published articles


Newspaper Articles


The Arizona Republic
12/11/2016 - Page E05


Town Hall participants: Arizona hasn’t been investing properly, should focus on education and infrastructure

What is the best way to invest our limited government resources to create a healthy and prosperous future?

A group of diverse Arizonans concluded that Arizona’s government financing system does not follow the best practices for government finance systems, fails to adequately invest in basic needs and, instead, creates larger than needed costs for incarceration and other social services that could be avoided with wiser investments that take a longer term view.

Our conclusion and recommendations took time and effort. In preparation for the 109th Arizona Town Hall on "Financing Arizona’s Future," participants reviewed a comprehensive report about our state’s revenue and spending. At the Town Hall itself, we spent three days hearing from national experts and discussing and deliberating the issues. The background report provided a wealth of insight about general fund revenue and spending that exceeds $9 billion each year, including these examples:

» Almost 90 percent of revenue comes from individual and corporate income taxes (46 percent) and sales taxes (44 percent);

» Over 90 percent of spending is allocated to only five major areas: K-12 Education (45.5 percent), AHCCCS and other health care (19.5 percent), Prisons (11 percent), Universities (7.5 percent), and Economic Security and Child Safety (9.5 percent).

For more than 20 years we have consistently reduced both revenue and spending, as a percentage of our state’s economy. In addition, we have become more dependent on highly cyclical income and sales taxes, producing surpluses in years of high growth, but large deficits when we are hit by recession.

Town Hall participants concurred that we have not been investing properly and that the bias in favor of tax decreases has gone too far to the point of harming our economic future. We must invest in educating Arizona’s children so that they become productive citizens and we can meet the workforce needs of high-wage employers. We also need to  provide the infrastructure necessary to compete in national and international markets. And we must provide preventative services for Arizonans that will help reduce high incarceration costs.

Instead, the group concluded that Arizona’s finances should be based on a set of comprehensive, guiding principles that recognize both our status as a lowtax state and our need to invest in areas that will impact our future.

These principles for our tax system should include transparency, openness, fairness, simplicity, stability, accountability and   predictability (all areas where we currently fall short).

We need a strategic plan so that we can eliminate structural deficits and help citizens understand where their tax dollars are invested. We must move away from a system driven primarily by short-term objectives and special interests.

The Town Hall’s major themes focused on the need to invest thoughtfully to ensure a robust future. These include:

» Education. Spending cuts have hurt and are impacting our ability to compete. To compete in a global economy, we should seek to be a leader in providing high-quality education at  all levels. Well-directed investment will pay off when companies want to  relocate to Arizona because of our well-educated workforce. We must restore a   viable level of funding to achieve specific measurable outcomes for education and consider long-term solutions for financing education including renewing and increasing the funding in Proposition 301.

» Mental Health Care. Our prisons and jails are filled with people who would be better served with mental health care and it would save us precious tax dollars. We need to better meet the mental health care needs of Arizonans and stop turning our prisons and jails into de facto mental health care providers at a much higher cost.

»Infrastructure and Natural Resources.

Infrastructure and natural resources are critical to our future. Careful stewardship will allow us to improve and maintain our transportation and utility systems, satisfy our water resource needs, create healthy forests, protect wildlife, and promote tourism and recreation. We   should consider a broad range of sources to finance the needed investments including the gas tax (which should be increased and then indexed); public-private partnerships; toll roads; increased vehicle registration fees; taxes on vehicle services; a mileage tax (which may become more important as electric cars replace gas powered vehicles); community facilities districts; and tax increment financing.

» Public Safety. Arizona’s allocation of funds for criminal justice is adequate overall—indeed our failure to invest in education and mental health care may well have led to more prison spending than would otherwise have been necessary. Our problem is that the   funds are not properly allocated—we would be better served by funding programs that provide intervention before incarceration. Town Hall participants recommended that mandatory sentences should be eliminated and the sentencing guidelines should be re-evaluated with an emphasis on cost effective alternatives to prison for non-violent criminals, including prevention and diversion programs.

