Proposal for A New 'Manhattan' Project
for Global Peace, Prosperity and Security (2001)

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After 50 years there is a clear challenge to make global institutions such as the UN, IMF, World Bank and GATT (now WTO) more effective in achieving peace, prosperity, equity, stability and harmony in the world.

Moreover since September 11th 2001, it is paramount that cultural issues be addressed, and that effective communication and cooperation across cultural divides be developed, in reforming the global system:

  • culture is critical to the goals of social / political development and to the rate / scale of economic performance; and
  • cultural differences are an obstacle to communication and a potential source of international misunderstanding and distrust.

To meet these challenges it is proposed that the US sponsor / establish a cross-cultural world project, a New 'Manhattan' Project for Global Peace and Prosperity, on behalf of the US-led Coalition against Terror.

The New Manhattan Project (NMP) would be a world collective of excellence, experience and enterprise, working through a cross-cultural set of specialist teams and practitioner / stakeholder forums, that could point the way to a stronger framework for global peace and security.

Aims of the NMP

  • develop realistic medium to long term strategies for promoting global peace and prosperity - thereby reducing global inequity, increasing ecological sustainability, better reconciling cultural differences and potentially curbing hate and terror;
  • engage stakeholders, from affected organizations and from communities in the developed and developing world, in evaluating and implementing these strategies in culturally effective ways; and
  • create a model cross-cultural community for ongoing informed interaction on social, historical, cultural and technological issues.

Cardinal Objectives

  • to review, re-develop and strengthen the United Nations and its agencies;
  • to reform the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization through a new 'Bretton Woods' process involving developed and developing regions;
  • to develop modern 'Marshall Aid' programs for the world's most disadvantaged regions such as some in Africa, the Middle East and South / Central Asia;
  • to develop strategies for developing regions to appropriately adapt Western systems for technological change, innovation and education that allow such regions to assimilate / manage these processes and their ongoing refinement; and
  • to develop global strategies for coping humanely with, and caring for, large people flows due to conflict / oppression, social / economic failures or environmental disasters.

Characteristics of the NMP

NMP would integrate the work of leaders, experts, scholars and practitioners in a multi-level project involving:

  • A Review Panel of global leaders (eg in politics, business, technology) to initiate, oversee and assess the NMP;
  • A network of interconnected Specialist Teams to develop proposals related to key NMP objectives. The Teams would: 
    • involve selected / nominated scholars, experts and practitioners drawn from developed and developing regions; 
    • cover different sectors (eg academia, industry, government, NGOs, communities) and disciplines (eg law, environment, technology, history, economics, communications); 
    • blend creativity, experience and innovation; and 
    • involve male / female parity and a blend of ages;
  • Stakeholder Forums to evaluate and report on practical implementation of Specialist Teams' proposals. The Forums would be drawn from those with experience in organizations that would have to implement the proposals, or communities who would be affected by them, and would operate in ways that are appropriate to their organizational and ethnic cultures.

Term: 2 + years


If this draft has merit then a small planning team might be sponsored to:

  • do the necessary legwork (eg review prior proposals for reform of the world order; identify practical methods for undertaking a cross-cultural NMP process); and
  • prepare a more comprehensive proposal.

December 2001



The NMP concept was originally suggested by, and has been refined in close collaboration with, Barry Walsh


Why a NMP? - A CPDS View

The only way to win the 'war against terror' is to eliminate its breeding grounds - eg inequalities that arises from economic ineptitude, alienation from the global order and despotic political systems. It is noteworthy that an 'Operation Noble Eagle' was originally reportedly proposed to the US-led Coalition against Terrorism to involve a very broad strategy in which military action played only a small part.

There is no known alternative to the 'democratic capitalism' (that has been developed in various ways in various societies) as the basic framework for a global order. For example, the inflexible option apparently favoured by Islamist extremists seems unlikely to work in practice (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism).

None-the-less there are serious problems. In practice the basis of global order is being undermined, and political and economic disorder like that that followed the collapse of 19th century globalization is not impossible  (see The Second Failure of Globalization?). For example:

  • The US, in unilaterally pursuing a war against terrorism, is in some danger of being seen to adopt an imperial style which could produce friction and alienate potential allies
  • The financial system appears unstable - with periodic crises (eg the Asian crisis of 1997-98; defaults in Russia / Argentina; 'irrational exuberance' (ie an asset bubble) in the USA; and massive unresolved bad debts in Japanese / Chinese institutions);
  • Financial imbalances could render economic growth unsustainable - if, as may well be the case, they have their origin in structural incompatibilities between different models of socio-political economy which result in an unsustainable potential demand-deficit in the global economy;
  • Serious global environmental constraints appear to be too slowly being resolved;
  • UN machinery doesn't work effectively - and there has been expectation about fundamental reform to deal more effectively with security arrangements [1, 2, 3, 4] following several years of earlier reform efforts;
  • The Bretton Woods triplets (IMF, World Bank and WTO) are promoting 'free market' solutions that do not in themselves create the capabilities required for economic success. A process to diffuse the knowledge and institutional capability required for economic leadership seems to be needed;
  • WTO discussions about further multilateral trade liberalization have failed;
  • Global inequality is extreme - with 30% of humanity in grinding poverty and 20% in sometimes-unhealthy affluence; and
  • improving global awareness about inequalities increases friction - and the potential for conflicts that can only make it more difficult to solve the above problems.

A useful way to visualize the present situation might involve a large number of 'teams' (major people groups)  playing in a field. Several of the teams are playing 'football' (democratic capitalism) and this makes them relatively strong and rich. In fact they are so strong that they can set the rules governing all the teams - and decide that the rules of football should prevail. However many of the teams on the field are not football teams. There is a team of baseball players, of swimmers, of judo-players, and of athletes. They are not well equipped to play football, are not doing very well, and would prefer to play games with different goals and rules. Furthermore football is a fairly rough game - and the playing field is suffering a fair bit of wear and tear. 

It had been expected that the Doha round of trade negotiations under the WTO would liberalise trade whilst taking more account of the interests of developing countries (McCormick R. 'A prosperous Australia is no island',  Financial Review,  12/2/02).

However even this would have been inadequate to resolve the difficulties which many communities suffer as a result of incompatibilities between their traditional cultures and Western-dominated globalisation (see Competing Civilizations

The NMP could provide an opportunity for: (a) people from the various 'teams' to talk about the rules and goals of future games and how they should be run and (b) various different types of 'teams' to consider how they might need to adapt to play well.

Updated October 2003