Inauguration of the UCLA UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education

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(February 8, 2016) – Professor Carlos Alberto Torres, member of Boston Global Forum’s Board of Thinkers, Distinguished Professor of Education at University of California  – Los Angeles (UCLA), delivers his speech at the International Conference on Global Citizenship Education on Monday, Feb.08 in the Hacienda Room of the UCLA Faculty Center, Los Angeles.

The UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, and the Paulo Freire Institute-UCLA will host the conference.

The conference will also marks the formal inauguration of the UCLA-UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education. This is the first ever UNESCO Chair in the UC System, and the first UNESCO Chair in Global Citizenship Education.

Read his full speech below.

It humbles me to speak at the International Conference on Global Citizenship Education, a propos of the formal inauguration of the UCLA UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education. This is the first ever UNESCO Chair in the UC System, and the first UNESCO Chair in Global Citizenship Education.

But why Global Citizenship Education, and why now?

1- Global Citizenship Education provides global answers to global and local problems:

Putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning and fostering global citizenship are the three principles of the Global Education First Initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012. Three principles intimately inter-related which constitute the soul of the post 2015 development model advocated by the United Nations and its specialized agencies, particularly UNESCO to be implemented until 2030.

UNESCO provides the following definition: “Global citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity. It emphasizes political, economic, social and cultural interdependency and interconnectedness between the local, the national and the global” (UNESCO, 2015. P. 14; UNESCO, 2014, p. 14)

2.- A most important claim in the UCLA UNESCO Chair research is that the foundations of Global Citizenship Education rest on the concept of Global Commons,  which is defined in turn by three basic propositions.

First, our planet is our only home, and we have to protect it through a global citizenship sustainable development education.

Second, global commons is predicated on the idea that global peace is an intangible cultural good of humanity with immaterial value. Global peace is a treasure of humanity and therefore we need to build a culture of peace everywhere.

Third, global commons is predicated on the need to find ways for people who are all equal manage to live together democratically in an ever growing diverse world, seeking to fulfill their individual and cultural interest and achieving their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

How can we implement Global Citizenship Education and what are the expected outcomes? An agenda for research, teaching, policy and practic of the UCLA UNESCO Chair.  

1. – GCE should promote an ethics of caring, or what Saint Ignatius termed Cura personalis. The care for the individual person and human rights remains a central characteristic of GCE. An ethics of caring is central to the implementation of Global Citizenship Education embracing a key concept of Feminist theory.

2. – GCE can only be understood within a social justice education framework. Without bare essentials we cannot fully accomplish citizenship. Bare essentials speak of economic citizenship including the right to a job, education, health care, affordable housing, and retraining over the course of life. Global Citizenship cannot substitute for national citizenship but has to add value to local, national, and regional citizenship.

3.- GCE helps produce a new narrative in education, seeking an education beyond numbers and sense, beyond cognitive learning; seeking holistic learning that includes in addition to cognitive learning ethics, aesthetics, spiritual, and artistic goals.

4. – GCE will help to produce new models of conflict resolution and negotiation strategies for different regions of the world.  For example, in conflicts and post-conflict situations, GCE is seen in the rubric of peace education (UNESCO, 2014).  Global Citizenship Education as civic education is a premise for democratic participation prevailing in those contexts that have experienced totalitarian regimes or dictatorships. Slightly different is also the case of areas where regional cooperation mechanisms have placed much emphasis on other critical elements of GCE such as civics and citizenship, democracy and good governance, as well as peace and tolerance. (UNESCO, 2014, p.18).

5. – Based on an ethics of caring and compassion, GCE seeks to understand, explain and solve the immigration crisis of today.

6. -The world is changing, cultures are intersecting, and borders are more permeable than ever. Global citizenship education will be able to respond to one of the most important impacts of globalization: the growing culture of hybridity that crisscross the world. Hybridity is everywhere – in music and youth cultures, taste, dress and speech codes, culinary delights, and aesthetic expressions. Hybridity is also changing identities.

7. – Global Citizenship education is a way of learning with a strong emphasis on the collective dimensions of knowledge in a time and age that we are bombarded by ‘self-directed learning’, ‘individualized modules’ or possessive competitive individualism’ mostly connected to neoliberalism as outlined by my former student Peter Mayo, (2015, p. 865). As Werner Wintersteiner et al argue global citizenship education: “responds to globalization by expanding the concept of civic education to global society”; adopts the ethical values of peace education and human rights education; draws upon the “global society” perspective provided by global education, which not only investigates global topics, but more specifically merges the global and the local into the glocal; combines mainly these three pedagogical fields through the concept of global citizenship in terms of political participation as such, but particularly on a global scale” (Wintersteiner et al., 2015)

8.- Global Citizenship Education will help to connect the global and the local dimensions, synchronizing the national educational policies to the global policies advocated by the United Nations.  The sixty-ninth session of the United States Assembly set 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets demonstrating the scale and ambition of a new universal Agenda of the Post-2015 development agenda. For global citizenship education, goal 4.7 is most relevant:  “4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development” Retrieved October 6, from

Not by chance the most complete formulation of public education responsibilities is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), a document issued in the aftermath of World War II when the international community, shocked by the recent tragic events, sat around a table to find the ways so that the disaster would not be repeated ever again. The Universal Declaration states in Article 26:

“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace”.

