COVID-19 is a powerful ‘disruptor’ that has given us a stark reminder of the need to rethink our identity, where we belong, our ‘normative’ view of citizenship and solutions needed to enable us to secure long-term survival of our civilisation and the environment we live in. This, according to Francis Petersen, Vice Chancellor of the University of Free State who spoke at a webinar hosted by the South African Chamber of Commerce on 26 March 2021.  

by Candice Marescia

The event formed the first of a four-part series: ‘Courageous Conversations’ on the theme of ‘The Global Citizen’ inviting powerful voices from intellectuals, public interest and business leaders, academics to naturalists, religious leaders, astrophysicists, economists, and ecologists, and others to share and debate their views on the world. This series comes at a time in which the world is attempting to build back the fabric of society and its systems, after being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the theme of Global Citizenship, Professor Peterson describes the concept as something that exists in all of us; it describes someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it.

“Having the mindset of a global citizen is being mindful of the future we envision for our world. Our society is rife with challenges that need urgent solutions. COVID-19 simply highlighted what was right under our noses. Our society is unequal and unjust. There is instability and lack of social justice on many pivotal issues, which cannot be ignored. Thus, being a global citizen is being aware of those issues and striving to be part of the solution,” Professor Peterson said.

The United Nations recently reminded us that the pandemic has exposed our interconnectedness. What happens anywhere in the world, they said, affects all of us but there are many opportunities for global citizens to get involved and lend a hand.

“In today’s world, this narrative of nationalism and protectionism exists parallel to the narrative of solidarity, unity and collaboration. These two are polar opposites that lead to different outcomes. However, COVID-19 has proved that the latter will be our only hope to claw out of existing societal ills. Without collaboration and co-creation, we stand to be more divided, making little to no progress,” Professor Peterson added.

This insightful and courageous conversation will be followed on June 17th with a discussion led by the Chancellor of the University of Free State, Professor Bonang Francis Mohale, a published author and respected business leader who has held chairmanships and directorships at some of South Africa’s top companies, on how we educate for Global Citizenship.

Professor Peterson encourages all global citizens to re-imagine our world, our actions to achieve a more equitable society.

Watch the replay below:

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