The Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy initiative (CSM&D) of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) aims to offer fresh thinking on what the United States and others--including foreign governments, corporations, NGOs, international organizations, and the leaders and citizens of developing countries themselves--can do to foster open, prosperous, and stable societies. The initiative currently focuses on four areas that lie at the intersection of societal, economic, and political themes:
Many viewed the end of the Cold War as the triumph of the Western model of liberal capitalist democracy. Today, however, that is no longer clear. China's rise has produced an alternative system of "authoritarian capitalism"; attempts to build enduring democratic institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced deep challenges; and the economic crisis of recent years has rattled faith in open markets. CSM&D is examining issues surrounding economic and political openness and reform—and U.S. efforts to promote these goals—in the context of current debates.
The question of what governments and societies should do to challenge and reduce the appeal of political extremism has come to the fore in recent years. Many fear that radicalized groups and individuals seek to exploit open societies and democratic institutions in the West and in Muslim-majority countries to gain popularity and power. The potential success of these groups poses considerable social, political, and security concerns around the world. CSM&D is examining a variety of related topics, including ways in which recruitment into extremism can be interrupted, the effectiveness of deradicalization programs, and the role of education and civil society in curbing extremism and offering attractive, alternative narratives to young people.
CSM&D is integrating the work of CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program, established in 2002. Empowering women, in addition to being an important human rights issue, is critical to economic development, active civil society, and good governance. Focusing on women is often the best way to reduce birth rates and child mortality; improve health, nutrition, and education; bolster security and counter extremism; boost economic opportunities and growth; and build robust community organizations that encourage grassroots democracy. Around the world, there is growing understanding—by governments, NGOs, and corporations—
The business environment necessary for entrepreneurship to flourish is closely related to the political environment needed for stable democracy. Problems such as capricious state authority, corruption, and poor education hinder both private enterprise and democratic governance. Entrepreneurship itself can also serve as a potent antidote to excessive state authority. However, the correlation between economic and political freedom is far from exact. CSM&D aims to understand how best to promote entrepreneurship and its connection to broader economic growth and democracy. One priority is women's roles as entrepreneurs and contributions to economic development, especially in post-conflict settings.
Through meetings, research, and widely disseminated writings, CSM&D is framing questions in these areas of work and driving to policy-oriented answers. The initiative is led by CFR Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman, who is also director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program. Ed Husain is a senior fellow, Terra Lawson-Remer is a fellow, and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a fellow and deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program. They are supported by Charles Landow, associate director of CSM&D, and research associates Thalia Beaty, Allison Blough, and Ashley Harden.
The work of CSM&D is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., the Hurford Foundation, the Alliance for Global Good, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and an individual CFR donor.
For more on what the United States and others can do to foster open, prosperous, and stable societies, visit CSM&D.