World 2019 report, released by Freedom House on February 4, evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories during 2018. What is Ukraine’s place on the map of world democracy?
“In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region, from long-standing democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat,” says the report.
Let's try to examine Freedom in the World 2019 report in more detail.
What is Freedom House and why do we need its report
There are quite a few international NGOs with a long history that support and study the state of the world democracy, political freedoms and respect for basic human rights on all continents. Freedom House is one of them.
It was founded in New York on October 31, 1941, by the wife of the 32nd American Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt Eleanor, as well as his ardent critic of Republican Wendell Willkie. Together, they called on representatives of the main political forces, intellectuals, and businessmen not to stand aside and intervene in the course of the Second World War.
They have recruited a sufficient number of supporters into its ranks; Freedom House has got involved in the fight against the threat of the spread of the totalitarian world, in particular, National Socialism and Communism. After the end of World War II, she supported the creation of NATO and the implementation of the Marshall Plan to restore post-war Europe, and in the 70s began active campaigns to promote democracy and protect human rights and freedoms in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
General overview of the situation with freedom in the world
In states that were already authoritarian, earning Not Free designations from Freedom House, governments have increasingly shed the thin façade of democratic practice that they established in previous decades when international incentives and pressure for reform were stronger. More authoritarian powers are now banning opposition groups or jailing their leaders, dispensing with term limits, and tightening the screws on any independent media that remain.
Meanwhile, many countries that democratized after the end of the Cold War have regressed in the face of rampant corruption, antiliberal populist movements, and breakdowns in the rule of law. Most troublingly, even long-standing democracies have been shaken by populist political forces that reject basic principles like the separation of powers and target minorities for discriminatory treatment.
Surprising improvements in individual countries—including Malaysia, Armenia, Ethiopia, Angola, and Ecuador—show that democracy has enduring appeal as a means of holding leaders accountable and creating the conditions for a better life. Even in the countries of Europe and North America where democratic institutions are under pressure, dynamic civic movements for justice and inclusion continue to build on the achievements of their predecessors, expanding the scope of what citizens can and should expect from democracy.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 cleared the way for the formation or restoration of liberal democratic institutions not only in Eastern Europe, but also in the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. Between 1988 and 2005, the percentage of countries ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World dropped by almost 14 points (from 37 to 23 percent), while the share of Free countries grew (from 36 to 46 percent). This surge of progress has now begun to roll back. Between 2005 and 2018, the share of Not Free countries rose to 26 percent, while the share of Free countries declined to 44 percent.
2019 world freedom rating
All of the above is reflected in the ranking of world democracy.
The level of democracy in the studied countries is estimated from 1 to 7 points, where 1 point is the highest figure and 7 points the lowest one.
Thus, states that received an average of 1 to 2.5 points are considered “free”, from 3 to 5 points are “partially free,” and from 5.5 to 7 points are “not free.”
In particular, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Australia, Uruguay, and Ireland are in the top ten.
The top ten are anti-democratic countries are Syria, Tibet, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, South Sudan, North Korea, Western Sahara, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Somalia.
The top ten partially democratic are Seychelles, Hungary, Albania, Dominican Republic, Serbia, Bolivia, Colombia, Montenegro, Sierra Leone, and Paraguay.
Ukraine on the map of the world democracy
“Ukraine has enacted a number of positive reforms since the protest-driven ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. However, corruption remains endemic, and initiatives to combat it are only partially implemented. Attacks against journalists, civil society activists, and members of minority groups are frequent and often go unpunished. Russia occupies the autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea, which it invaded in the aftermath of Yanukovych’s ouster, and its military supports armed separatists in the eastern Donbas area, where skirmishes continue to endanger civilians,” the report says.
Key Developments in 2018:
Rights groups documented more than 50 attacks on activists and human rights defenders in the first nine months of the year. There were also a number of severe assaults by nationalist groups against the Romany minority. Investigations into these incidents generally took place only after significant pressure from civil society.
Lawmakers and President Petro Poroshenko approved legislation to establish a long-awaited anticorruption court. However, domestic and international observers expressed concerns about the selection process for the 39 judges who would sit on the court.
Intermittent fighting continued in Donbas. The United Nations reported that over 3,000 civilians have been killed since the outbreak of the conflict in 2014.
In November, martial law was imposed in 10 Ukrainian regions for 30 days after Russian forces captured 24 Ukrainian sailors near Crimea. Provisions of the martial law decree allowed restrictions on free speech and assembly, but these were not invoked in practice.
Freedom House has elaborated “Recommendations for Democracies”
Respect human rights at home;
Invest in civic education;
Strengthen laws that guard against foreign influence over government officials;
Invest in elections infrastructure to guard against foreign interference in balloting;
Require social media companies to report foreign efforts to spread online disinformation and propaganda.
Defending and Expanding Democracy around the World
Invest in alliances with other democracies, and in multilateral institutions;
Encourage and protect journalists and freedom of the press;
Be prepared to promptly challenge preelection rights abuses;
Impose targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses and acts of corruption;
Emphasize democracy-strengthening programs in foreign assistance;
Focus on countries at critical junctures.