» Social Services. Arizona needs to invest in other social programs, including housing and family services for underserved populations, to provide for the well-being of all its citizens. For instance, adequate funding should be provided for Department of Child Safety programs to help keep families together, as well as programs to help care for Arizona’s aging population, particularly veterans.

» Change Laws to Comply with Best Practices for Government Finance.

Broaden and simplify our tax code to provide more stable and predictable revenue. Adopt a citizen initiative to repeal the 2/3 majority requirement for raising taxation and instead require only a simple majority. Facilitate long-range planning by increasing legislative terms and eliminating term limits.

The failure of Arizona’s government financing system to properly invest in the future of our state negatively affects Arizonans and our future economic prospects. It imposes large costs for incarceration and other social services that could be avoided with a few wise and consistent investments. To provide the best future for our state, we need to (a) adopt the principles of sound government financing; (b) invest wisely in education, infrastructure and preventative services; and, (c) stop our practice of short-term thinking and instead develop a long-term strategic plan that focuses on outcomes and supports spending that invests appropriately for the well-being of the state’s citizens.

Kevin Olson, Steptoe & Johnson and Sheila Breen, Remedy Pacific, LLC., both participants of the 109th Arizona Town Hall.

Travel Articles  


Madeira--Too Good To Be True?

September 24, 2018 By nthy

By Sheila Breen

We were skeptical, $799 per person for a week in Madeira plus 3-days in Sao Miguel, including airfare and 4-star accommodations? Was this deal too good to be true? And where is Madeira anyway? We quickly located Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean about 300-miles east of Morocco. Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago in the north Atlantic, southwest of Portugal. After scouring the Azores Getaways website, my husband and I decided that we would take a leap of faith and go for the trip. One of our best decisions ever!

We landed in a tropical paradise, located a bus that took us to our hotel for five Euro each and then started exploring. Downtown Funchal seemed like a good place to start.

It was Christmas time and workers were very busy creating a life-sized manger scene, complete with camels, wise men, shepherds, angels, and the Holy family. Across the walkway, another crew was building an entire miniature village that wrapped around a mountain that had been carefully crafted to host the different scenes of village life.

A little further and we looked up to see the reflection of the Atlantic Ocean off of a colorful cable car overhead. This was the cable car that rises 3700 meters (12,139 feet) to Monte where you can find small shops, places to eat, and an exquisite little chapel. The choice is yours whether to ride down on the cable car or toboggan in a wicker chair with two men shepherding you on the trip. It sounds crazy but isn’t as scary as it looks.

As you walk along the streets of Funchal, hosts invite you to visit their restaurants, often holding a tray with a complimentary shot of Madeira wine to add to the enticement. Ah, that sweet, delightful, beverage that has made this island famous. A perfect prelude to any choice of cuisine for the evening.

While Funchal is a great place to enjoy, Madeira has more surprises for those who venture out of the capital city. One is the Camacha Wicker Factory where skilled weavers create baskets, animals and even a full-sized replica of an old sailing ship.

If you enjoy dramatic mountain views, don’t miss Pico Ruivo. There are several pathways for viewing and photography. If you’re into hiking, there is a network of hiking paths that will take you on a much more rigorous adventure.

The locals will tell you that it is common to experience all four seasons on the same day in Madeira. This means that you have to watch the weather as you hike. For example, Pico Ruivo was windy but clear when we arrived, and within 30-minutes the storm clouds moved in, and we found ourselves in one of the daily weather changes that we were warned about!

The Ribeiro Frio Trout Farm earns its reputation as a destination. The farm belongs to the parish of Sao Roque do Faial, the municipality of Santana, and is located about 15 km from Funchal. There is a restaurant that gets excellent reviews—especially for its trout—as well as gift shops, a little chapel and viewing or sitting areas set off by twisted natural wood railings.

One of the best surprises is Madeira’s famous Porto Moniz natural swimming pools. In the winter, it is too cold to jump in the water, but walking around the pools or sitting down for a snack and appreciating the view is almost as enjoyable. Next visit will be in the summer!

Beware of Madeira, it creeps into your memory and entices you to return. It definitely should make your list of places to visit and stay for a while.

