In this educational material, you will first get to know the concepts of global ethics, global justice, and cosmopolitanism. Humanity is facing several challenges, such as climate change, that we cannot solve without everybody working together for change towards a cleaner environment. In the second part of this lesson, you will learn about the question of citizenship and the protection of rights that a (national) state offers. Here the concept of status justice will be introduced, as will the concepts of a stateless person, displaced person, refugee, and asylum. Lastly, the issue of immigration and hospitality will be addressed concerning what it means to “meet others”, meaning others that are different from us but still equal in rights and status.

Questions about the animated video

Here are the questions that you were asked in the animated video. You can rethink the answers you chose and, in particular, why you chose them. Some questions are also relevant to the contents and assignments below.

Question 1: Was holding the family at the immigration check-point the right thing to do and why? (multiple answers possible)

Question 2: Why are passports important? (multiple answers possible)

Question 3: Do you think that making a distinction between citizens and non-citizens is fair?

Question 4: Do you agree that everybody should be free to travel, move or live wherever they please?

Question 5: Why is accepting and protecting refugees important? (multiple answers possible)

Question 6: Some persons are stateless. What would be the right thing to do in relation to their status?

1.2 Global ethics, global justice, and cosmopolitan ethics

Global ethics is an approach to ethical challenges and issues (e.g., climate change and pollution, human rights, foreign aid and helping the poor, fair trade and rights of workers, protection of refugees, development and regulation of the use of new technologies, etc.) that addresses these from the perspective of the world or humanity as a whole. The reasons for that is globalization, which is causing the world to be more and more interconnected and interdependent.

Global justice is an aspect of global ethics that is centered on justice on a world scale. It investigates the role of international and global institutions, for example the United Nations or the system of human rights. It also tries to formulate universal standards of justice that apply to all persons and states.

Global justice primarily concerns two domains. The first is political and institutional and concerns, for example, the question of (global) governance and protection of basic human rights. The second is economic and cultural and focuses on questions such as poverty and inequalities, distribution and exploitation of natural resources, among others. In all this, it defends a just distribution of benefits and burdens throughout the world.

Cosmopolitanism is one way to answer the challenges mentioned above. It is based on the idea that we are all citizens of the world (as opposed to merely a given national state) and thus members of a single community. Ethical cosmopolitanism is a view that we have obligations and responsibilities to others in that global world. Political cosmopolitism advocates an idea of some kind of concrete global polity, world government, and associated global citizenship system. Cultural cosmopolitanism is a view that we should appreciate and protect different cultures.

Assignment 1
Complete the three-step assignment below by writing down your answers.
In the left column, list five problems or challenges that humanity as a whole is facing in these times. Then think about their relative importance and rank them accordingly in the right column.

How would you define or describe justice to someone? What conditions would a just world have to meet?

How would the world be different if we were all regarded as citizens of the entire world?

1.3 Human rights, status justice, stateless persons and refugees

Human rights are the rights of individuals and groups that belong to them solely for being human and are founded on the dignity and value of every human being. They are the foundation of a just and peaceful society.

“Human rights are rights we have simply because we exist as human beings - they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental - the right to life - to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.” (OHCRH 2021)

Human rights are:
• universal: they belong to every person, which means that all are equally entitled to them
• inalienable: they belong to every person and should not be taken away from them; they can only be restricted in specific circumstances and for a limited amount of time,
• indivisible and interdependent: human rights make a unified whole (economic, social, political, and cultural rights) and are dependent upon each other, meaning that one cannot fully enjoy a specific right without other rights also being secured.
• equal and non-discriminatory: all human beings are equal in dignity and rights (OHCRH 2021).

Dignity is a basic and inherent value that all people have on the basis of their humanity. It is often regarded as the basis for basic entitlements and human rights of each individual. The dignity of each individual protects against types of improper treatment that would interfere with their dignity (e.g., degrading treatment, torture, etc.) or situations in which he may find himself (e.g., extreme poverty, slavery, statelessness, etc.).

Status justice is justice that enables an individual to have his or her right recognized. It is therefore described as “the right to have rights”. It facilitates other rights. The right to have rights is a human right that can be defended within the principles of global and cosmopolitan justice.

Stateless persons are those persons who are not recognized as a national or citizen by any state under the operation of its law (UN 1954). This means that a stateless person is someone who does not have the nationality of any country. As such, they are particularly vulnerable.
The main causes of statelessness are: laws determining the circumstances under which someone acquires nationality or can have it withdrawn, migration to a state that does not allow a parent to pass on nationality through family ties, the emergence of new states and changes regarding borders and the loss or deprivation of nationality (UNHCR 2021).

