Highlights of Freedom in the World 2013 Launch | Freedom House

Highlights of Freedom in the World 2013 Launch

Highlights of Freedom in the World 2013 Launch

Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s flagship publication, is the standard-setting comparative assessment of global political rights and civil liberties. Published annually since 1972, the survey ratings and narrative reports on 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories are used by policymakers, the media, international corporations, civic activists, and human rights defenders to monitor trends in democracy and track improvements and setbacks in freedom worldwide. The Freedom in the World data and reports are available in their entirety here.

Freedom House launched the latest edition of the report, Freedom in the World 2013, on January 16 at the Council on Foreign Relations. Stanford University Professor Larry Diamond, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy Tamara Wittes, and Freedom House Director of Research Arch Puddington engaged in a discussion moderated by CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty on the trends in democracy in 2012.

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Watch Video from the Discussion

Overarching Freedom in the World 2013 findings:

“The major message for the year is one of potential and opportunity, and this is because of what's happening in the Middle East.”  -Arch Puddington

“This is a reflection of a reaction against the gains of the Arab Spring. We’ve seen declines in many other countries in that part of the world…all of these countries over the last year or two years have shown declines as their leaders have tried to take measures to prevent the spirit of the Arab uprising from infecting their societies as well.” -Arch Puddington

U.S. and International Leadership:

“Given that the U.S. is a global power and it does have a global mix of interests, to be credible in advancing this agenda it has to do more than say nice words. It has to have a package that is compelling. A package of pressure and incentives and most of all a warm welcome for societies that are moving in the right direction.”
-Tamara Wittes

“Because there are movements and people and initiatives that need our support, this cries out for leadership from the community of democracies, those nations who are democratic nations, wherever they are... There is a great need to support those who are trying to fight every day for freedom and human rights in their countries. These brave defenders need our support, and they need the support not least from the United States, which I would argue still needs to be a leader in this field. ”
-David Kramer

“My hope is that we will see other democracies – in particular in Europe – pass similar legislation [to Magnitsky] and we will also see efforts to make this kind of bill global in nature.” -David Kramer

 “We as an international democratic community, an international civil society … have to call these governments to a higher common standard.” -Larry Diamond

“I think it is extremely important that the West support this experiment [of Tunisian democracy] with investment, with aid, with symbolic support, not just flows of democracy assistance …If Tunisia can’t make it, what are the prospects for the rest of the Arab world? ” -Larry Diamond


"Eurasia has nearly replaced the Middle East and North Africa region as the region of greatest repression.”  -David Kramer
“The region as a whole has been basically in freefall, led by Russia. Russia has set the tone for the other countries in the region. It has acted as the model for those countries, has implemented laws that have then been copied by other countries both in Eurasia and in other parts of the world to restrict civil society, to restrict the press.”  -Arch Puddington


“At this moment, Russia is the country that is the most pernicious when it comes to suppressing civil society.”-Arch Puddington

“We now have Putin 2, the second run of Putin as president, a more overtly and unabashedly sinister figure.” -Larry Diamond

“This has gone from being very worrisome…to a non-democracy. Now it’s going from a non-democracy with still some elements of pluralism to a really ugly authoritarian regime in which rights all over the place are at risk. I just think we need to confront it more overtly.” -Larry Diamond


“Asia has been one of the modest success stories in the world over the past decade. We’ve seen special improvement in places like Indonesia…Philippines… During this past year, we saw some important but guarded gains in Burma. ” -Arch Puddington


“I am very optimistic about the long run prospects for democracy in China. Chinese society is being dramatically and rapidly transformed. And there’s rising evidence that the new generation not only lacks faith in communism anymore, they think it’s a joke. They’re very cynical about their leadership and they want democratic change.”
-Larry Diamond

“I think you have a deeply anxious leadership in China that knows its legitimacy is drifting away, that’s sending its [personal] money and its children abroad because they have no faith in the future of their own regime. ” -Larry Diamond

Middle East:

“The fundamental realization from the Arab awakening needs to be that stabilization will not occur without political stability that is rooted in consent.” -Tamara Wittes

“I think Syria should be a cautionary tale to the United States about not waiting too long. ” -Tamara Wittes

“We can’t assume that because we have seen an Islamist resurgence in these societies in transition that that is the wave, that that’s the future.”  -Tamara Wittes

“Where’s the United States been in this [on repression in Bahrain]? Where has President Obama been? Where has his voice been while one of America’s chief allies in the region and the home of the Fifth fleet has been engaged in this kind of savage repression of its own society? I think these questions need to be raised by advocates of democracy and including friends of the Obama administration.”  -Larry Diamond


“The dramatic gains that you see in Libya are to a certain extent an artifact of the fact that you’re starting from the floor. There’s almost nowhere to go but up…that is tremendously significant and positive…I think Libya is a tremendously important breakthrough that is hanging in the balance.” - Tamara Wittes

“I think that it’s premature to call Libya a democracy because political order is still so fragile there and the command by the state over the means of violence is still so inadequate that I think state building remains a major challenge. And until the militias can be reined in and the authority of the democratically-elected state can really be firmly established, there’s still tremendous fragility and vulnerability in the unfolding story in Libya.” -Larry Diamond

“Libya is illustrative of the challenges that Islamists face when they try to address real world problems and when voters have real strong choices amongst parties.” -Tamara Wittes

SubSaharan Africa:

“Africa is the most volatile region in the world. It is the part of the world that has recorded the most substantial gains over the past few years and some of the most substantial declines.” -Arch Puddington

“Many times we’re forced to make painful decisions between our security interests and democracy… here [in Mali] they are converging in an obvious and striking way. If we can’t even respond forcefully in that kind of circumstance then I think we are in a much more pitiful state than I had imagined.”
-Larry Diamond

Civil Society & Democratic Governance

“The problem in Burma is the problem in Egypt, the problem you refer to in Yemen, and the problem in a lot of these countries in the world: that you can get stuck in the process of transition, in what’s been called a competitive authoritarian… a pseudo democratic regime.” -Larry Diamond

“Authoritarians have shifted their focus toward civil society.”  -Arch Puddington

"Now you see in country after country (Russia being the most obvious but by no means the only country), new laws, new policies, new ways of operating aimed at circumscribing the abilities of civil society organizations to function as they should be functioning. These governments fear civil society activists because they are energetic, because they have initiative, because they understand how to use new technologies and because they are not coopted.”  -Arch Puddington

“I see civil society demonstrating a lot of resilience, and creativity and flexibility in the face of that. And I think that gives us cause for optimism.” -Tamara Wittes

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.

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