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Today’s Challenges

The challenges we face around the world today are extraordinary. For seven decades, the United States and the world’s democracies have drawn on common principles to advance freedom, prosperity, and the security of our nations. The resulting order brought peace, justice, and a better life for people at home and around the world.

Open markets have lifted billions from poverty and generated unprecedented levels of national and global wealth. Advances in technology and medicine have led to unparalleled improvements in the length and quality of human life. The spread of democracy has allowed more people to live in freedom than at any other time in history.

But today, this order is under siege from both within and without. Great power autocracies are attacking the fundamental tenets of the rules-based order, while meddling in our democracies. Stagnant wages and uneven trade benefits are leading many to question the viability of our free market economies. At the same time, Europe is focused on internal divisions, while Washington pursues an “America First” agenda. The future of the rules-based order has never been so uncertain.

With so much at stake at this critical time, the Atlantic Council, in partnership with Canada’s Centre for International Governance Innovation, has launched an ambitious new effort aimed at galvanizing support for democratic values, free markets, and a rules-based order. 

Declaration of Principles

In March 2018, the Atlantic Council and CIGI convened a group of leaders and thinkers representing the world’s leading democracies in Middleburg, Virginia to begin to prepare a Declaration of Principles aimed at articulating the core principles of a rules-based order. 

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, former US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and former Foreign Minister of Japan, Yoriko Kawaguchi are serving as co-chairs for this effort.

The Declaration of Principles will forth a new set of common principles that could serve as the foundation for a new 21st century adaptation of the rules-based order, including:

  • Advancing fundamental freedoms and democratic values;
  • Promoting free markets, the rule of law, free and fair trade, and an inclusive global economy; and
  • Fostering security and global cooperation, and defending against threats to the rules-based order.
The Declaration will provide a rallying point around which political leaders and citizens in democracies around the world can coalesce, in order to stand up for our values; take back the narrative; and develop an adapted, sustainable, rules-based order for the future. 

Over the coming weeks, the Atlantic Council and CIGI will launch a process that will facilitate public input in the principles that should be part of the Declaration.  This will include local and community leaders, the private sector, and the next generation who are so passionate about their future.

Principles and declarations will not by themselves bring results.  Our task is to develop actionable strategies, mobilize public support around these strategies, and encourage policymakers in our democracies to take concrete actions to defend these principles and advance a rules-based order.

At the same time,  we will seek to stay engaged with other global powers, including China, who may not share in all of these principles, but who are willing to work cooperatively to advance those on which we agree.

We are living at a historic inflection point, not dissimilar 1919, 1945, or 1989.   How we address these challenges will determine whether we again descend into chaos or emerge to build a more stable and prosperous world.

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