President Hassan Rouhani’s victory in the Iranian elections on May 19 was not only a clear victory for the country’s moderates, but also a win for global nuclear security. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, is the hallmark of Rouhani’s presidency and his reelection has, for the moment, protected his legacy. Despite Rouhani’s win, however, the nuclear deal faces significant challenges and is at risk of falling apart. Outside of Rouhani’s base, the JCPOA faces apathetic, or even hostile, political leaders, a misinformed public—both at home and abroad—and a weakened Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). It is imperative that the deal be maintained to achieve a more stable Middle East and, ultimately, establish global nuclear security. Within Iran, the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) perpetuate the idea of a revolutionary Iran, decrying the deal and fueling militias throughout the region. Outside of Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia belittle the deal as little more than a delay in the path to an Iranian bomb, while the current United States government is apathetic to the JCPOA at best. But the JCPOA is more than just an Iran-United States, or even Middle East, issue and these governments ought to shift their focus to maintaining the deal intact. The notion of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons sparks fears of a nuclear arms race, or all-out war in the Middle East, and puts the entire region on edge. For example, Saudi Arabia, Iran’s primary regional rival, has been accused of ordering nuclear weapons from Pakistan in response to Iran’s nuclear progress under former President Ahmadinejad’s administration. And Israel, which has long held a policy of strategic opacity with regard to its nuclear arsenal, has made it clear that it is willing to conduct unilateral strikes against Iran to curtail its nuclear activities. Israel has shown its willingness to act unilaterally: Israeli air strikes destroyed Syria’s principal research facility when the Syrian Assad regime was accused of using the site to develop nuclear weapons. Given the region’s volatility, the JCPOA is well positioned to be a stabilizing force. By limiting and monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities, the deal removes incentives for Iran’s neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons themselves, or start a preventative war. Beyond the Middle East, the JCPOA demonstrates that the NPT, the authority that supports the nuclear deal, is still a relevant and functioning framework for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons. Since entering into force in 1970, the NPT has served as the primary international mechanism to enforce nuclear nonproliferation through its enforcement arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The nuclear deal represents an alternative path to that of North Korea, which had been testing the strength of the NPT for years, finally withdrawing in 2003 and proceeding to develop nuclear weapons at an accelerating pace. Iran, on the other hand, remained within the Treaty framework, albeit insisting that its program was for civilian use only. After a period of rising tensions during Ahmadinejad’s administration, caused by economic hardship from falling oil prices and Western sanctions, and electoral disputes from the contentious 2009 election, newly elected President Rouhani initiated talks with the United Nation’s P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany). The months of often tedious sessions ultimately resulted in the JCPOA in July 2015. The most important aspects of the deal are the mandate that the IAEA take the lead on inspections and that Iran adopt the additional protocol to the Treaty, which gives IAEA inspectors the most thorough access to nuclear sites in order to detect potential weapons proliferation. This is, above all, why the nuclear deal must be upheld to fulfill its terms. North Korea’s withdrawal is one direct challenge to the treaty, and the so-called ban treaty, poses yet another. Currently under negotiation by 115 non-nuclear states, including Austria, Mexico, Argentina, and Switzerland, the ban treaty risks becoming a competing framework to the NPT, further weakening it by presenting the potential for a ban treaty country to claim immunity from international inspections due to their participation in an alternate framework. Ensuring the JCPOA’s success will strengthen the Treaty. Its success illustrates that diplomacy and inspections can successfully limit nuclear weapons without resorting to a grandiose ban treaty. It is also crucial that the general public understands the gravity of the nuclear deal; that it is a global nuclear security issue and not just a so-called “bad deal” with an “unfriendly” country. By the terms of the JCPOA itself, the deal is succeeding: the IAEA and US Secretary of State Tillersonconfirmed that Iran is in full compliance with the terms of the agreement. Yet, both the Iranian hardline establishment and current US government seem to be waiting for it to fail. In the United States, news coverage highlights the IRGC’s nefarious activities and the anti-American rhetoric of the Supreme Leader, rather than focusing on the successes of the deal. To ensure the JCPOA does not fail, governments must garner public support by raising awareness of the fact that the deal is indeed effective, despite Washington and Iranian hardliner’s attitudes. To sustain the agreement, the court of public opinion matters, but so do regional stakeholders. The UN could bring relevant stakeholders in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, into the inspection and verification processes, thus demonstrating that the IAEA is reliable and capable of holding Iran, and others, accountable. This would build the trust necessary to maintain nuclear security norms beyond the terms of the JCPOA itself, and to ensure that the agreement remains in force. Outside of regime change in Iran itself, positive public reinforcement and regional trust building will save the JCPOA and work to foster positive nuclear security. Maintaining the JCPOA is the best way to create positive peace in the Middle East. It is up to the international community, and moderates within Iran, to ensure that the JCPOA has a chance to live up to its expectations. About the author: John Ashley is the Nuclear Security Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). John received a Master of International Policy from the University of Georgia, where he concentrated in CBRN nonproliferation and international security.  

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.