CDDRL 2020 Year in Review

Stanford campus

CDDRL 2020 Year in Review

The year 2020 was a turbulent one for CDDRL, as it was for millions of people around the globe. It started normally enough with the publication of Larry Diamond’s Ill Winds: Saving democracy from Russian rage, Chinese ambition, and American complacency, and regular meetings of our weekly research seminar. The Poverty and Governance Program began producing a blizzard of research findings from its accumulated years of data collection. Things changed dramatically, however, in March with the shutdown of the university and shift to online meetings and teaching. Both Stanford and the nation saw a dramatic mobilization of people pushing for racial justice after the George Floyd killing in late May, and many of those in and around CDDRL were highly involved in the November 3 election as analysts, commentators, advocates, and of course voters. The pandemic itself became a focus of research for many of our faculty and scholars, since it provided a natural experiment in governance systems.

The health crisis unfortunately forced us to postpone our flagship Draper Hills Summer Fellows program, and moved other programs like the Leadership Academy for Development online. The new class of Ukrainian Emerging Leaders was selected, but were not allowed to come to campus in the fall. Our honors program had to delay its yearly visit to Washington in September, and our pre- and postdocs and visiting scholars unfortunately saw their interactions curtailed.

There were some benefits to the pandemic nonetheless: our weekly seminar, whose attendance was formerly limited by the size of our conference room, was suddenly open to people around the world, a huge number of whom used Zoom to listen to our speakers. And CDDRL was able to add a new program on Global Infrastructure, led by Mike Bennon, to its roster of research activities.

We are looking forward to being able to return to some semblance of normal face-to-face activities in 2021, though our ability to do so will obviously be out of our control. In the meantime, we hope to see you at one of our events online.

Francis Fukuyama, 
Mosbacher Director, CDDRL

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CDDRL Statement on Building Racially Inclusive Democracies

The Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law joins other university centers at Stanford in condemning the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and David McAtee, and expressing our outrage at police violence towards demonstrators around the country. Such statements of solidarity, however, are not enough. It is incumbent on institutions here at Stanford and around the United States to reflect on the force of racism in American life and to ask hard questions about their role...
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Introducing Our New Programs

This year brought the Program on Turkey, led by Ayça Alemdaroglu, and the Global Infrastructure Policy Initiative, led by Michael Bennon


Program on Turkey

The Program on Turkey at CDDRL is a platform for critical analysis and research on politics and society in Turkey. Through research projects, speaker events, and conferences, the Program seeks to provide and facilitate an understanding of the changing internal dynamics and external relations of the country in connection with global and regional developments and highlight potential agents and viable pathways for a democratic and sustainable future.
Bridge in China to represent new Global Infrastructure Policy Research Program

Global Infrastructure Policy Research Initiative

The Global Infrastructure Policy Research Initiative is a new research program at CDDRL headed by Michael Bennon. The Program will conduct research on policies to promote infrastructure development around the world, and how they interact with global democracy and politics, paying special attention to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as both an engine of development and an instrument for the projection of Chinese influence globally.
The Report of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age

The Report of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age

Watch Deputy Director of CDDRL Stephen J. Stedman in conversation with Mosbacher Director Francis Fukuyama

Protecting Electoral Integrity in the Digital Age

Democratic consolidation around the world currently faces major challenges. Threats to democracy have become more insidious, especially due to the manipulation of legal and constitutional procedures originally designed to guard democracy against arbitrary action and abuse. Free and fair elections, the cornerstone of democratic legitimacy, are under considerable stress from populism and post-truth movements, who abuse new digital communication technologies to confuse and mislead citizens. Today, free and fair elections, the primary expression of democratic will for collective government, are far from guaranteed in many countries around the world. Protecting them will require a new set of policies and actions from technological platforms, governments, and citizens.

In 2018 the Kofi Annan Foundation tapped four Stanford scholars at FSI to help advance one of its top priorities: to shed light on the rapidly-changing role of technology in elections around the world and to recommend ways of ensuring that digital tools strengthen—not undercut—democracy. To that end, the foundation formed the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age and named Stephen Stedman, a senior fellow at FSI and deputy director of CDDRL, to serve as its secretary general. This report on electoral integrity is the result of the commission's efforts in 2019. 

