Yesterday, pro-democracy group FreedomHouse published their annual report, ‘Freedom in the World 2013’, which reports on the state of political and social freedom on a country-by-country basis during 2012. I was very eager to see the results, as their reports have become something of an authority in how I view freedom in the world. One of many sources, obviously, but by far my favourite.
As you can see from the map, when comparing it to one I wrote about a month ago, not a huge amount has changed. Europe and the Americas are still almost completely free, Southeast Asia and central Africa not so much, etc. However the small changes which have occurred are extremely significant. I made some mental predictions before reading the report, which I can boast were mostly along the right lines although were at times too optimistic or pessimistic. I’m pleased to see that Ukraine and Venezuela are still perceived to be somewhat free countries, even if only on the fringes, for instance. Russia and most of the other former Soviet states, particularly in central Asia, have continued their descent into autocracy. Here are the rest of the countries which made significant changes:
For the first time, Egypt is considered a ‘Partly Free’ country, in the wake of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Amid fears that the revolution would be hijacked, first by the ruling military and then by the Muslim Brotherhood, it is comforting to know that Egypt has at least made marginal progress, even if its political freedom rating is precarious at best.
More reassuringly, Libya has made significant gains. Although also only ‘Partly Free’, considering it was only recently scoring the worst possible scores a country can achieve during Colonel Gadaffi’s totalitarian rule, his ouster in the 2011 Libyan Civil War has paved the way for extraordinary political and social progress.
Tunisia’s rating has not changed from the ‘Partly Free’ it achieved in the 2012 Report. While it’s comforting to see the gains made after the 2011 Tunisian Revolution have been maintained, I had hoped to see freedom extend further. But I think I was naive to expect such fast progress.
Mali always was going to score badly after the 2012 coup and conflict though I never appreciated just how badly. Falling down all the way from ‘Free’ to ‘Not Free’, one of Africa’s most stable democracies has, in the space of a year, completely collapsed. Not good.
Burma has now, for the first time, been reported to be a freer state than neighbouring China. While still marked as ‘Not Free’, it is now at the top of that range rather than at the very bottom, due to political and social reforms being passed by the ruling military. A slow, tentative improvement, but very encouraging.
With the Second Ivorian Civil War over with and democracy cautiously restored, the country has leapt up to ‘Partly Free’, albeit at the lower end of the category.
Other Positive Changes
Other countries to see positive changes are: Lesotho, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tonga, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Mongolia and Bhutan.
Other Negative Changes
Other countries to see negative changes are: The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, the Maldives, Rwanda, Tajikistan and Turkey.
Worst of the Worst
Countries titled ‘Worst of the Worst’, meaning they have achieved the worst possible score in both the political and social categories, are: Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
For the 7th year in a row, FreedomHouse has reported an overall decline in democratic standards across the world. There is not reason to despair however, as for every decline in one country is, roughly, a gain in another. The situation is not rapidly deteriorating – many of the declines are in fact a response in authoritarian countries to the rise of pro-democracy movements elsewhere. Their fear is not without cause.