Press release March 9, 2023
NEW REPORT: Freedom in the Asia-Pacific Region Improved Slightly in 2022
Malaysia and the Philippines received the largest score increases. Solomon Islands experienced the largest score decline.
WASHINGTON—Freedom in the Asia-Pacific region improved slightly in 2022, with eight countries making improvements in their political rights and civil liberties and six countries experiencing declines, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.
The report——finds that while some countries in the region have overcome decades of dictatorship to establish resilient democracies, authoritarian forces elsewhere continue to push back against domestic calls for liberty and justice. Progress in 2022 was largely driven by prodemocracy movements, as well as small improvements in judicial independence, anticorruption efforts, and freedom of movement. The Communist Party regime in China remained one of the world’s worst violators of political rights and civil liberties; those who dared to criticize the party were subjected to severe penalties.
Other findings in the Asia-Pacific region include:
- The largest one-year score improvements occurred in Malaysia, which is designated as Partly Free, and in the Philippines, also rated Partly Free. Each gained 3 points on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale, for aggregate scores of 53 and 58, respectively.
- The largest one-year score decline in the region took place in the Solomon Islands, which is rated Free. The score declined by 3 points, for an aggregate score of 76.
- New Zealand received the highest aggregate score in the region—99 on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale—followed by Japan (96) and Australia (95). All are rated Free.
- Tibet (1), which is assessed as a separate territory, had the worst aggregate score in the region, followed by North Korea (3), Afghanistan (8), China (9), and Myanmar (9). All are designated as Not Free.
- Five percent of people in the region live in countries rated Free, while 41 percent live in Not Free countries.
Beyond the Asia-Pacific region, Freedom in the World 2023 finds that global freedom declined for a 17th consecutive year in 2022 as 35 countries suffered deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties. A total of 34 countries made improvements during the year, however, meaning the gap between the numbers of countries that improved and declined was the narrowest it has ever been since the negative pattern began. The report suggests that the struggle for democracy may be approaching a turning point, and offers recommendations on how democratic governments and societies should work together to roll back authoritarian gains.
The new report includes scores and narrative assessments on political rights and civil liberties for 195 countries and 15 territories around the globe. This year’s edition, the 50th in its series, covers developments in 2022 and provides a brief analysis of long-term trends. The report’s methodology is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.
The report identifies a number of steps that democratic governments can take to protect and expand political rights and civil liberties. They include:
- Help Ukraine win. Democratic governments must maintain unwavering support for Ukraine and its people, whose cause is crucial to the future of freedom. This should include providing the weapons and technical and security assistance necessary to help ensure Ukrainian success on the battlefield.
- Stop enabling authoritarians. Democracies must address corruption and kleptocracy head on by closing the many financial loopholes that allow authoritarian rulers to hide or launder stolen assets in democratic settings.
- Be clear and unapologetic about the virtues of democracy and tireless in efforts to uphold and defend it. Democratic states should make the protection of freedom and democracy a fundamental component of all international policy efforts—including in foreign, security, and economic affairs—and every diplomatic engagement. Human rights concerns should be raised in meetings with foreign counterparts at all levels.
- Dramatically ramp up support for human rights defenders and for countries and regions at critical junctures. Democratic governments should help human rights defenders and civil society groups remain active in their home countries whenever possible, and provide technical assistance and training. When democracy advocates come under threat, their foreign partners should provide medical, legal, and psychosocial support as needed.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.
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