Professional Articles


Achieving International Cooperation and Respect

Chorzowskie Studia Polityczne

ISSN 2028-752X, Vol 16, ChSP 2018

Sheila R. Breen, J.D.

Listening to the current leaders in Russia, China, North Korea and the United States, anyone might, rightly, believe that the entire world is imminently vulnerable to nuclear attack by one or more of these powerful countries. While the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States balanced on fear of mutual annihilation, the increasingly aggressive tactics of other countries has created a new dynamic, perhaps best exemplified currently by the verbal volleying between President Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un. 

This is certainly not the first time in history that leaders have engaged in rhetoric and actions that threaten the delicate balance of power among powerful countries. History is replete with examples of strong countries controlling and exploiting weaker countries for their own benefit, sometimes exercising hubris and sometimes insistent that only they can be trusted to exercise power wisely. No matter which country is exercising the power, equilibrium occurs only when leaders treat each other with respect, even if they have fundamental disagreements. Of course, there are circumstances, such as the post-WWI aggression of Germany and Italy, where military intervention of other countries is justified. Even then, had the “losing” countries been treated respectfully, they might not have suffered such economic and military impotence that they started another World War.

Rethinking “Survival of the fittest”

One attitude that leaders with political hubris often exhibit is that they think that they “deserve” to dictate policies and actions of other “weaker” countries. After all, if the weaker countries were led by leaders who were as strong and intelligent, they wouldn’t be “weak.” Another attitude is that weak countries (or leaders) need to be “punished” for something they did in the past. The economic, political and social health of the world requires that we rethink this version of “survival of the fittest.” Consider this description of evolutionary biology as applied to politics:

“As our focus shifts from individuals and individual species as the unit of survival, to the collective of life—its complex dynamic interactions and relationships—we begin to see that collaborative and symbiotic patterns and interactions are of more fundamental importance than competition, as a driving force of evolution. Life’s key strategy to create conditions conducive to life is to optimize the system as a whole, rather than maximize only some parameters of the system for a few, at the detriment of many. [Wahl 2017:2]

“Darwinian evolutionary biology is a more accurate reflection of pre-Victorian social practices than of natural reality…Biological, technological, and social progress, so the argument goes, is brought forth by the sum of individual egos striving to out-compete each other. In perennial rivalry, fit species (powerful corporations) exploit niches (markets) and multiply their survival rate (profit margins), whereas weaker (less efficient) ones go extinct (bankrupt). This metaphysics of economics and nature, however, is far more revealing about our society’s opinion about itself than it is an objective account of the biological world.” [Wahl, quoting Andreas Weber, 2017:8]

In a world where economic dominance is considered success, the political decisions that promote winning at all costs tips the scale into a very unhealthy position. The distribution of wealth moves to those at the very top of the scale and everyone else moves down, sometimes to the point that it is difficult to survive. Some of those who are “winners” in this scenario are unable to fathom how crime can rise, rebellion foment and the masses move to resist the policies that increase the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots.” The hubris exhibited by these leaders is inevitably countered by a nemesis, although it may take years for that to happen.

“Positive self-image is psychologically healthy, and self-confidence, proper ambition and authentic pride are necessary qualities for any successful leader. However, in the hubrist these qualities morph into excesses, and the hallmark of hubris is contempt. The result is that—one way or another—hubristic leaders end up overreaching themselves and, as we know, the retribution served by Nemesis is likely to be severe.” [Sadler-Smith, 2017:1]

The causes of war are varied, but often involve economics, lack of respect and trust, or the sheer exercise of power. Whatever the causes, we live in a world with a continuum of violence that impacts all of our lives to some degree. It could involve armed conflict, tribal wars or even the impact of street gangs, especially in our cities. It is incredibly disheartening that the impact of war now largely affects civilians rather than combatants, and that there are children who have never experienced a day without listening to bombs dropping or shells hitting the walls around them. How will these children function in an adult world? What will be their perspective when considering the potential for peace and establishing a New Paradigm for international cooperation?

