Global citizen identification is conducive to SDG fulfilment


 Blue similar world map blank. World clean flat map. Vector illustration. EPS 10.
© Nikelser/
07 July 2017

People are increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens,
according to a BBC World Service poll by GlobeScan


The march towards the implementation of the SDGs is gaining traction. An ever-growing network of stakeholders is willing to join forces to tackle these 17 societal challenges. Because the Goals relate to global problems that have a real impact on each of us as human beings, directly or indirectly, it is revealing to reflect on the idea of global citizenship and how it is progressing among the public.

An international public opinion study run by GlobeScan for the last 15 years has been tracking the extent to which people view themselves as being part of a global society by asking them whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I see myself more as a global citizen than a citizen of my country.” The latest findings, jointly published with the BBC World Service last year, are particularly insightful. In 2016, for the first time since the poll has been conducted, results suggested that a majority of 51 per cent across 18 countries saw themselves more as global citizens, compared with 43 per cent who identified nationally.

Looking back, it seems the movement towards global citizenship over time has been largely driven by publics in emerging economies. For example, in seven large non-OECD countries, this feeling of global citizenship has grown at a strong pace from its lowest point in 2002 (38%) to reach a high of 56 per cent in 2016.

Across cultural contexts with differing societal values, the grid of analysis to understand trends that inform the shift in global citizen identification among respondents in emerging economies is meant to have several levels. However, some arguments seem to hold strong and fit nicely within the narrative of the Goals.

The first argument is that this shift likely indicates a growing acknowledgement that pressing global issues – such as climate change (Goal #13 on Climate Action), which is known to most affect populations in emerging countries – call for a collective response and global solidarity. This validates the concepts of togetherness and global society with which the SDGs strongly resonate.

To some extent, the move towards more outward-looking and internationally minded identities also reflects a projection of their countries’ rising global economic clout and increased diplomatic influence in world affairs, giving ground to Goals #1 (No Poverty), #10 (Reduced Inequalities), and #16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).

This shift towards global citizenship also shows the growing reality of international mobility, both physical and digital with the rise of global netizens. It facilitates opportunities for exchange and greater proximity between populations that enhance mutual understanding. This aspect will be paramount in working to fulfil Goal #4 (Quality Education) and its target 4.7 on learning to live together sustainably.





This growing sense of being global citizens should not be seen as a weakening of national identities, which must and will remain strong. But as we aim to mobilize a generation to take action on urgent international issues, it is a welcome evolution. From that perspective, tracking perceptions around global citizenship could prove to be a relevant, though informal, metric to monitor the progress of Sustainable Development Goals targets.

More information



This article was prepared by Lionel Bellier, Associate Director of GlobeScan at the request of UNESCO to make available data evidence on the SDG target 4.7. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and should not be attributed to UNESCO. For further information, please visit GlobeScan website: