Citizenship can be understood in three different ways. The political dimension refers to the rights and responsibilities of individuals vis-à-vis the political system. The development of these rights and responsibilities should focus on the promotion of democratic attitudes and participatory skills. The social dimension refers to the way citizens interact with others within a society. It requires basic skills and knowledge about culture and history. The cultural dimension refers to the consciousness of a common cultural heritage and it should be developed through education.
The liberal concept of citizenship has its origins in the Roman Empire, where expansion led to the extension of citizenship rights to conquered peoples. Citizenship, then, meant protection from the law and participation in lawmaking. Ultimately, citizenship evolved into a legal status. Citizenship is not a political office, but it is a status that denotes membership in a community of shared law. The community may not be territorial.
The term citizen implies a particular kind of relationship between people and government. It implies a set of rights and responsibilities, and it is the citizen’s right to participate in decisions affecting their well-being. Citizens can be empowered by participating in democratic processes and influencing public policy by identifying and advocating for the causes they care about. NDI programs emphasize issue-driven, locally-led approaches. The goal is to empower citizens to take action throughout the political cycle.
Throughout history, citizenship has always been a fluid concept, evolving in accordance with each society. Some thinkers trace the origins of citizenship back to ancient Greece, while others view the concept as modern. In ancient Greece, Polis meant both a political assembly of a city-state and a society. Aristotle, for instance, wrote that a citizen was “a beast or a god” if he did not participate in the affairs of the community.
While the right to nationality is a fundamental human right, there are millions of people who are not citizens of any country. According to the UN refugee agency, there are 12 million stateless people in the world as of the end of 2010. Those who are stateless are often displaced and unregistered immigrants. And in some countries, marriage by a spouse is not sufficient to obtain citizenship. A person’s nationality can be based on whether they can speak the language and integrate into a society.