Defending Democracy and a Rules-Based Order

In March 2018, the Atlantic Council, in coordination with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, launched an initiative to revitalize, adapt, and defend a rules-based order. A high-level task force of distinguished former officials representing leading democracies around the world convened to begin charting a course of action.

National media attention

Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN

Atlantic Council Board Executive Vice Chair Stephen Hadley (former US National Security Advisor) and International Advisory Board Member Carl Bildt (former Primer Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden) have appeared on Fareed Zakaria‘s GPS program discussing the need for restoring a rule-based order.

A Call to Action

The starting point for our common effort is a Declaration of Principles that articulates the fundamental values of a rules-based order—democracy, free and open markets, alliances, and the rule of law. The declaration will serve two important purposes:

  • provide a clear and compelling statement of values, a “north star” around which political leaders in democracies worldwide can coalesce to reaffirm their support for a rules-based order and generate concrete action to advance and defend these values; and
  • provide a rallying cry to mobilize bipartisan public support in favor of shared values in the United States, Europe, Asia, and leading democracies around the world.

Over the past eighteen months, the Atlantic Council has organized a series of roundtables and workshops, engaging a wide range of interlocutors to develop these principles. In September 2018, senior officials from ten major democracies discussed the challenges facing the rules-based order at the D-10 Strategy Forum in Seoul. In November 2018, the Atlantic Council and NAFSA: Association of International Educators hosted a Student Roundtable Dialogue with a spirited group of students from universities in and around Washington, DC.

Later in November, the Atlantic Council organized a Strategists Roundtable in Washington, which brought together business and philanthropic leaders, representatives of the entertainment and technology sectors, and several incoming members of Congress to solicit additional views and ideas, particularly on public-engagement strategies. In December, the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis hosted a Heartland Roundtable bringing together local community and business leaders, educators, and representatives of the faith-based community for an engaging discussion on the principles.

Finally, in January 2019, the Atlantic Council hosted a workshop with the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs on alternative scenarios that could emerge if the current order were to unravel, and what risks those scenarios would pose to the interests of the United States and its democratic partners around the world.

From Principles to Strategy

Principles are only the starting point; to succeed, they must be followed by action. As the initiative moves into its next phase, the Atlantic Council will seek to launch an orchestrated public engagement campaign designed to rebuild bipartisan support for democratic values and the fundamental tenets of a rules-based order. The initiative will also focus on developing concrete strategies and recommendations for policymakers in leading democracies to adapt and secure the order.

Finally, the initiative will involve establishing a platform for dialogue among other global powers to identify areas of convergence on mutually-acceptable rules and norms. Ultimately, the aim is to strengthen cooperation among the world’s democracies to advance an order that reflects our common values, while at the same time seeking to ensure that all major global powers have a stake in a peaceful and stable international system.

If you would like to endorse the Declaration, please fill out the form below:


Project Team

Daniel Fried and Ash Jain
co-directors, Atlantic Council

Fen Osler Hampson
Centre for International Governance Innovation

Samuel Klein
Atlantic Council

Paul Miller
Georgetown University

Simon Palamar
Centre for International Governance Innovation

Barry Pavel
Atlantic Council

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca
Georgetown University

Damon Wilson
Atlantic Council

For more information about this effort, please contact: