Noting populist and nationalist forces making gains in democratic states last year, Freedom House has declared 2016 the 11th consecutive year of a decline in global freedom.
Of the 195 countries assessed in the Freedom House report, less than half were rated Free. Forty-nine countries were rated “not free”, and of those, Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, and Saudi Arabia had the “worst” aggregate scores for political rights and civil liberties.
The United States was listed as one of the countries rated “free,” but also was said to have faced setbacks in “political rights, civil liberties, or both” in the “Freedom in the World 2017” report released Tuesday.
Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Tunisia were also among the countries listed as free, but flagged by the report as facing “counter-democratic” transitions. In particular, the report said countries in Central Europe, which saw “remarkable” transitions to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s “will be substantially reversed by elected populist leaders”.
Though rated “partly free”, Turkey saw the largest one-year decline in its score, having been victim of multiple terrorist attacks in 2016 as well as mass arrests and detentions following a military coup over the summer.
Turkey’s score, like those of many other democracies, was negatively affected by its involvement in the Syrian conflict during the past year. The United States and a number of European countries saw what the report called a “weakening of democratic standards” due to the large influx of Syrian refugees.
The report also states the Syrian conflict and other extremism in the Middle East has taken attention away from “worsening domestic repression” in China and Russia.
The only country listed in the report with a positive trend toward being more free was Colombia, whose government made a historic deal with the FARC rebels earlier this year, ending a decades-long conflict in the South American country.