The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law Celebrates 20 Years of Global Impact
The center’s achievements include both informing public discourse about democracy, development, and rule of law, and also educating and training a generation of scholars and leaders who will change the world.
The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Nov. 3-4 by opening with a discussion on the most pressing challenges to global democracy today.
The Nov. 3 public keynote event will feature a panel of former and current CDDRL directors – Coit Blacker, Larry Diamond, Francis Fukuyama, Michael McFaul, and Kathryn Stoner. The title of the roundtable is “The Autocratic Challenge to Liberal Democracy and the Future of Global Development: The World 20 Years After the Founding of CDDRL.”
CDDRL is one of eight research centers at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). The center has grown in the last 20 years from about a dozen faculty to almost 50 affiliated faculty and scholars from across Stanford, while also being fortunate to receive key endowments from the Mosbacher family to bolster its efforts, said Stoner, the Mosbacher Director of CDDRL.
“Over time, we have seen projects rise and sunset, reflecting massive global changes of the last 20 years – not the least of which have been technology and the use of the internet for democratic promotion, but also by autocrats for social control.”
Coit Blacker, CDDRL’s first director, said, “I’m delighted to celebrate – along with fellow directors, Mike McFaul, Larry Diamond, Frank Fukuyama, and now Kathryn Stoner – the 20th anniversary of CDDRL’s founding.” In addition, Stephen Krasner was a director from 2003-04.
Blacker added, “While the center’s growth has exceeded my expectations, the quality, reach and impact of its work has not. The need for top-tier research, teaching, and training in this vital area was evident in 2002. It’s even greater today.”
Adapting to a Changing World
When the Cold War ended in 1991, democratic governance was on the rise, buoyed by the unshackling of authoritarian regimes, economic growth, and promising technological progress. The world today looks very different; populism, illiberalism, and inequality have grown, while technological advances have had both positive and negative consequences.
For CDDRL, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ascent of authoritarianism worldwide have spurred new energy and inquiries, Stoner said.
“Among our many projects and programs, we’re especially committed to research on challenges to democracy here in the United States and the global challenge of rising autocracies in China, Russia, and elsewhere,” she said.
Toward this and other challenges, CDDRL offers research initiatives that tackle critical issues in national development, educational programs for undergraduate and graduate students, and practitioner-based training programs for emerging civic leaders and social entrepreneurs engaged in democracy-building around the globe.
CDDRL Directors Over the Years
Scholarship, Training, and the Nobel Peace Prize
Fukuyama, the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI, said, “A policy-oriented research center like CDDRL plays an important role in translating academic concepts and research into actionable policies. We play a role in articulating what liberal democracy is, how it should be reflected in institutions, and how the world is living up to its ideals.”
CDDRL’s research initiatives include The Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective, Program on Arab Reform and Democracy, Democratic Fragility and Conflict, Program on Urbanization and Development, the Governance Project, the Deliberative Democracy Lab, the Global Infrastructure Policy Research Initiative, and the Program on Turkey. The center’s Poverty, Violence, and Governance Lab is led by Professor Beatriz Magaloni, who just won the Stockholm Prize in Criminology.
Fukuyama said CDDRL trains leaders of aspiring democracies around the world, giving them the conceptual grounding, specific skills, and networks to bring about change in the real world. Such programs include a newly launched Strengthening Ukrainian Democracy and Development initiative that connects faculty with Ukrainian policymakers to help rebuild Ukrainian institutions and infrastructure, as well as the Leadership Academy for Development, which features Fukuyama’s research on governance.
The Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program brings together about 25-30 outstanding participants from around the developing world to learn about building democracy. Stoner said, “We have an alumni network in that program alone of over 500 fellows from more than 80 countries.”
“We made an audacious bet in 2005 that CDDRL could train the brightest and most promising practitioners in the global struggle for democracy,” added McFaul, currently the director of FSI. “We are now seeing the positive impact of this effort in emerging democracies around the world.
On Oct. 7, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize medal was awarded to organizations led by three CDDRL training alumnae – Oleksandra Matviichuk, a 2018 graduate of the Ukrainian Emerging Leaders program, head of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, and Anna Dobrovolskaya and Tonya Lokshina, who graduated from the Draper Hills program in 2019 and 2005. Dobrovolskaya and Lokshina led Memorial before the Russian government closed it in 2021.
And on another front, the World House Project – named after Martin Luther King Jr.’s allegory of the “World House,” a vision of peaceful coexistence – curates audiovisual resources, produces educational materials, and fosters collaboration between social justice organizations to realize MLK’s vision of a just and nonviolent future.
The center’s teaching and educational activities include the Fisher Family CDDRL Honors Program and pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships, in addition to courses taught by CDDRL faculty, fellows, and affiliates. On the honors program, Stoner noted, “We’ve seen hundreds of them graduate from our program after writing prize-winning theses and go on to stellar careers to work for positive change at home and abroad.” In 2021, honors graduate Lina Hidalgo was named to the “Time100 Next List.”
Research, Policy Impact, Future Directions
Didi Kuo, associate director for research and a senior research scholar at CDDRL, described her workplace as “the rare academic center that blends rigorous research with policy impact.”
The center’s achievements include both informing public discourse about democracy, development, and rule of law, and also educating and training a generation of scholars and leaders who will change the world, she said.
“This is no small feat,” said Kuo. “Our faculty and researchers are motivated by big, complex questions, and they engage a broad audience of policymakers, civil society, activists, and journalists.”
Today, Kuo said, the work of CDDRL is more important than ever. “The world faces enormous challenges – rising authoritarianism, democratic backsliding, economic instability, and inflation, all after two years of a global pandemic, not to mention planetary threats like climate change. CDDRL, and academic institutions more generally, play a vital role in shaping leaders, ideas, and advocacy to advance the cause of democracy around the world.”
Regarding the anniversary, Blacker said, “Congratulations to all who’ve made the center’s success possible. May CDDRL’s next 20 years be as consequential as its first 20!”