Around the World, Freedom is in Peril
July 6, 2010
Washington Post, Fred Hiatt
As America this weekend celebrates the birth of its liberty, in much of the rest of the world freedom and democracy are in retreat.
Over the past decade, authoritarian rulers have refined their techniques to stay in power, learning from each other and thinking two steps ahead of democratic forces. Unprepared for this systematic reply to the advance of democracy from the 1970s through the 1990s, democratic governments have yet to formulate a coherent response.
"A global political recession" is how Tom Melia describes the current state of affairs. Melia is deputy director of Freedom House, a nonprofit that annually measures the state of liberty in every nation -- and that has found "more countries seeing declines in overall freedom than gains" in recent years, Melia said last week.
The world has transitioned from a "position of going from one breakthrough to another" into a "sustained period in which we are looking at regressions and setback," he said.
Melia was speaking at an event co-sponsored by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in Washington that brought the decline into particularly poignant view: an analysis of the state of freedom in the part of the world that inspired the greatest hopes 20 years ago, the former Soviet empire. Read more.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.