Read more in the report, and watch the full discussion here

How to Make Love to a Despot: An Alternative Foreign Policy for the Twenty-first Century

In April 2020, Stephen Krasner, a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, published the book "How to Make Love to a Despot". In the book, Krasner suggests that by embracing rational choice institutionalism, the U.S. should be working with the elites the way they are, rather than expecting them to abide by our standards; aiming for not more and not less than “good enough governance.” 

 "What I suggest in the book is what we should aim for is good enough governance that may turn into consolidated democracy at some point in the future, or it may not. It requires luck for that to happen, not just having the right conditions. But at least we wouldn't be inhibiting consolidated democracy from ultimately emerging," Krasner states. CDDRL interviewed him on his book, and you can read the discussion in full here


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Book Talk for How to Make Love to a Despot

Watch here

The 2020 Elections

The Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective aims to investigate problems with American democracy, including polarization and gridlock, poor governance, and declining trust in government institutions. This year the Program shifted its focus to covering the 2020 elections, with analysis on the existential threats to the democratic process, public policy and election infrastructure. 

This work culminated in "The Historic 2020 Elections" event on November 5. Bruce Cain, Hakeem Jefferson, Didi Kuo and Nathaniel Persily discussed the election results (or election challenges), Trump and Biden, key Congressional races, and what to expect between November and Inauguration Day. 

For more on the Program see HERE.



Flyer for the Historic 2020 Elections event featuring Bruce Cain, Hakeem Jefferson, Didi Kuo, and Nathaniel Persily.

The Historic 2020 Elections

Watch the event "The Historic 2020 Elections" with Bruce Cain, Hakeem Jefferson, Didi Kuo, and Nathaniel Persily.

Julia Azari, Ted Johnson, and David Brady

American Democracy and the 2020 Elections

Robert Lieberman and Suzanne Mettler

The Crisis of American Democracy

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Public Policy and the 2020 Elections

More Coverage of the 2020 Elections



The Program on Arab Reform and Democracy (ARD) continued to serve an important forum for examining cutting-edge research on political and social development in the Arab world. Notwithstanding the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ARD seminar series shifted to an online format and expanded its outreach remarkably. It hosted a number of timely seminars discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the politics and societies of the region. Bard College Historian Ziad Abu-Rish analyzed the trajectory of Lebanon's Uprising and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the contemporary political scene. CDDRL Visiting Scholar Nancy Okail examined authoritarianism responses to the Covid-19 crisis with a focus on Egypt. George Washington University Political Scientist Nathan Brown and CDDRL Senior Scholar Amr Hamzawy presented their co-authored research on the impact of the pandemic on the Egyptian bureaucracy.  

This year, the ARD seminar series featured discussions on new, innovative research, including AUC Political Scientist Amr Adly’s book on the failure of market-making in Egypt, and Harvard University Historian Rosie Bsheer’s recently published book on the politics of histories in Saudi Arabia. The series also examined a variety of salient policy questions, including ones related to the state of US democracy promotion in the Middle East, and the emergence of an exclusionary, repressive “peace” in Syria.


The Governance Project is moving forward with a survey launch in Kazakhstan in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration. The team is also working on a data sharing agreement with the public ministry in Mexico, aiming to help design a national civil service survey instrument. The Project also collaborated with the World Bank and University College London and published the article “Responding to COVID-19 through Surveys of Public Servants" in Public Administration Review.



As violence spirals upward in Latin America and inequality continues to prevail, investigating the problem and shaping public impact remains an urgent and compelling priority among social scientists focused on the region. To carry out the Lab’s mission of developing methodologically-innovative, evidence-based research, we partner with government agencies and police, public policy and civil society organizations, and a network of academic researchers to produce and disseminate new knowledge on the causes and consequences of poverty, violence and poor governance. The Lab sustained an active year of research activities, publishing and other research products, and teaching and training coursework and mentorship.

Read the Lab's full end of the year review here. 