In this spirit, GCE brings together the agendas of different fields of education including Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention, Intercultural and Interfaith Education, and the global dimension of Education for Citizenship:

9.- GCE will enhance the threshold of a new global consciousness based on human rights and universal values, but also incorporating diversity and a critical analysis of power relations and global inequalities. Our research focus on teachers and teaching education, and the practice of participatory action research in our research model should help designing strategies that work in promoting global citizenship education.

10.- GCE may contribute to develop new skills for the 21st century for the youth bulge that is growingly restless and facing a jobless future. The future is already here, in the faces and dreams as well as anguish of those children and youth that wonder about their own future, wonder whether they will have a job, wonder if those jobs will produce inner satisfaction, and wonder if they will be able to pay their bills. A large number of the youth today do not work or study, we shall change this with our research, policy and practice.

11.- GCE employs a new lifelong learning perspective in the transition of education to work. Challenging inequalities of many kinds we face the need to incorporate more poor and underrepresented people as well as women and girls, in different educational environments; particularly reshaping the investment in higher education. For instance, we may consider implementing GCE as a diversity requirement course throughout undergraduate education in the USA and worldwide. This will also be compatible with the strategy of internationalization being pursued by quality universities in the world system.

12.- In a world that is increasingly interdependent, GCE promotes a sense of belonging to the global community emphasizing a shared common humanity among people. But the community of destiny shared by all human being, also involved the biosphere and natural environment.

In summary

  • Global Citizenship Education will help to refocus on a new Learning Strategy worldwide.
  • It will help to rethink the dominant narrative in education that has grown too technocratic in terms of policy strategies of how to enhance educational environments.
  • It will help to rethink educational outcomes (and the concept of quality of education) with its focus almost exclusively on learning cognitive outcomes to the detriment of affective, spiritual, ethical, moral, aesthetical and artistic outcomes.
  • It will help to situate an ethics of caring– a key principle of articulation of GCE– in the growing inter-penetration of societies and cultures in this phase of globalization.
  • It will help to define a concept of holistic education that is behind this strategy and learning approach.
  • Global Citizenship Education will help to promote a culture of academic rigor, discernment and struggle against injustices.
  • But above all, Global Citizenship Education constitutes a most valuable tool to interrupt inequality.
  • Global Citizenship Education will work in creating a new generation of critical thinkers who are aware of global inequalities and start during their learning sojourns to think about structural solutions, not only social entrepreneurship efforts, good and sublime as they may be.

We formally inaugurate the UCLA UNESCO Chair in the year that we celebrate the 500 anniversary of Thomas Moro’s famous book Utopia, a book that marked the understanding and deliberations of the nascent political science as a discipline and governance as its practice. I hope that 500 years from now, someone will remember that a group of enthusiastic educators and people of good will congregated today at UCLA to deliberate academically and to launch the UCLA UNESCO Chair on Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education. We are here today because we are convinced that one of the most effective ways to interrupt inequality is to struggle implementing global citizenship education worldwide. From the bottom of my hearth, I want to thank to all of you to be with us and for sharing the dream. But now, we shall get to work.

Prof. Carlos Alberto Torres

UNESCO Chair on Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education, UCLA



Mayo, Peter. “Italian signposts for a sociologically and critically acclaimed pedagogy. Don Lorenzo Milani (1023-1967) and the Schools of San Donato and Barbiana revisited” British Journal of Sociology of Education, Volume 36, Number 6, September 2015, pages 853-870.

Werner Wintersteiner, Heidi Grobbauer, Gertraud Diendorfer, Susanne Reitmair-Juárez. Global Citizenship Education. Citizenship Education for Globalizing Societies. In cooperation with the Austrian Commission for UNESCO Klagenfurt, Salzburg, Vienna 2015

United Nations, Retrieved October 6, from

UNESCO. Concept Note UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education: Preparing learners for the challenge of the 21st Century. 2-4 December 2013, Bangkok, Thailand.

UNESCO. Global Citizenship Education. Preapring Lerners for the Challenges of the 21st Century.

UNITED NATIONS. (2014) Ministers and Heads of delegation attending the UN Climate Change Conference 2014 – COP20 – (1-12 December 2014, Lima, Peru)