The Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy program (CSMD) 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 program currently focuses on three areas:

1. Markets and Democracy in the 21st Century

Many viewed the end of the Cold War as the triumph of the Western model of liberal capitalist democracy. Today, however, the preeminence of the democratic model 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 faced deep challenges; and the economic crisis of recent years has rattled faith in open markets. CSMD is examining issues surrounding economic and political openness and reform—and U.S. efforts to promote these goals.

2. Combating Extremism through Civil Society

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 to gain popularity and power. The potential success of these groups poses considerable social, political, and security concerns around the world. CSMD 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.

3. Women and Foreign Policy

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—of women's transformative impact on society.