In March 2015, over 400 students from five high schools across Canada, in partnership with the Centre for Global Citizenship Education, The Centre for Global Education and TakingITGlobal spent a day in an online gathering, called a Virtual Town Hall, to discuss the youth’s vision for GCE in Canada.

In the month prior to the Virtual Town Hall students met on a weekly basis to exchange ideas, work with and listen to experts, and create a common framework. The National Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship (the White Paper), written collaboratively by Canadian students, emerged as a result of this day-long online event.

Young people identified three key questions that they sought to address through the White Paper:

  1. What are our obligations as global citizens? What are the rights and responsibilities that we have?
  2. To what extent can well-intentioned global citizenship initiatives reinforce or resist power inequities?
  3. What types of policies/practices will enable/facilitate global citizenship?

The document that emerged may largely be considered unprecedented in GCE policy work for two reasons. First is the fact that it was prepared by young people themselves, rather than by the usual stakeholders in policy making (governmental bodies, NGOs, experts, businesses, IGOs and other actors). Second is the content of the document that is arguably the first wide-scale-reaching policy paper that explicitly calls out wide-spread cultural biases, saviour complexes, voluntourism, eurocentrism, (neo)colonialism, Western supremacy and other problematic aspects of global citizenship (education).

The youth White Paper should be of considerable relevance to anyone interested in pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible in GCE advocacy work – both in terms of content, as well as in terms of how to draft policy papers and whom with. Although the paper has not been endorsed by any governmental body, it does nevertheless present a significant step towards articulating a need for more complex and critically informed approaches to GCE that aim to challenge existing power relations and structural inequalities. In this sense the White Paper represents one of the first steps of moving from the concept of “advocacy for” (GCE for young people) to “advocacy from or with” (young people) for GCE. As such it represents an important, and arguably necessary, innovation in how GCE advocacy can be led.

The paper itself can be used as an advocacy tool towards decision makers that carries considerably more political weight than if it would be prepared by GCE-related organizations themselves. While the content of the paper itself may be considered quite radical as far as policy papers can go, those interested in exploring how even best intentions to deconstruct (neo)colonial legacies and global hierarchies (perhaps) inevitably end up reproducing what they seek to deconstruct, might find useful also the article provided in the link below that offers a critical reading of the White Paper.