Freedom House Releases “Freedom in the World 2012”
January 25, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On January 19, Washington DC-based democracy support organization, Freedom House, released its annual report, Freedom in the World. This year’s report included special emphasis on the global repercussions of the Arab Spring. The report was unveiled at an event that was paneled by Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research, Freedom House; Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA; Daniel Brumberg, Professor of Government, Georgetown University and Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace; and moderated by Susan Glasser, Editor-in-Chief, Foreign Policy. Freedom House’s report rates countries as 'Free,' 'Partly Free,' or 'Not Free' based a number of indicators.
In some ways, 2011 was an inspiring year due to the revolutions in the Arab world as well as demonstrations in Chile, Russia, China, Hungary and elsewhere. On the other hand, the repressive responses to citizen demands in Syria, Yemen as well as Eurasian and African countries offset the gains in places like Tunisia and Egypt.
Overall, slightly more countries registered declines in freedom than exhibited gains, marking the sixth consecutive year in which there was a net decline in freedom worldwide. Despite this, Puddington writes: “If there is an overarching message for the year, it is one of hope and not of reversal.” Tunisia experienced one of the greatest single-year improvements in the history of the report, now scoring in the same range as Partly Free countries like the Philippines and Colombia.
Several regional trends stood out in this year’s report. Out of all the world’s regions, the Middle East experienced the most significant improvements, but also saw the most declines in freedom as well. The Eurasian region saw setbacks in Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Several young democracies including Ukraine, Hungary, South Africa and Turkey also received lower ratings this year. However, in Asia, practically every indicator measured by Freedom House improved to some degree. Burma in particular witnessed what will hopefully be a true political opening. Pakistan and Bangladesh saw improvements of 17 and 18 points, respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa witnessed significant declines in Gambia, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and Djibouti.
Despite some regional setbacks and successes, little has changed overall when looking at the entire world. The number of countries categorized as Free in 2011 remained at 87 and the number of Partly Free countries also stayed the same at 60. The number of Not Free countries increased by one to a total of 48 due to the inclusion of South Sudan for the first time. Three new countries were added to the list of electoral democracies, including Niger, Thailand, and Tunisia for a total of 117 countries. Gambia dropped from Partly Free to Not Free.
The report summary reads, “The continued pattern of global backsliding… is a sobering reminder that the institutions that anchor democratic governance cannot be achieved by protests alone.” Unfortunately, the governments of several regional powers like Russia, China and Syria seem to believe that they can maintain the status quo and prevent people rising up against repressive governments.
The Freedom in the World report has been published since 1972 and examines the ability of individuals to exercise their political and civil rights in 195 countries and 14 territories around the world.
Freedom House - Full Report Essay