Joel Bell, Chairman

The idea for the Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership grew out of years of discussion, even argument, on issues of the day that occurred between friends. In fact, Sheldon Chumir and I became closer friends through debate – exchanges that we based on enquiry, investigation, informed views and personal tenacity, whether shared or conflicting. Further, questioning what individuals, groups and public authorities could and should do for the betterment of communities was part of the effort. Both of us held public service and private sector positions – and continued the debate through those periods. We explicitly saw a necessity of being able to explain and defend with those affected the policies we promoted as a pre-condition of espousing a view.

We discussed the establishment of a forum for the debate this implies as Sheldon’s premature death seemed imminent. The Foundation that followed has striven to identify the issues that most destabilize our environments and to analyze the choices that would best contribute to a fair, harmonious and productive society. We have delved, particularly in recent years, into a select few subjects we felt were important, inadequately addressed and on which we believed we might make some contribution.

This has led us currently to dedicate our capacities to programs aimed at understanding and ameliorating particular situations:

  • Three Powers and World Order: The poor state of dialogue between major world powers – United States, China and Russia - and the consequent greatly elevated risk of conflict, intentional or otherwise; in their direct dealings, or arising from their alliances and rivalries. Communications are poorer than during the Cold War. Power and expectation shifts that are underway exacerbate tensions. Management of the risks and optimizing of opportunities through dialogue that is politically encouraged, or at least safe domestically, are priority issues.
  • Forced Displacement: The large and growing number of forcibly displaced people - more people than ever before in modern history - their vulnerability and socio-economic exclusion; and the burdens on often poor neighboring host communities. Suffering, wasted human and economic potential, stirred-up nationalism, xenophobia and security risks, result. There are a number of critical policy issues relating to those to be protected and assisted, effectiveness of the support provided, honest and constructive narrative, ultimate inclusion and the sharing of burdens and responsibilities. But, development and gainful employment of those displaced and residents of host communities are essential to any durable solution. Public resources for the task are limited. Global economic gain and socio-political benefits for each of donors, hosts, displaced and for global security are possible from strategic deployment of those resources to establish an environment viable for ventures by the much larger private sector. This is not happening at anywhere near sufficient levels under current techniques and institutions. Something more is required and proposed.
  • Technology, Productivity and Income Distribution: The anomalous fact of new technologies that involve significantly greater productivity emerging alongside slow overall productivity and output growth; and, accompanied by a strikingly and increasingly inequitable distribution of income (as well as, consequentially, of social and political influence). Evidence suggests that some of the same conditions and policies lead to both the disparities and to the slow productivity and output growth; and that they, rather than the technological innovations themselves, are the root cause of current distributional trends. Fairness, incentivizing innovation, productivity, growth - and the avoidance of socio-political resistance to technological innovation and to productivity-enhancing international distribution of activity are not necessarily trade-offs and would all be served by some policy adjustments.
  • The Role of Art in Society: The arts do not remake geopolitics. The arts do shape man. Man does shape major events. Arts influence individuals, communities and values, fostering creativity, diversity and shared human experience. The arts have most often enriched lives as both a reflection of and influence on communities and their members. Iconic artists have leadership opportunities. We explore the potential for the arts in both the pluralism of their shared human interests and safeguards against nationalistic or xenophobic abuse.

In keeping with our belief in the enriching qualities of diversity, pluralism and informed dialogue, we undertake most of our programming in collaboration with think tanks and individuals steeped in the selected subject matter. Research, reporting and focused discussions are our programming – integrity in debate matters for a healthy community. Youth and their education are priorities being served by a North American Foreign Policy Institute and the development of a curriculum addressing the impact and role of the arts in society.

This website introduces our selected initiatives, reports on the conditions and choices seen and suggests preferred and practical actions – we describe the effort as one of ‘making ethics work’. We hope it facilitates and encourages your probing and dialogue in search of the facts and best public interest choices. We invite your participation in our work and urge the embrace of discussion across differences, rather than a retreat behind the shelter of like-mindedness and avoidance of dialogue.

Our fundamental mission is to examine the actions, impacts and motivations of societal members and leaders; expose, inform and debate the considerations taken into account in determining action; foster public engagement and considered expectations of their leaders; and contribute to processes of decision-making that accommodate the diverse circumstances and interests of members of a community – all foundations of a healthy society, sound and trusted governance, as well as of democracy. Cumulatively, that is the practice of ‘Ethics in Leadership’.

Joel Bell
Founding Chairman

Contact Info:

Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership

10 East 62nd Street 6th Floor
New York, NY 10065