20 December 2005

Freedom House ratings

Hat tip to DPF for blogging about Freedom House’s annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties, and it is important to remember what that actually means. All the detailed results are here.

Political rights and civil liberties cover the right to vote for all adult citizens (with fair and transparent elections), protest and criticise the government, with political parties having access to the public freely and openly directly and through the media. None of this covers the state’s role in the economy regarding what you can do with your property, income or choices to set up business, or if you can publish a magazine about cannabis, engage in consensual adult homosexual acts or other freedoms – but, nevertheless, without political and civil liberties little else matters.

Most interesting are the ones that are now in the top ranking, along with New Zealand, Australia and most other “Western” countries that one generation ago would have been well down the list:

Cape Verde (yes go look it up)
Chile (Pinochet’s legacy is well and truly gone)
Czech Republic (ex. Soviet disaster)
Estonia (ditto)
Latvia (improved on last year)
Lithuania (also improved)
Portugal (look it up, just like Franco)
Slovenia (ex. Titoist disaster)
Spain (remember Franco?)
Taiwan (free China vs. the mainland)

A mixture of former socialist and military dictatorships now free is not insignificant, and there are more not far behind (Bulgaria, Greece, Grenada, Panama, South Africa, South Korea).

Optimism also with some of the more notable improvements:

Afghanistan (thank you USA)
Iraq (Andrew Falloon reports that improve freedoms in Iraq are a reason to celebrate)
Vietnam (higher rating than China for civil liberties due to easing religious expression)

Of some of the pinup countries of the left, Cuba remains in the bottom ranking, while Venezuela under leftist President Hugo Chavez has dropped because of voter intimidation and increased corruption.

And a further note of concern about those that have dropped, in most cases a handful of states from Africa and the Americas, but also sadly Nepal (which is facing full on civil war thanks to Maoist rebels), the Philippines (due to electoral fraud and intimidation of the opposition)) and Uzbekistan, one of the former Soviet republics to be stepping backwards.

Reason to be cheerful? Yes.
Reason to be vigilant? Yes - the war against terror is a legitimate fight against those who would destroy our freedoms and civil liberties, but civil liberties should not also be destroyed as part of that. This is something that politically only the Greens (of those in Parliament) actually seem to understand, and that is what Ahmed Zaoui is all about.

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