Rising Democracies, Burden-Sharing, and the International Liberal Order

The international liberal order based on collectively securing peace, promoting development, and protecting human rights is facing a major stress test. With the decline of U.S. leadership, a weakening Europe, and the rise of authoritarian China and Russia, the future of the liberal order depends on newer democratic powers picking up the slack. Leading players such as India, Brazil, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, and Mexico are capable of playing a more active role to sustain a global cooperation agenda favoring open democratic societies. Many of these countries, however, face significant political and economic challenges of their own. This policy brief will take an updated look at how these middle power democracies are performing in the context of an emerging great-power contest for global leadership. It will consider how their democratic governance challenges and economic interests shape their respective foreign policies and activism on liberal order issues. It will then provide recommendations on how best they could engage as partners for sharing the burden of sustaining the international liberal order.