“This violent environment not only adds to human suffering, but also contains the seeds of future conflict. All of what are now seen as ‘complex emergencies’ have their roots deep in long-running social, political and economic crises. Even those disputes that appear most surprising have clear antecedents…

“Pointing out the chronic nature of many of these crises is not a counsel of despair. What it does, in fact, suggest is that unless these underlying issues are addressed [emphasis added], future generations of children will live in a constant state of war. The response has to take place at many levels simultaneously: legal, economic and political.” [Children in war: violence 1996:1-2]

Consider various conflicts in the world today, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine, Yemen, India and Mexico being some of the most notable. Violence seems to breed violence and it will continue in a downward spiral unless courageous people choose a different course, especially if they are the leaders of these violence-ridden areas of the world or they are military leaders in a position to help change the direction of their countries. Civilians can have an impact, however, and some of the most successful movements have been driven by civilians, not military leaders.

Movements Toward International Cooperation

One of the most successful international movements toward cooperation was developed by Henry Dunant in 1863. Dunant was a Swiss businessman who traveled to Italy with hopes of gaining support from Napoleon III for a business venture. He arrived at a village called Solferino right after a bloody battle between the forces of Napoleon III and those of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. After witnessing the horrible conditions faced by thousands of combatants who lay wounded or dead, and the impact of the battle on the local communities, Dunant wrote a book called A Memory of Solferino. [Dunant 1862] The book promoted the idea of establishing a group of well trained volunteers who would be available to help care for soldiers and alleviate their suffering during times of war. The book received much publicity and, through Henry’s tenacious lobbying, the Swiss government sponsored a conference at which 18 representatives from 14 countries gathered in Geneva in August, 1864 to organize what became the International Red Cross.

During that 1864 conference, the discussion also included a how war should be conducted and development of rules that should govern the treatment of soldiers. This led to the formulation and adoption of the first Geneva Conventions. [Convention 1864:1].  Promoting the Conventions is a primary mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The conventions were completely revised in 1949, in the aftermath of World War II, and all states in the world have signed onto the basic agreements. [The Geneva Conventions of 1949 2014:1]

While most countries honor the commitments made by becoming signatories to the Conventions, others have ignored them, or claimed that they don’t apply. Another issue is that many of the combatants are rebel or insurgent groups that are not part of the government. As such, they have not agreed to the Conventions or protocols, and may not even know that they exist.

Another attempt at international cooperation was contained in The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, included a provision that established the League of Nations. The principal mission of the League was to maintain world peace through collective disarmament and security, as well as the use of negotiation strategies to help resolve international disputes. While its goals were laudable, the League ultimately proved ineffective because it had no way of enforcing the terms of the treaty if the permanent members of the Executive Council refused to do so. There were 58 members of the League, which the United States never officially joined and the Soviet Union, Japan, Italy and Germany all left the organization in the 1930’s. [Christian, Tomuschat 1995:77-78]

“In broad terms the decline of the League of Nations in the 1930s reflected the unwillingness or inability of Britain, France, and the United States to oppose the increasingly nationalist-imperialist and militaristic trajectories of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and imperial Japan.” [ 2018]

The lessons learned from the structure and operations of the League of Nations were used to again form an international organization after World War II. The United Nations was established on October 24, 1945. It originally had 51 member states; there are now 193. This was not just an updated version of the League of Nations, but a completely new organization whose objectives are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

4.  To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends. [Charter of the United Nations 1945:1]

While the United Nations impacts a broad range of areas of influence, its political effectiveness has been uneven largely because so much of the power lies with the 5 permanent members of the Security Council: The United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, China and France. Perhaps the development of a New Paradigm for international relations could help the United Nations gain stronger influence by having more power vested with the General Assembly rather than controlled by the Security Council:

“There's always been this huge contradiction between power and democracy. Power lying with the Security Council, arguably the least democratic organ of the U.N. Democracy, to the degree that you can have democracy where China and Vanuatu get the same number of votes. But to the degree that there's democracy at all, it's in the General Assembly, which doesn't ordinarily have the power to impose international law the same way as the council can.