Displaced persons or persons displaced by force are persons that have been involuntarily or forcibly moved away from their home or home region. According to the UN, there were around 80 million forcibly displaced persons throughout the world, with an estimated 30–34 million of them being children below 18 years of age. Of all forcibly displaced persons, 26 million were refugees and 45.7 million were internally displaced people (UNHCR 2020).
Refugees are those displaced persons who have been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. They have a right to seek asylum. The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that a refugee is a person, who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it” (UN 1951)
Internally displaced persons are “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border.” (UN, 2004)

Assignment 2
Complete the three-step assignment below by writing down your answers or completing the tasks
Do you own a passport? To how many and which countries have you already traveled? Did you have to use your passport?

All human beings are equal in dignity and human rights. Why and how is this important for refugees and stateless persons?

What are your first thoughts or associations when you hear the word “refugee”? What are your feelings that accompany these thoughts? Please use the space below to try to draw these feelings. You are free to do this in any way you want.

1.4. Immigration and hospitality

The issue of hospitality concerns the question of whether there are limits on states can completely close off their borders. It is a matter that concerns global ethics and global justice. Should refugees be allowed to enter a given state? Why? Who else must be welcomed and accepted? What about stateless people like the family in the video?

The role, function or value of a national group (in this case) and group membership is that it offers effective protection of an individual’s rights. For example, a state issues you a passport that allows you to travel and return home. A visa issued by a state allows you to visit and stay in that state. Stateless people often have no option to obtain a passport or a visa. That is why stateless persons are particularly vulnerable.

Fridtjof Nansen, a former polar explorer, League of Nations high commissioner for refugees and later a Nobel Peace Prize winner (1922), established the so-called Nansen passport system after World War I.

The Nansen passport was a recognized travel document issued initially by the League of Nations for refugees and stateless people who could not obtain travel documents from a national state or authority. Such passports allowed such persons to travel.

For more information about the Nansen passports and statelessness, you can visit an excellent online interactive map or exhibition of the EVZ Foundation.1

Assignment 3

Complete the three-step assignment below by writing down your answers or completing the tasks.

Think of a moment in your life when someone showed or offered you hospitality. How would you define hospitality?

To whom should we be hospitable?

If somebody is different or alien, what makes him or her different? How can these differences be relevant tofor his or her rights?


In this glossary you will find more information and an explanation of certain concepts.

asylum: the protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a refugee, usually a political refugee. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries. A person that asks for asylum is called “an asylum-seeker”. Every year, around one million people seek asylum all over the world.

citizenship: is a relation between an individual and a state. A citizen has certain rights and freedoms and is entitled to protection by the state but, in turn, also has responsibilities. It can be acquired by birth within a state’s territory, descent, marriage, and naturalization.

cosmopolitanism: a view that argues that all people – independent from their citizenship or national state – should be afforded equal respect and consideration. Ethical cosmopolitanism is a view that we have duties, obligations, and responsibilities to others in that global world since we are all part of one global community.

dignity: a basic and a special inalienable value that all people have on the basis of their humanity. It is often regarded as the foundation for basic the entitlements and human rights of each individual.

displaced person: an individual who has been forced to leave their home for a longer period, e.g. due to war, unlawful persecution, or a natural disaster. If such a person crosses the border of their country, they are considered as a refugee.

global ethics (also planetary ethics): is a view that recognizes the globalization and mutual interdependence of humanity as a whole, including the fact that the gravest challenges, including the moral challenges that we are facing today (economic, socio-cultural, technological, geostrategic, informational, ecological etc.), are global and can only be addressed within a similarly global framework.

global justice: an approach in global ethics that focuses on justice on a world scale and for the universal standards of justice, e.g., human rights or a principle that requires just distribution of benefits and burdens throughout the world.

hospitality: in the broader sense, a sociable gesture of welcome, kindness and generosity; in the narrower sense, as employed in debates about immigration and refugees, it is considered as an aspect of justice. The right to hospitality is related to the right to membership.

human rights: basic rights that belong to every human individual (or a group of individuals) solely on the basis of being human, regardless of their age, ethnic origin, location, language, religion, ethnicity, or any other status. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

passport: a formal travel document, usually issued by a national government to its citizens that identifies the bearer while traveling as a citizen or national with a right to protection while abroad and a right to return to the home country.

refugee: according to the definition by the UN, refugees are persons who are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence and unable to return there owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order.

stateless person: an individual who is not considered a citizen or national under the operation of the laws of any country, i.e-. without nationality of any country, and is thus without the protection of a country or state

visa: an authorization granted by a state or territory to a foreign person, allowing them to enter, remain within, or to leave that territory. Usually, visas are noted in the person’s passport.


UN. 1948. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available at: universal-declaration-of-human-rights
UN. 1951. Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
UN. 1954. Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
UN. 2004. United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
UNHCR. 2021. Ending Statelessness.
OHCRH. 2021. What are human rights? Available at:
Images: Adobe Stock, Wikimedia Commons,, UNHCR, IWM