Participants from Draper Hills and the Leadership Academy for Development in Georgia in 2018


The Leadership Network for Change is a network comprised of up and coming leaders and change-makers from all corners of the globe, alums from our three leadership programs: Draper Hills Summer Fellows, Leadership Academy for Development, and Ukrainian Emerging Leaders program. We are working to equip our alumni with an updated set of tools to tackle the world’s rapidly evolving policy dilemmas. These include a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), in-person and online events featuring lectures from our CDDRL faculty, and more.

The LNC alumni network continued to grow in 2020, now boasting over 1,700 mid-career public policy reformers as alumni. We moved most of our group interactions online this year, with social gatherings, panel presentations and discussions on timely topics drawing engagement from all regions represented. Highlights include an alumni helmed discussion on local experiences during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and a panel on trust in government presented in partnership with the Delivery Institute. LNC alumni can also look forward to more virtual events, opportunities to collaborate on small network projects, and the introduction of a new website in the coming year.

The Draper Hills class of 2019

Draper Hills Summer Fellowship Program

Although the 2020 Draper Hills Summer Fellows program was postponed due to COVID-19, our alumni have remained actively engaged in the Leadership Network for Change and other Stanford CDDRL events. We are continuing to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the program and are currently accepting applications for Summer 2021.
Francis Fukuyama teaching for the Leadership Academy for Development

Leadership Academy for Development

The COVID-19 pandemic posed quite the challenge to LAD’s favored in-person, internationally-located course model. We surmounted this challenge by moving our curriculum online, conducting a total of 5 virtual programs in 2020. New programs launched include two Training of Trainers modules in partnership with the Chandler Foundation for Governance and the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration, and a similar program with the Asian Development Bank and Asian Development Bank Institute.
Nariman Ustaiev, Yulia Bezvershenko, Denis Gutenko

Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Program

Despite the situation with COVID-19, the Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Program graduated its third cohort. Our alumni have continued to impress us with their efforts to improve Ukrainian democracy, and several have run for office in local elections, continued their reform work within the government, and launched creative ventures. The program has also selected Yulia Bezvershenko, Denis Gutenko, and Nariman Ustaiev to join the fourth cohort in 2021-22.




Postdoctoral Scholars Leah Rosenzweig, Nathan Grubman, and Salma Mousa


Each year the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law invites several pre and/or postdoctoral scholars to Stanford. Our fellows work in any of the three program areas of democracy, development, and rule of law. Over the course of the academic year, scholars use their fellowship to complete their projects, participate in seminars, and interact with each other and the resident faculty and research staff. 

This year we are very excited to have Nathan Grubman, Salma Mousa, and Leah Rosenzweig with us at the Center. We talked to them about their research interests, what they're working on while at Stanford, and why they chose to come to CDDRL. Read more and hear from them here

Postdoctoral Research

Nostalgia and Populisms in Contemporary Tunisia

Nostalgia and Populisms in Contemporary Tunisia

Nate Grubman, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, presents "Nostalgia and Populisms in Contemporary Tunisia" for the CDDRL Seminar Series

Salma Mousa, Postdoctoral Scholar

Building social cohesion through soccer in post-ISIS Iraq

Can intergroup contact build social cohesion after war? Learn more in this talk given by Salma Mousa, CDDRL Postdoctoral Scholar

Leah Rosenzweig, Postdoctoral Scholar

Informing Government Response to COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa

Governments in sub-Saharan Africa face tough choices in COVID-19 policy response. Postdoctoral scholar Leah Rosenzweig explains more on this subject

    Fisher Family CDDRL Honors Program
  • Fisher Family CDDRL Honors Program

Fisher Family CDDRL Honors Program

Eleven students from six disciplines graduated from the CDDRL Honors Program in 2020. Among them, five were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and two won awards for their thesis work. 

Bryce Tuttle's thesis, "Laboratories of Secrecy: Why some states have sold their sovereignty to criminals and kleptocrats" received the CDDRL Award for Outstanding Thesis 2020

Nick Kingsley's Thesis, "African Autocrats and Progressive Refugee Governance: Motivating and Evaluating the Illiberal Paradox in African Asylum Policy Through a Case Study of Uganda" received a Firestone Medal, given to the top 10% of all honors theses.