“I think that what could be done, though, is to change that balance of power without going through what people talk about the difficulties of amending the charter; that's certainly true. But beyond that there is the whole question of the efforts by the General Assembly. There's many, many precedents and possibilities within U.N. systems for allowing the General Assembly to have -to take on more power and disempower the Security Council to a large degree. That would go a great deal of the way towards democratizing the U.N. overall” [Bennis 2006:1]

While this strategy may address many issues among the member countries, the root causes of conflict must be addressed as well:

“As Peter Hansen, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, recently noted, “Given our awareness of the circumstances and conditions which generate marginalization and vulnerability, exploit differences and exacerbate tensions, one need not be an Einstein to determine that tackling root causes is the only answer if we’re serious about preventing conflict.” [Children in war: Prevention 1996:1]

The United Nations impacts many of those causes, such as economics, education and culture, but not on a scale that is needed to make global change. However, even when countries blatantly disregard the terms of the Geneva Conventions or the directives of the United Nations, countries still benefit from working together toward mutual goals. Is it inevitable that countries stay in a perpetual competition that might ultimately result in the destabilization of entire countries, regions or the world? Do we have to tolerate leaders who are unable to change strategies and move toward a healthy balance of power, economic and social security among the people of the world? Of course not, but we have to have the courage and organization necessary to make the desired changes happen. They also have to be relevant to the countries and cultures impacted. Every country does not have the same priorities.

One method for creating change is to form alliances with great numbers of individual people around the world, not just political leaders, that create a critical mass leading to change. While this may have not been feasible in the past, technology and the massive numbers of people who use social media have completely changed this dynamic. Such tools can be used to convince people that it is in their best interests to take action and that it will take a critical mass to make that happen. Many will not have the courage to do so. They fear retaliation for themselves or those they love, or they may be overwhelmed with the challenges of daily survival to focus on issues as large as global peace. However, the participants must have an interest in the cause and the opportunity to align themselves with a group of people who have the same interest:

“This is what we call ‘flexible coalitional psychology’—the ability to form strong bonds with various social groups but also to break those bonds and move on to other groups when we will benefit from doing so. This ability is a result of evolution. When individuals compete with one another, they often do so as part of groups that are designed in terms of shared culture traits, such as ideology, language, religious beliefs, or ways of dressing. Competition among culturally defined groups leads to what is known as cultural group selection, with some groups outcompeting others. This happens with everything from competing religions and nation-states to sports teams and small businesses. Because the welfare of individuals is often closely tied to that of the groups to which they belong, this puts pressure on individuals to identify successful groups and commit themselves to them.” [Cronk & Leech 2017:6]

These strategies were used, to varying degrees of success, in many Middle Eastern and North African countries through a series of events that we collectively refer to as The Arab Spring. Beginning in 2010, large groups of demonstrators expressed political and economic grievances with their governments. They faced violent resistance by security forces but:

“In January and February 2011, protests in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in a matter of weeks in toppling two regimes thought to be among the region’s most stable. The first demonstrations took place in central Tunisia in December 2010, catalyzed by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor protesting his treatment by local officials. A protest movement, dubbed the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in the media, quickly spread through the country. The Tunisian government attempted to end the unrest by using violence against street demonstrations and by offering political and economic concessions. However, protests soon overwhelmed the country’s security forces, competing Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to step down and flee the country in January 2011. In October 2011, Tunisians participated in a free election to choose members of a council tasked with drafting a new constitution. A democratically chosen president and prime minister took office in December 2011.

“Massive protests broke out in Egypt in late January 2011, only days after Ben Ali’s ouster in Tunisia. The Egyptian government also tried and failed to control protests by offering concessions while cracking down violently against protesters. After several days of massive demonstrations and clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo and around the country, a turning point came at the end of the month when the Egyptian army announced that it would refuse to use force against protesters calling for the removal of Pres. Hosni Mubarak. Having lost the support of the military, Mubarak left office on February 11 after nearly 30 years, ceding power to a council of senior military officers.

“In the period of the euphoria that followed, the new military administration enjoyed high public approval, since the military had played a decisive role in ending the Mubarak regime. However, optimism was dampened when the new administration appeared hesitant to begin a full transfer of power to an elected government and when military and security forces resumed the use of violence against protesters. Confrontations between protesters and security forces became frequent occurrences. In spite of a multiday outbreak of violence in late November 2011, parliamentary elections proceeded as scheduled and the newly elected People’s Assembly held its inaugural session in late January 2012.

