It’s been a busy few days in global politics. Donald Trump continues to make waves with a flurry of executive orders while violence erupted again in Eastern Ukraine. In the midst of the storm, Freedom House has published their yearly Freedom in the World Index. Unfortunately, the news is not good: we are less free and the trend is troubling.
Rise of the nationalists and populists
The Index separates the world into three categories: Free, Partly Free and Not Free. These designations are based on an aggregate score of political rights and civil liberties. Analysts compile data on all sorts of different rights, such as voters’ rights, and liberties such as freedom of speech, to come up with these scores.
What the analysts found was less than encouraging. More countries received lower scores than the year before. Some countries, like Russia, moved down in the rankings to the “Not Free” designation. Russians today have less political rights and civil liberties than last year, for example.
The Index highlights two key reasons for the downwards trend in the world: nationalism and populism are challenging world democracies. In “Free” countries such as France, nationalist parties are influencing national politics. Just one year ago, the thought of President Marine Le Pen from the French National Front would be a joke in satire. Today, she is one of the leading contenders for France’s most powerful government position.
The U.S. is not immune to this trend. With a nationalist and populist Donald Trump espousing his “America First” philosophy, uncertainty over political rights and civil liberties in the U.S. is growing.
Any bright spots?
Despite the negative trend globally, there is one bright spot.
Out of the 11 countries to watch highlighted by Freedom House, only one was for a positive reason. Colombia’s peace agreement between FARC rebels and the government is giving the country a shot at sustainable development and smooth democratization.
Other countries have shown slight improvements: Belarus, Argentina and Somalia have moved up in the rankings. Belarus, for example, has lifted some visa restrictions and has even indicated they would like to join the World Trade Organization.
For now, 87 of the 195 countries surveyed do rate “Free” but the number could be shrinking.
The Freedom House index is a warning.
Pay attention to global trends and start organizing.