Declaration of Principles

Advancing Freedom, Open Markets, and a Rules-Based Order

The international order that has served to guarantee security, foster freedom, and produce unprecedented levels of global prosperity—underwritten by the United States and its allies since the end of World War II—is under siege. Great powers are testing its limits. The public backlash against globalization is straining US alliances and fueling calls for isolationism and protectionism. With Europe looking inward and Washington focused on “America First,” what has been achieved since 1945, and again from 1989, is at risk.

With so much at stake, the Atlantic Council has launched a comprehensive new initiative aimed at adapting and revitalizing the rules-based democratic order and rebuilding bipartisan support among policymakers and the broader public. The first step is to prepare a Declaration of Principles articulating the fundamental principles of a rules-based order. The declaration is intended to provide a framework around which political leaders and citizens in democracies around the world can coalesce to demonstrate their support for the values and principles underpinning the order.

In March 2018, a special meeting of leaders and thinkers representing the world’s leading democracies was convened in Middleburg, Virginia to begin to prepare a Declaration of Principles to articulate the core principles of a rules-based order. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, and former Foreign Minister of Japan, Yoriko Kawaguchi are co-chairing a task force to lead this effort, which includes former prime ministers, foreign ministers, and distinguished officials from leading democracies, including Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as leading strategists and business and philanthropic leaders.

Participants discussed the strategic challenges facing the international system and began a dialogue on what principles should be included in a declaration, including those related to:

  • 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 deterring terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and violence against civilians

Principles are only the starting point; to succeed, concrete actions must be taken to ensure that these principles are implemented. The declaration will be accompanied by a comprehensive global strategy that will set forth actionable recommendations for advancing a rules-based order. This will represent the first phase of a broader multi-year initiative recently launched by the Atlantic Council aimed at galvanizing support for freedom, open markets, democratic alliances, and a rules-based order.

The initiative seeks to deepen cooperation among the world’s democracies, while at the same time ensuring that all major global powers have a stake in the international system. In addition, to succeed, the current order must be adapted to take into account shortcomings of the current system.

This initiative is aimed at producing real-world impact. Taken together, this body of work will bolster public support for the fundamental tenets of a rules-based order and provide policymakers with a strategic roadmap to formulate and enact the policies to advance a rules-based order adapted to reflect today’s political dynamics and emerging challenges of the future.

Project Leads

Mr. Ash Jain
Senior Fellow
Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security

Amb. Dan Fried
Distinguished Fellow
Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center

Mr. Barry Pavel
Senior Vice President and Director
Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security

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