Webcast on Global Challenges & Opportunities

Webcast on

Global Challenges & Opportunities

May 13, 2013


The Issue

The world faces an unprecedented dilemma. Expanding opportunities are emerging side by side with intensifying problems. The proliferation of money, technology, education and global interdependence which have been the main drivers of global development is accompanied by rising levels of financial instability, pollution, unemployment, inequality, arms proliferation and social unrest. Persistent poverty co-exists side by side with unprecedented prosperity. Rising levels of  inequality and unemployment are spreading discontent and social unrest at a time when social welfare nets are overstrained by an aging population. Economic growth is depleting the world’s  natural resource base at an alarming rate while threatening long term catastrophic changes in  climate. The competition for scarce resources is aggravating nationalist competition at a time when international cooperation is essential for coping with common global challenges. Globalization is breaking down the barriers insulating national economies, making states increasingly vulnerable to destabilizing impacts from beyond national borders. Proliferation of nuclear and other weapons poses new threats to national and regional security. Humanity seems driven by mutually exclusive, contradictory goals leading to apparently insoluble problems.

Quest for a New Paradigm

Humanity today faces a pressing need to move beyond a mere description of the crises which has already been well documented. There is presently no consensus as to whether real, effective solutions are possible to address the full spectrum of global challenges and what those solutions should be. Solutions can only be found by looking beyond the prevailing framework of values, ideas, strategies, policies, and institutions on which current solutions are based. An essential condition for addressing these challenges is to present a comprehensive conceptual framework that sets forth the enabling conditions, governing values and principles, strategies and necessary steps.

Background on the Webcast

The World Academy of Art & Science has recently launched an initiative bringing together like-minded organizations and individuals to identify the core elements of an integrated perspective, a comprehensive strategy and detailed policy framework capable of addressing these multiple challenges founded on a more fundamental paradigm change.

This Webinar is a prelude to the international conference on “Opportunities & Challenges for the 21st Century – Need for a New Paradigm” organised in collaboration with the United National Office, Geneva, on June 3, 2013 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva and a workshop at the Library of Alexandria on June 5&6, 2013.

The objective of these events is to identify elements of a comprehensive approach for dealing with the major challenges facing humanity today. Discussions will address the following fundamental questions in an interrelated manner:

  1. Economy & Employment: How can global food security, full employment and abolition of poverty be achieved within a decade?
  2. Energy & Ecology: How can global living standards be raised to middle class levels without depleting or destroying the environment or depriving future generations of the capacity to sustain these achievements?
  3. Human CapitalEducation, Health & Welfare: How can global levels of education and public health be raised to OECD level?
  4. Money & Finance: How can the necessary financial resources be generated and mobilized to achieve the goals described in the first three questions?
  5. Security: How can we permanently eliminate war and WMD that threaten to destroy all other development achievements?
  6. Global Governance: How can we design and implement systems of global governance capable of implementing necessary measures to achieve the other five goals for the welfare and well-being of all?

The scope of discussion will encompass

  • Common root causes of the multiple global crises
  • Ideas, principles and values on which comprehensive solutions need to be based
  • Strategies, policies, proposals, legal and institutional mechanisms
  • Actionable steps

Topics for the Webcast

  1. Role of Crises in Social Evolution: What is the role of crises in the greater scheme of social evolution?
  2. Historical Perspective: What can we learn from historical experience about the most successful ways to deal with major crises?
  3. Understanding Crises: How do perceptions impact on the way people define and deal with crises?
  4. Resolving Crises:  How do perceptions determine the range of envisioned, proposed, and enacted solutions?
  5. Social Change: What kind of social re-structuring has taken place in societies during and after a crisis?
  6. Values:  What role can values play in successfully addressing crises?
  7. Global Governance: What do current crises tell us about the future of global governance, human rights and responsibilities?
  8. Leadership: What role can individuals and organizations play in resolving global challenges? 
  9. Research: What role interdisciplinary research play in the formulation of effective solutions?  

Background Papers

  1. In Search of a New Paradigm for Global Development by Garry Jacobs & Ivo Slaus, Cadmus Vol 1, Issue 6, May 2013
  2. Adelaide’s Lament: Exploring Our Inability to Make Reliable Sense of Our Situation by Ruben Nelson, Eruditio Vol 1, Issue 2, March 2013
  3. New Paradigm by Ruben Nelson

Outcome of the Project

The May webcast will be followed by live discussions in Geneva, Alexandria and other locations. One anticipated outcome will be a definitive report examining the interrelationships between peace, security, economy, employment, global governance, rule of law, ecology, social process, technology, organization, education, research, culture and individuality and setting forth the elements of a comprehensive, integrated approach to effectively address the multiple challenges posed by their complex interactions.


Introduction to Global Challenges & Opportunities

Need for A New Paradigm
Garry Jacobs

Need for A New Paradigm
Ljudmila Popovich

Civilizational Change
Ruben Nelson

Future Finance
Suleika Reiners

Effective Systemic Tools for Promoting Change
Alberto Zucconi

Global Strategy for Higher Education
Janani Ramanathan

Web-seminar Report – The Role of Crises in Social Evolution: Lessons from History

This WAAS web-seminar held on May 13, 2013 was designed as a follow-up to the Trieste conference and preparation for discussions at the United Nations in Geneva and the Library of Alexandria. Recognizing the need for a new paradigm of human development, the Trieste forum called for a trans-disciplinary theory of social change and evolution. The web seminar reviewed the historical role of crises in social evolution and sought insights relevant to addressing the present global challenges confronting humanity today.

Ivo Šlaus emphasized the centrality of Human Capital. He pointed out some paradoxical characteristics of modern times regarding development of Human Capital, such as the tension between freedom and social responsibility in a multicultural world, and stressed the need for evolved ways to reconcile them.

Re-asserting the need for a new paradigm, Garry Jacobs emphasized that the complexity of these challenges necessitates a transdisciplinary, integrated approach, illustrating how the problem of unemployment was linked not only to economy but also to public policy, education, health, psychological well-being, crime, social stability, and terrorism. He urged the forum to go beyond analysis of causes to the formulation of a set of ideas, values, principles, strategies and policies that will lead to inter-sectoral and integrated action.

Mila Popovich offered insights from past world crises by focusing on the decline and break-down of former empires and their ambiguous nature, by which they possessed both the most unifying and the most destructive power. Evaluating crises in their simultaneously disintegrative and regenerative potential for social evolution, she identified key systemic features that need to be taken into account for present solutions and future organization.

Ruben Nelson examined the grand civilizational design and progress of humanity, inquiring about the choices of forms of civilization and human culture. When we call for the preservation of civilization, Nelson observed, we rarely question what we mean by civilization. He pointed out the complete absence of critical reflection on the inherent desirability of the modern industrial civilization as it exists today.

Drawing on examples from history, Suleika Reiners of the World Future Council examined a set of policy measures for future finance. She proposed key initiatives to reclaim money creation for the public, taxation to eliminate destabilizing financial speculation, implementation of slow finance, and the benefits of a global currency.

Alberto Zucconi quoted Einstein’s observation that we cannot solve problems with the same tools with which we created them. In the lack of effective tools to observe the problem, Zucconi traces reductionist thinking and denial as the causes of the failure to adopt a different matrix. He presented compelling evidence that investments in human well-being, such as preventive protection and promotion of health in the workplace, generates significant return on investment.

Janani Harish concluded by examining the advantages and challenges of online education as part of a global strategy for higher education. The current paradigm of higher education is inadequate to eliminate the qualitative skills gap faced by economically advanced nations and the enormous quantitative gap in access to higher education faced by developing countries. Online education is the most effective strategy to address both these needs in the shortest time and most affordable manner. She called for the establishment of a truly global delivery system capable of providing quality higher education to hundreds of millions of additional students.

The proposal was made for creation of a New Paradigm Working Group to review and consolidate the insights of this seminar and the upcoming conferences.


Mila Popovich