One Human Family; Mind Matters; Peace Grows Bottom Up; Living for the Greater Good; and Cooperation Beyond Boundaries.

Madi Kilic, representing  'Youth Education Ambassadors' was the third speaker in session 2. An 18- year-old English teacher, she spoke on "Civic engagement of youth volunteering abroad."Kilic quoted Gandhi, "You must be the change you want to see in the world," and then continued, stressing that we must be committed to quality education and to spreading it globally. She read from the SDGs, "Sustainable Development Goal 4: Achieve quality education by 2030, including teacher training with international cooperation to maintain the supply of qualified teachers." She wrapped up her talk by emphasizing both the importance of education and the importance of being educated.

Rene Miejer-Heil spoke next on "Media and Technology." She quoted UK's Watchdog, which reported that 16-20 year olds spend 20 hours on the internet per week in the UK. In the USA, 71% of 18-29 year olds use the internet as their main news source. More time is spent on devices than with people. She remarked that while the desire to use media is undoubtedly strong, nothing will replace face-to-face, classroom interactions which contribute greatly to the quality of education through the sharing of personal knowledge and experiences.

Moderator Peter Zoehrer opened Session 3, entitled "A New Educational Landscape," with Malala's motto: "One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world."


Gaby Zoehrer, Family Federation for World Peace, Austria, spoke on, "The Family as the school for character education." In the traditional family, women were in the background; however, the family is a dynamic structure where each family member finds his or her own place, equal in value, regardless of age, or gender. She emphasized the parent-child bond as a key to moral development. The bonds between siblings, she noted, are the longest relationships of one's life and aid in fostering empathy and pro-social behaviour. Living in large families creates a larger tolerance for differences. Marriage also helps in character development. A spouse is a gateway to half of humanity for his or her partner (masculinity, femininity). Society is an extension of the family, which is the cornerstone of world peace. Families bridge cultures.

Maga Teuwen, retired social worker, Vienna Youth Welfare Office, spoke on integration and the identity crisis of the refugee or migrant. The required assistance is often unavailable to enable full integration for refugees and migrants. This is a challenge for the education system. She stressed new media as a tool that can serve, rather than enslave, young people. She quoted Julius Tandler, Austrian City Councilor for Welfare and Health Services in Vienna in the 1920s, "Who builds palaces for children, tears down prison walls."

Alenka Jeraj, Vice-President Social Democrats, Slovenia, former MP, spoke on "Women's education towards leadership." She strongly stated, "Countries should set up objectives to educate and train confident, positive, determined individuals who can be steadfast with clear opinions." She praised peer training as an invaluable tool for assisting young people in dealing with different fragile feelings and developing steadfast personalities. "Someone has laid pearls in you and is now waiting for them to be discovered," she said.

Dr. Hanna Heikkila - UNODC Connection. Drug use is a developmental problem (12-22 year olds). Heikkila emphasised supporting the relationship between caretakers/parents and youth because the home is the best place to learn about drug use prevention. Schools are the second way to prevention. The main tool against rampant drug use is "International Standards on Drug Use Prevention," however, early childhood education can also have a major impact on one's life. This is especially true for boys, as boys with sufficient childhood education saw the largest reduction in drug use later in life. UNODC Works in 23 countries with successful parenting classes and teaching skills.

Slawomir Redo - ACUNS Austria. "Meeting Socrates in the UN" or "How to foster global citizenship through enhancing the right to education." War does not have a women's face. Socrates was charged with treason and sentenced to death. Socrates let them put him to death. Should he have fled or not? He was fighting for a new standard, a new sense of social justice. UNESCO is among several NGO organisations doing that with projects teaching reflection and problem solving. The quality of education matters, not just the quantity. PISA, an assessment exam, measures only reading, math and science. Moral choices, such as drug use, mobbing and deviance at school, remain largely unmeasured. For the 21st century, a moral component is needed. In this way, we hope to meet Socrates at the UN.