Conceptions of citizenship

There are now rapid and potentially threatening political, economic and social changes everywhere. If we are going to achieve higher levels of social inclusion, equity, and sustainable development in face of this change, we have to evaluate and challenge our systems of governance. One concept that enables us to challenge the effects of change, and to assess the quality of the human and official relationships in our society is that of ‘citizenship’.

While ideas and definitions of citizenship vary and have been debated throughout the centuries, there is a core concept of citizenship amongst these definitions:

  • A citizen is generally seen as a member of a political entity, such as a state; he or she owes allegiance to that state’s government and is entitled to protection from that government.
  • A citizen is entitled to the state’s privileges: access to the state’s security and support, access to the state’s franchise, the right to participate in government and its processes including choosing and also perhaps running the state’s government.

In summary, citizenship should entail statutory rights and responsibilities between individuals/groups and their governments.