“Encouraged by protesters’ rapid successes in Tunisia and Egypt, protest movements took hold in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria in late January, February, and March 2011. In these countries, however, outpourings of popular discontent let to protracted bloody struggles between opposition groups and ruling regimes.” [Britannica 2015]

The long-term results of these rebellions have been mixed. Tunisia is relatively stable but suffering from unemployment and other economic issues that weren’t addressed after the uprisings. [Graham-Harrison 2018] Syria, Libya and Yemen continue their bloody struggle against repressive governments 7 years after they started. One lesson to be learned is that rebellion works well for peaceful protests and where leaders honor the will of the people. However, it has been painfully evident in many countries that revolted during the “Arab Spring” that change may not happen, or may be very costly to the people, if the masses do not have the political and military support to enforce those changes. [Micallef 2017]

Civil-Military Cooperation and Political Cooperation

To address situations where military support is needed to make and sustain change, countries can establish a cooperative system between a country’s military and civilian organizations that can then be used to establish cooperative relationships with other countries. Ideally, cooperation for developing a respectful, cooperative system of interaction between and among countries is supported by all. This requires an understanding of differing points of view and the political will to reach a consensus on how these interests will be addressed. 

“Discussions about the most effective, efficient, and sustainable approach to resolving complex crisis situation share a long historical tradition…. However, an analysis of relevant publications in military and security policy or social science over the last few years clearly shows that different perspectives prevail. From a military viewpoint, the focus is typically on determining the right tactical approach, and the broader debates are only tangentially helpful. By contrast, the civilian side emphasizes that the resolution of complex crisis situations should primarily be obtained through civilian tools.” [Kasselman 2012:17]

“In a global world order, approaches to the resolution of complex crisis situations will only be successful if they address the complexity of the underlying causes as well as the international context. This applies in particular to long-term development contexts in order to guarantee that causes of conflict are thoroughly mitigated. [Kasselman 2012:21]

The issue of resolving underlying causes cannot be overemphasized. Reflecting on the result of The Arab Spring, the uprisings were brutal and driven by young people who had lost faith in their governments. They wanted “freedom, work and dignity” [Graham-Harrison, 2018:3] and none of them achieved all three. Another point of view is that Western governments supported and characterized these uprising as “pro-democratic” when that may not have been the point at all:

“The reality is that the Arab Spring was never the popular democratic revolt that Western governments or the media made it out to be. In fact, the Arab Spring had little to do with democracy; although it certainly included some liberal-democratic groups. It was instead a reactionary movement led primarily by conservative, religious and Islamist elements against secular Arab regimes.

“The Arab Spring represented a rejection of the secular, socialist, pan-Arabism, nationalist, military regimes that had come to power in the period from the 1950s through the 1070s, and which have since devolved into little more than corrupt, crony governments ruling by brute force and a pervasive security apparatus.

“The modern borders of the Middle East are largely the legacy of the post-World War I European dissection of the Ottoman Empire. A series of treaties, beginning with the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, divided up the Middle East with little regard to ethnicity, religion, culture or historical association. Indeed, many of those borders were determined by a scramble for the region’s oil wealth and a colonial policy of ruling by pitting various ethnic and religious groups against each other.” [Micallef 2017]

The young people who supported and participated in the uprisings wanted “freedom, work and dignity.” Perhaps they thought that their countries would be morphed into a Hollywood version of what life would be like after they overthrew the government. They probably didn’t understand that even the most powerful nations don’t provide jobs, freedom or respect without the people constantly demanding them. And how can it be that they have to fight for these things when it seems that other countries have more than they need?

