Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Global civics is an idea that posits that civics in a global sense as a social contract between the world citizens in the age of interdependence and interaction. According to proponents of global civics, we all have rights and responsibilities to each other by virtue of being human beings. What happens in china can influence happens all the way in Ghana. Hence as citizens of the world, we have responsibility to mind our actions or inactions lest they cause more harm than good.
In a globalized world where economic and social interactions between people, companies and groups are increasing due to advances in telecommunication, transport networks and modernity, global civics makes certainly makes sense. The “imagined community” known as the state is increasingly powerless to deal with phenomena taking place outside its borders, but affecting its citizens.
A good example is the volatile oil market in the world currently. The slightest increase in the price of a barrel of oil will mean the commuter from OngataRongai will have to pay more to go to work in Nairobi’s central business district. How much power does the government of Kenya have to protect the commuter?
But if global civics implies having rights and responsibilities as human beings, it is silent on who should step in when my rights are infringed by someone clearing forests in the amazon, or when I neglect my responsibilities as a world citizen to protect my environment or put my government in check.
We live in a world of anarchy as Kenneth waltz put it. This means we do not have a central government to ensure order and stability in the international system. In my view, global civics cannot work in a world of anarchy, where might is right.
And that is the reason why the proponents of global civics are content to promote only the most diluted version of rights and responsibilities on all of us, especially the most powerful who, due to the lack of world government, do what they want with impunity. A powerful state such as America can go to war with virtually anyone it wants, kill anyone with unmanned drones wherever or whenever, and have its companies destroy the environment from Swaziland to the Gulf of Mexico, without any repercussions whatsoever.
As a minute part of humanity in Kenya, it doesn’t matter if I forfeit my rights and responsibilities, if someone in government halfway around the world can, due to greed, bring about a world recession that might affect millions like me in terms of future employment prospects!
The minimalist approach that is advocated in the booklet “dialogues on global civics” is not going to solve the immense challenges we face in the world today. It is the industrialized countries doing all the environmental damage, it is they with all the nuclear weapons, it is them destroying the global finance system, and it is they with the most to lose if a real protocol on greenhouse emissions is enacted!!
Most of us, in the developing world, and especially in sub Saharan Africa, we just want to live!! Let those with the most rights and responsibilities, by virtue of their immense wealth, power and military resources, practice global civics!
This takes me back to my point on anarchy. We do not have a world government to ensure global civics is kept. Ideas of a volunteer United Nations army are laughable at best. Let the global south rise, following the example set by the BRICS, and then we can talk on global civics. As equals!
There can be no global civics in the current system, and there shouldn’t be. Let Africa, Asia, and Latin America rise to the level of other countries. Then we can discuss on what our responsibilities and rights are, as “world citizens”who view each other with respect and the relationship is one based on more equality than now.