NEW REPORT: Freedom in the World 2020 finds established democracies are in decline

Democratic processes in the United States are under threat as well. While the country’s score remained flat this year, it has declined by eight points on a 100-point scale over the past 10 years. Troubling signs during 2019 included rule changes that weakened the rights of asylum seekers, new evidence of electoral interference, and escalating clashes between the executive branch and Congress over their respective powers. Defiance of congressional authority lay at the heart of the impeachment process against President Donald Trump, who ordered current and former officials to defy all of Congress’s subpoenas for documents and testimony about his attempt to extract a political favor from the president of Ukraine. At the same time, the administration has sent contradictory messages about the deterioration of democratic institutions and respect for human rights abroad.

“India and the United States are the largest and perhaps the most influential democracies in the world, and their drift from liberal democratic ideals is sending exactly the wrong message,” said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “If major democratic powers fail to set strong examples and provide constructive leadership, it will be impossible to reverse the global trends that threaten freedom for all societies.”

Protesters around the world call for change

The eruption of mass protests across a variety of political environments last year underscored the universality of the human desire for basic freedoms and good governance. In Free, Partly Free, and Not Free countries and territories alike, people took to the streets to express discontent with existing political systems and demand changes that would lead to better, more democratic outcomes. Significant protest movements took place in Hong Kong, Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Sudan, among other places. However, these movements frequently ran up against deeply entrenched interests, and thus far they have not brought about a major improvement in global freedom.

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