“…[I]t is only rational to claim that no international cooperation is likely to emerge unless the vital national interests are taken into the consideration…And still, as long as the principal causes of such ‘global’ problems are concentrated in a small number of rich industrialized countries, calls for global cooperative efforts can hardly offer a solid basis for a more equal international order.” [Siitonen 1990:55]

Individual, collective, political and military actions must coalesce to create meaningful and lasting change. It must begin with a discussion of political structures that drive conversations and decisions. For example, the political power in the United States is focused on capitalism and ensuring that businesses are able to make as much profit as possible, even at the expense of a healthy, balanced, society. A discussion in which quality of life for all people is considered as important as making money would balance this discussion and drive a redistribution of wealth. Similar discussions would need to be held between countries so the economically powerful countries balance their drive toward profit-making ventures with ensuring that less powerful countries receive benefits that will allow them to grow and provide economic opportunities for their citizens.

What are the barriers to this New Paradigm?

The principal barrier to achieving balance, peace and respect among all people is Power. The economically powerful countries must determine that the New Paradigm is in their best long-term interests. There are already signs that the power structures of the past several decades are being challenged, despite efforts in countries such as the United States to maintain dominance, both militarily and economically:

“U.S. imperialism is seeking to preserve and extend its supremacy against a backdrop of eroding economic strength and an increasingly fragile and unstable world financial architecture based on the privileged role of the dollar. And, importantly, this is occurring in a period of dynamic flux in the world system-in which new poles of power are appearing as cracks in U.S. global hegemony widen.” [Lotta 2008:1]

“There are many different levels at which geoeconomic and geopolitical changes are taking place; and particular historical factors are operating. But these are not random trends and events. At the deepest level, what underlies these changes is the nature and logic of the capitalist system: the compulsion to expand and maximize profit to gain competitive edge; the blind, anarchic growth, and the short-terms horizons of capitalism and the inherent tension of a system in which production is highly socialized and globally interconnected, involving the interlinked and collective efforts of thousands and millions of wage-laborers, while the means of producing wealth, the wealthy that is socially produced, and even knowledge itself are privately controlled and deployed by a small capitalist class.” [Lotta 2008:2]

The threat of a renewed Cold War between Russia and the United States has revived political dynamics that may impede the movement toward a world where cooperation and the economic and social health of the world is even discussed. In addition, China is a powerful player in these decisions and may not want to slow its momentum for the sake of long-term balance among nations.

“It must be understood that a conflict or Cold War is not in the interest of either Russia or the West. However, there will always be great power rivalries in world politics, and misunderstanding or misjudgment might lead to policies that perpetuated this “Security Dilemma” between Russia and the West in the first place, and the resulting centrifugal force is pulling EU and the West apart as it struggles to chart a course….While this is not a new Cold War from any measurable angle, it is definitely a great power rivalry that has returned in the forefront. Careful policy and communication is needed to prevent it from escalation.” [Maitra 2018:5]

“Russia would like to return to a world of spheres of influence, with three great powers forming a global security directorate, while China wants a two-power world. Beijing is prepared to have Moscow as a junior partner but not as an equal. The Chinese leadership does not want confrontation with the US but finds it hard to see a way to a co-operative great power relationship. [Sawers 2016:2]

The current power structure in the world is being influenced by factors that may be beyond the control of any government. The influence of cyber warfare and interference in banking, elections and other areas may be the greatest factor that forces global cooperation and dialogue since even small countries have the potential for bringing the powerhouses to their knees if they are able to infiltrate key systems.

“An approach is needed that puts global stability first. Strong defence is essential…What that requires is acceptance of each other’s systems of government, however much we may dislike them, and clear limits to hostile action to which all adhere. Cyber is a crucial theatre, where rules have to be agreed so that we do not threaten to bring down each other’s power grids or banking systems. [Sawers 2016:3]

Implementing the New Paradigm

Paul Meshanko, an organizational change expert, uses neurology to explain how our brains are influenced by how we are treated by others. When we are treated with respect, our brains literally charge up and perform at their highest levels. When we are treated with disrespect, the part of our brain that is capable of performing tasks is deactivated. The chemical balance in the brain may take hours to return to normal levels; meanwhile we are not productive until that happens. [Meshanko 2013:44] 

If it is easier to treat people with disrespect than respect, then we need to start our movement toward a New Paradigm with a discussion of language. How we talk to each other and what kind of language we accept when others speak to us. A simplistic idea that might help create a critical mass of people who demand change could be creating a pervasive message on social media that promotes, or even demands, respect and to which we hold each other, and our leaders, accountable. After all, whether it’s a school bully or a political dictator, bad actors get away with bad behavior when others don’t resist or intervene to stop it.

