In April 2018, Ambassador Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein officially announced he would not seek a second term as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As the international community navigates a troubling retreat from human rights, Ambassador Hussein has been an unapologetically vocal critic of the illiberal world order—one seemingly favored Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump, to name a few. The last year of Hussein’s mandate proved to be the most trying and, given the challenges he’s confronted over the past four years, ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. We are in an era that is increasingly impervious to human rights—and the High Commissioner’s stepping down is indicative of this bleak reality. When then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon first appointed ambassador Hussein in September 2014, the global human rights snapshot was already quite grim. The world was scrambling to deal with the scourge of the so-called Islamic State, Syria was three-years deep in a bloody civil war, and Russia was gearing up for yet another land grab, this time in Ukraine. Decades of conflict in the Middle East and Africa had forced waves of refugees to Europe, which stoked the xenophobic fires of right-wing political parties to gain significant support in many European countries. In short, Ambassador Hussein had a packed agenda from the start. It was the series of events starting in 2016 that proved to be the most difficult, and indeed insurmountable for Ambassador Hussein. From the rise of chauvinistic nationalism in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, to the prevalence of unchecked war crimes committed in Myanmar, the Philippines, and Yemen. It’s a small wonder Ambassador Hussein called this an “appalling climate for advocacy.” Yet, it’s hardly the presence of these moral scourges that have worn down the Ambassador, but rather the international community’s inability to rise to the challenges to counter them. Whether this inaction stems from institutions like the UN and its gridlock on Syria and Israel, or on a state level—like the United States’ shameful support of the Saudi military in the Yemen crisis—it appears Ambassador Hussein is the world’s sole conscience on human rights, and he’s been fighting alone. The UN’s failure to address international crises cannot be overstated. The fact that the United States, Russia, and China politicize their veto power in the Security Council to their own interests has effectively robbed the international community of what was promised to them: an impartial governing body to maintain international peace and security. The High Commissioner has long bemoaned the stifled Security Council on its inability to put aside its own geopolitical interests in favor of policies that respond to crises. The most obvious example being Russia’s constant vetoing of Security Council resolutions that work to act against—or even condemn—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s policy of indiscriminately targeting civilians. The United States also blocked a resolution condemning Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian protestors in Gaza this past April. The Security Council is hardly the only human rights disappointment giving the High Commissioner grief as individual states’ policies have been a particularly troubling source of abuses, ones that the High Commissioner has made his business to openly condemn. He has suggested that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte seek psychiatric treatment and blasted President Trump’s xenophobic policies of separating families and barring entire religious groups from entering the United States. Ambassador Hussein has no plans to go gently into that good night. The rise of ultra-nationalist right-wing parties who seek to ostracize immigrants, refugees, and others has posed a particular challenge to the High Commissioner’s work. In April, Hungary re-elected Viktor Orban for the third time, a Prime Minister who has been a vocal critic of immigration and Europe’s visage of democratic backsliding, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. The High Commissioner’s mandate is not nearly as vast as, for example, that of the UN Security Council. He supervises the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and other UN bodies like the General Assembly and the Security Council on human rights situations. In many regards, it’s not hard to understand his frustration. Being a champion of human rights in this climate is to constantly observe its most frightening downturn in recent history and without the ability effectuate the kind of change to end it. Ambassador Hussein is set to step down at the end of August, and UN Secretary General António Guterres has already tapped former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to serve as the seventh High Commissioner for Human Rights. When asked during an outgoing press conference if he had any advice for his successor, he offered the same words of wisdom that his predecessor, Navi Pillay, left him with: just come out swinging. And that’s what he did. It’s unclear what lies ahead for Ambassador Hussein, but his stepping down is nevertheless an ominous foreboding for human rights, at least in the immediate future. About the author: Rosemary Youhana is the 2018 Human Rights Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). Previously, Youhana worked as an advocacy associate at the Assyrian Universal Alliance Americas Chapter where she collaborated with civil society organizations based in Iraq, Syria and Turkey on human rights issues facing ethnic and religious minorities. She holds BAs in International Relations and French from the University of California Santa Barbara and a Master’s in International Affairs with a focus on human rights and global governance from American University’s School of International Service. UN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.