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Foreign Policy Ben Rowswell

May - August 2023

Building a Network for Democratic Solidarity

Democracy may be on the retreat around the world, with even consolidated democracies like Canada and Germany facing new threats alongside democracies in the Global South. Yet this shared vulnerability also presents an opportunity for deeper collaboration, on a more egalitarian basis than democracy promotion efforts of the last century.

In 2021 the Canadian International Council and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung launched an initiative to create a new likeminded group of liberal democracies, a Network for Democratic Solidarity. This likeminded group would convene pro-democracy actors in government and in civil society in countries around the world to facilitate mutual learning and, through this process, build deeper bonds within the democratic family of nations.

The CIC has begun work on this network convening German and Canadian experts in three pillars of activity: disinformation, corruption, and the protection of citizens. Following a conference of Foreign Ministers in Toronto on April 12/13, 2023, the CIC will support a series of diplomatic roundtables in five global regions throughout the remainder of the year.

During my time at the AIA, I will engage German and EU experts and government officials in the development of this agenda, to ensure relevance to the European context. I will present this research to colleagues at the AIA NRW early in my tenure to seek their input and access any networks to which they may offer access.

Throughout this period, I will deliver strategic communications campaign to promote the recommendations for a Network of Democratic Solidarity as the regional roundtables begin to coalesce a community of pro-democracy actors from a wide range of states.

I hope to conclude my fellowship with a meeting with the German foreign ministry presenting the findings of our research and connecting them with the growing network of civil society and government actors in the incipient Network for Democratic Solidarity.


Ben Rowswell is a Canadian thought leader on global democracy. He served as Canada’s Ambassador to Venezuela from 2014 to 2017. This capped a 25 year career as a professional diplomat including assignments in Canada’s embassies to Egypt, to the United States, and in Canada’s Permanent Mission to the UN. He served Canada’s first diplomatic envoy to Baghdad, Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein from 2003 to 2005, as Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan and as head of the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar between 2008 and 2010.
At headquarters in Ottawa, Rowswell founded the Democracy Unit, now the Democracy, Inclusion and Religious Freedom Division. He served as an advisor to the federal cabinet on international affairs in the Privy Council Office on two occasions, under Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper.
A long-time proponent of establishing a Canadian-funded institute for global democracy, he left government in 2018 to help mobilize Canadian civil society efforts for democracy support abroad. He served as President of the Canadian International Council, Canada’s oldest foreign policy thinktank. In this capacity he led the largest deliberative democracy exercise in Canadian history, the 2021 project “Foreign Policy by Canadians.”
In 2011, Rowswell was awarded the inaugural Palmer Prize for Diplomats by the Community of Democracies, whose later awardees include OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro of Uruguay and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland of Canada.

Currently Director of the Global Democracy Program at CIC, he blogs on Mastodon at and co-hosts the Open Canada Podcast with Ruth Mojeed Ramirez at


Selected publications

Ben Rowswell and Jeremy Kinsman Germany and Canada Can Work Together to Reinforce Democratic Values

The Globe and Mail

Ben Rowswell The Battle to Save Democracy, Podcasted

Open Canada