Behind the Network for Democratic Solidarity
Ben Rowswell - Convenor and Founder
Ben 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.
As a practitioner of international relations, Ben’s thematic interest has been in human rights and democracy. He founded the Democracy Unit at Global Affairs Canada, and worked closely with human rights activists in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben was an outspoken advocate of the restoration of the popular sovereignty of Venezuelans after the suspension of constitutional order in early 2017.
These experiences abroad awakened an interest in the role of citizens in our own democracy. In Ottawa, Ben supported the Cabinet process as a member of the Privy Council Office during the tenures of Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper, experiences that exposed him to the far-reaching impact that public opinion has on decision-making at the highest levels of government.
The Network for Democratic Solidarity originates from a partnership between the Canadian International Council (CIC) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Canada. Acting as a platform for citizens to engage in discussions on international issues, the CIC helps define Canada's place in the world. Correspondingly, KAS is a German political foundation that promotes freedom and liberty, peace, and justice through civic education in more than 120 countries. In Canada, they seek to intensify political cooperation between Germany and Canada in order to strengthen transatlantic relations and address common global challenges.
This partnership operated under the name of RODA, Renewing Our Democratic Alliance.
Since, Canadian and German proponents and practitioners of democracy have made common cause in applying the values that unite us to shared challenges at home and in global affairs.
The culmination of the RODA project in 2022 was a decision to create a new, permanent organization to facilitate mutual learning between liberal, inclusive democracies. The Network for Democratic Solidarity was created in June 2023.
From left to right: Paper Author Dr. Craig Damian Smith, Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar, Convenor Ben Rowswell, Chargée d'Affaires Mme Isabelle Poupart, Ambassador (ret.) Jeremy Kinsman at a CIC and KAS conference on refugee resettlement at the Canadian Embassy to Germany in September 2022.