CFR Education

Global Matters

A Global Civics Initiative from the Council on Foreign Relations

What Is Global Literacy and What Comprises a Global Civics Education?

CFR Education logoToday’s interdependent global economy and geopolitical landscape connect America’s interests more than ever to the actions and interests of others. It is neither possible nor desirable to isolate the United States from the accelerating flows of people, ideas, viruses, goods, greenhouse gases, weapons, dollars, and so much more. The economic and social benefits of interconnectivity are too great and the peril of ignoring challenges abroad too risky. COVID-19 and the effects of climate change are but two stark reminders that events and decisions made outside America’s borders matter a great deal to the United States and its citizens.

This is why it is critically important to strengthen American citizens’ global literacy. Global literacy is composed of three pillars:

  • Knowledge: a basic understanding of the issues, forces, and actors that shape today’s world
  • Skills: the ability to think critically and to communicate, collaborate, discuss, and evaluate options to address and take advantage of global challenges and opportunities
  • Perspective: an appreciation that individual and national identity, experience, and interests shape differing viewpoints and priorities

Global civics is the study of issues, forces, and actors that shape today's world, such as:

  • Contemporary global issues
  • The relationship between domestic and foreign policy
  • Forms of government
  • International institutions and global governance
  • Nationalism, sovereignty & self-determination
  • Conflict and security
  • Geopolitical, political, economic, historical, and social trends across the world
  • The approaches and tools of foreign policy

Understanding the core concepts of global civics promotes productive debate and deliberation surrounding international affairs and leads to better informed voters, both of which are indispensable to improving U.S. foreign policy and reinforcing U.S. national security, economic prosperity, and global standing.

Building global literacy depends on the availability and dissemination of high-quality global civics resources. This recognition propelled CFR Education to create Model Diplomacy, World101, and Convene the Council, innovative classroom products that form the foundation of a global civics curriculum. Whether exploring the foundations of the liberal world order, learning about the impacts of climate change, or making sense of a current event, these expert-informed, accurate, and accessible learning resources build global literacy and encourage responsible civic engagement by:

  • Linking the global to the local and the local to the global
  • Informing citizens so that they can advocate for effective policies and vote for public officials who support those policies
  • Equipping future generations with the knowledge and skills required to compete in a global workforce
  • Reducing inequality by exposing citizens in lesser served communities to essential knowledge about the world and the skills to act on that knowledge
  • Strengthening democracy and national security by curbing dis/misinformation and polarization

Every American citizen - be it as a parent, educator, consumer, investor, student, or professional - makes decisions and voices opinions that affect their lives, their community, and their country’s relationship with the world. Never has there been a more pressing need to strengthen global literacy through global civics education.

Learn more about CFR Education resources.