Hub for global digital policy launches at Stanford


The Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University announced today that it has launched the Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi). GDPi’s mission is to help develop governance norms for the global digital ecosystem that reinforce democratic values, universal human rights and the rule of law. It will serve as a multi-stakeholder collaboration hub at Stanford for technologists, governments, civil society and the private sector actors. GDPi will identify and incubate global policy and governance innovations that enhance freedom, security and trust in the digital realm. 


GDPi will be led by Eileen Donahoe who is widely recognized as a leading advocate for human rights in the digital realm, and as an experienced international lawyer and diplomat working to develop global norms for Internet governance and digital policy.  

Donahoe was appointed by President Obama to serve as the first United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. After leaving government, Donahoe served as director of global affairs at Human Rights Watch, where she represented the organization worldwide on human rights foreign policy, with special emphasis on digital rights, cybersecurity and Internet governance. 

“Silicon Valley is a natural locus for cross-sector international collaboration on global digital norms,” said Donahoe. “Our mission will be to facilitate development of operational policies and processes to address societal challenges that arise from technological innovation. I am so excited to have the opportunity to build this global innovation hub for digital policy at CDDRL, the perfect home for this dynamic and interdisciplinary project.”  

GDPi will explore the complex roles of government and private sector technology firms in the digital environment. While rapid adoption of digital technology has brought many benefits and challenges to society, most legal and governance institutions have not kept pace or adjusted to meet the corresponding changes.  

GDPi will address governance challenges in four interrelated areas: digital rights; digital security; artificial Intelligence-based governance and trans-national Internet governance. The initiative seeks to engage stakeholders in new articulations of existing international human rights and humanitarian law.  

Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and an affiliated faculty member at CDDRL, will serve as the principal investigator on the GDPi project.  

“We are really delighted that Eileen Donahoe has agreed to join CDDRL as adjunct professor and executive director of the new GDPi,” said Diamond. “Every month, it seems, social media and other digital tools are becoming more and more powerful and pervasive in their effects on our politics, government and daily lives. As digital technology races forward, it not only generates new platforms and possibilities for human empowerment, but it also poses growing challenges for human rights and individual, national and international security.”   

Diamond launched the Program on Liberation Technology (LibTech) at CDDRL in 2009 to examine how technology has empowered democratic progress. GDPi is a successor to the LibTech program, enabling the Stanford team to take a more comprehensive and policy-oriented approach to digital policy challenges - involving not only research but also innovation to incubate new ideas and approaches.  

Quarterly workshops and an annual global conference will be the foundation for GDPi’s work in the coming year.  

The GDPi initiative joins five other core research programs at CDDRL, which probe some of the most urgent issues facing the field of democracy and development. Working in partnership with other institutes on campus, the program will benefit from the guidance and active engagement of cross-disciplinary faculty from Stanford Law School, the Center for Internet and Society, the Stanford Cyber Initiative and the Center for Social Innovation at the Graduate School of Business. 

Michael McFaul, director of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies expressed confidence that GDPi will help solidify Stanford’s role as a global thought-leader on governance challenges that flow from digital technology. 

“The Global Digital Policy Incubator will become an important hub at Stanford, as we seek to help government and private sector policymakers address governance challenges of the 21st century digital world.”  

More information about the Global Digital Policy Incubator can be found at




The picture in the left upper corner: Eileen Donahoe addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where she served as the first US Ambassador 2010-2013.

The picture on the right: Eileen Donahoe with President Obama during her tenure at the UNHRC.