The social media campaign, and personal action, could change the behavioral expectations of people within communities all over the world. Imagine the impact of constantly having messages sent on SMS, text messaging or through Facebook and LinkedIn messages stated “Treat Each Other With Respect” or “You Deserve Respect.” “Don’t Be A Bully.” Reprograming our own expectations of behavior will affect the way we treat others and allow ourselves to be treated.

Another strategy is to change how future leaders think about conflict. One of the initiatives promoted by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a Peace Education program for schools that hopes to grow peace through educating children on strategies that will help them address disagreements without resorting to violence:

“Education for non-violence and peace includes training, skills and information directed towards cultivating a culture of peace based on human rights principles. This education not only provides knowledge about a culture of peace, but also imparts the skills and attitudes necessary to defuse and recognize potential conflicts, and those needed to actively promote and establish a culture of peace and non-violence. The learning objectives of peace education may include an understanding of the manifestations of violence, the development of capacities to respond constructively to that violence and specific knowledge of alternatives to violence. Two fundamental concepts of peace education are respect and skills. Respect refers to the development of respect for self and for others; skills refer to specific communication, cooperation and behavioral skills used in conflict situations.” [UNESCO 2008:3]

Education must be followed with actions that promote greater understanding in the world. It can’t be focused as much on simply ending war, but also addressing the underlying causes of war. This change in focus was articulated well by former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammad:

“We all know that there is no humanitarian solution to humanitarian problems.  The solution is always political.  And the protracted nature of current humanitarian emergencies means we must view them from a perspective of medium- and long-term resilience and development.  We have to make the shift from delivering humanitarian aid to ending humanitarian needs.

“To achieve this, development and humanitarian stakeholders must harness their diverse missions, mandates, capacities and resources towards the same goal.  Rather than bridging the traditional gap, they must work together from the very beginning of a crisis, reducing risks and building resilience to prevent it from escalating…. [Mohammed 2017:1]

After we teach children those strategies that effectively and respectfully address conflict, we can move to the university level and support peace studies. For example, each year, Rotary International selects up to 100 professionals from around the world to receive fellowships to study at one of six peace centers located throughout the world: Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (North Carolina, USA), International Christian University (Tokyo, Japan), University of Bradford (Bradford, England), University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia), Uppsala University (Uppsala, Sweden) and Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok, Thailand). The programs as these centers are designed to train leaders in cross-cultural awareness, negotiation, peace and conflict research, leadership and public speaking. In just over a decade, there have been more than 1,000 peace fellows trained and they are influencing the world by serving as leaders in their local jobs, at international organizations and through their own foundations. The potential impact of replicating this model is infinite. [Rotary International 2018:1]

When we do focus on the same goal and commit resources to peace, we must also include a significant number of women in these discussions, plans and actions. When there is gender balance, groups make better discussions and are more likely to follow through with agreed-upon recommendations. The 2016 UN Women report “Facts and Figures: Peace and Security” made the following points:

· When women are included in peace processes there is a 20 per cent increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least 2 years, and a 35 per cent increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years. 

· Between 9.5 per cent and 13 per cent of global military spending could eliminate extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, if funds were channeled to improve agriculture and rural infrastructure in poor communities.

· In 2015 alone, the world spent an estimated US $34 billion on UN peacekeeping and humanitarian aid for victims of conflict and refugees.

· In the same year, experts also estimate that the total global cost of violence and conflict around the world was US $13.6 trillion. This is a cost of more than US $1,800 per person on the planet.

Finally, Peace is a decision. When committed, thoughtful people decide to stop fighting and decide to make peace instead of war, it can happen. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;

indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead




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On Assignment

June, 2019. Assigned to cover the Rotary International Conference in Hamburg, Germany. Written article and photographs were published in the Rotary District 5495 newsletter. The article can be found at 

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