Democratic trends in 2017 and crisis of political rights and civil liberties

Report map illustrates the status of democracy in 195 countries around the globe in 2017 Report map illustrates the status of democracy in 195 countries around the globe in 2017 © Freedom House

4 March 2018
Freedom House Report "Freedom in the World" illustrates global democratic trends in 2017, depicting a crisis scenario.

Freedom House has recently published the “Freedom in the World” report, which considers the trends in democracy around the globe in 2017 and elaborates ratings for political rights and civil liberties, by evaluating the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories. States are classified as “Free”, “Partially Free” or “Not Free”.

According to the renowned NGO, 2017 has been the worst of the last decade in terms of human rights related to democracy principles: the democracy is facing a crisis as well as the values it represents - fair elections, freedom of the press, and the rule of law –, which are under assault. In fact, partially free countries which had hopes to become democracies turned into authoritarian rule.

Even consolidated democracies are subject to domestic problems such as social and economic disparities, political fragmentation, populism, terrorism. The increasing waves of refugees weakened the existing alliances and augmented the fear of the “different”. In these countries, youngsters are losing faith as well as interest in democratic systems.

The worsening conditions of corrupt and repressive States lead to an increase in economic and security risks, global and regional instability and violent extremism. According to Freedom House, even the current situations within big global players contributed to the negative trends of democracy.

Firstly, the United States has experienced a democratic decline since the first year of Trump’s mandate, through attacks to the press as well as hostility and scepticism towards multilateralism on one hand, and expressions of admiration towards dictators on the other.

Meanwhile, China and Russia stick to internal repression, politicised courts and predetermined elections to maintain order internally while expanding their autocratic and antidemocratic influence abroad.

Turkey has been recently labelled as “Not Free” country; this is due to the escalation of its assault on media, political parties and the judiciary system, as well as the violence against the Kurdish community.

Yet, despite the fact that positive trends are in minority, some can still be found at regional level.

In the Asia Pacific region, antidemocratic forces are on the march, first of all due to the ethnic cleansing of Muslim Community Rohingya in Myanmar, but nonetheless for its regional neighbours’ actions (Cambodia, Hong Kong, Maldives, North Korea). Sparkles in the dark are Timor Leste and Nepal, which seem to be improving their human rights conditions quite fast.

In Eurasia and Europe, the situation does not look bright, as more and more countries appear to be rejecting democratic norms to turn into extremist, far-right values and/or human rights violations (e.g. Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, France, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Serbia).

The Middle East and North Africa area distress even more, since authoritarian rulers are not losing ground (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) and long-running conflicts keep being perpetuated (Syria, Yemen, Libya). Tunisia, which has been “Free” for few years, now risks going back to rogue again.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the DRC, South Sudan and Burundi are not willing to refrain from the use of violence. Similarly, Tanzania and Kenya keep not respecting basic democratic principles, while beacons of optimism surged in Gambia and Uganda.

In the Americas, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela haven’t shown any democratic improvement, whereas there has been some significant sign of resilience within Ecuador, Argentina and Colombia.


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