About the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law


CDDRL About ACSesh 2
Draper Hills Summer Fellows participate in an academic session during the summer program at the Bechtel Conference Center.

» Director's Message

Since 2002, the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University has collaborated widely with academics, policymakers and practitioners around the world to advance knowledge about the conditions for and interactions among democracy, broad-based economic development, human rights, and the rule of law. 

The mission of CDDRL is to understand how countries can overcome poverty, instability, and abusive rule to become prosperous, just, democratic, and well-governed states. This concern for the overall trajectory of national development—and for the intricate links among the economic, political, legal, social, and health dimensions of development—sets CDDRL apart from other research centers.

CDDRL is home to a dynamic interdisciplinary research community of innovative and distinguished faculty members and scholars from around the world. Their work spans the globe and bridges the divide between academic research and policy analysis, forging partnerships not only with other research centers but also with international development agencies, governments and civil society organizations in numerous countries.

The Center's research agenda is comprised of six core programs that explore some of the most intractable problems and most exciting innovations in the study of development and democracy. In addition, CDDRL’s practitioner-based programs train and equip emerging leaders with the knowledge, tools and networks to be more effective in advancing democratic change.

While it is a research center, CDDRL is also actively engaged in teaching (both undergraduate and graduate) through academic courses, an interdisciplinary senior honors program, a fellowship program for pre and post-doctoral students, and online outreach beyond Stanford.

Policy engagement is an important part of our mission. CDDRL organizes intellectual and policy dialogues aimed at improving development practice and political institutions while increasing public understanding of economic and political development. CDDRL events have involved many prominent current and former policy officials from the United States and other countries. Several CDDRL scholars have served in government (or are now on leave serving). Many of our speakers and summer fellows have been leaders or innovators in politics, civil society, and private enterprise in their countries. CDDRL endeavors to engage, learn from, and advise governmental and nongovernmental leaders and organizations that are working to foster effective democracy, inclusive development, human rights, and a rule of law that controls corruption and widens access to justice.

Within Stanford, CDDRL has emerged as a convening place for both research and teaching on democracy and governance. Our interdisciplinary, policy-related focus naturally propels the Center toward interaction with a wide range of other campus programs, from the global public health work at the School of Medicine to the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED) at the Graduate School for Business.


The Center's six core research programs explore issues of democracy and good governance; economic and social development; the rule of law; and human rights. They are led by CDDRL faculty members who work together with resident and non-resident researchers to pioneer new studies, activities and partnerships. Their geographic scope is far-reaching, including the Arab world, Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, the United States and other advanced democracies.

  • The Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective investigates the nature, scope and causes of poor democratic performance in the United States, and seeks to assess potential policy responses and institutional reforms that could improve the quality of American democracy.
  • The Program on Arab Reform and Democracy examines the different social and political dynamics within Arab countries and the evolution of their political systems, focusing on the prospects, conditions and possible pathways for democratic reform in the region.
  • The Governance Project better conceptualizes and measures governance to understand how it functions in two societies ­­— the People’s Republic of China and the United States.
  • The Program on Human Rights seeks to understand how human rights can best be deployed to advance social justice, freedom, equality, development and the rule of law.
  • The Program on Liberation Technology examines and tests how information technology can be used to improve governance, empower the poor, defend human rights, promote economic development, and pursue a variety of other social goods.
  • The Program on Poverty and Governance seeks to understand how effective public action and good governance are essential to eliminate poverty.

For a complete list of CDDRL's research projects, please click here. 


CDDRL-affiliated faculty members teach a number of courses at Stanford and also engage with the undergraduate and graduate communities through the following initiatives:

  • The Undergraduate Senior Honors program welcomes students from diverse majors across the university to write original theses on topics related to democracy, development, good governance, and the rule of law. 
  • The Pre and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program welcomes exceptional Ph.D. students and new Ph.D. scholars to spend the year in residency at Stanford to conduct their own research and contribute to the intellectual life of the center.


CDDRL's practitioner-based training programs engage emerging civic leaders and social entrepreneurs who are working to achieve or deepen democracy and social justice in some of the most challenging environments around the world. Mid-career practitioners in politics, government, civil society, the mass media, and private enterprise come to Stanford University to benefit from academic training, mutual reflection, and engagement with the surrounding civic and technology communities. As a consequence, they become empowered to work more creatively and effectively for democracy and development, and CDDRL gains priceless knowledge about and connections with development practice around the world.

  • The Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program provides a unique three-week training for practitioners from the developing world to connect, exchange experiences and receive academic training to enrich their knowledge and advance their work. Entering its tenth year in 2014, the program has an alumni network of over 230 members from over 60 developing and aspiring democracies worldwide.
  • The Program on Social Entrepreneurship  integrates the on-the-ground experience of social entrepreneurs from around the world with cutting-edge academic research at Stanford University. The 10-week fellowship program brings social entrepreneurs inside the classroom through hands-on learning experiences and allows them a reprieve from the demands of their work as social change leaders. 

Updated: December 2013

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