Around the world, millions of people carried on the struggle for freedom and human rights in 2013. There were gains, to be sure, but unfortunately many more setbacks. Here are some of the best and worst developments in human rights over the past year.
After years of false starts, successful elections would signify a high water mark in Madagascar politics over the last several years and an important breakthrough in the stalled electoral process. However, the real test of the government, opposition, and military’s commitment to restore stability will be to collectively accept the outcomes and move beyond factious crisis politics.
In this video blog, Freedom House consultant Professor Susan Booysen discusses how South Africans view Nelson Mandela’s lasting impact on democracy, how they compare his rule with that of the current ANC government, and what effects they expect his passing to have on South African politics.
Although it has run into repeated delays and crises, the transition in Tunisia has so far muddled through without major violence, and the country remains on a path to become the Arab world’s first stable democracy.
By raising the possibility that an outdated amnesty decree could apply to a former military leader’s genocide charges, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court is not merely going against the country’s own laws, but also breaching the widely accepted if still nascent norm of international human rights law that prohibits amnesties for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Zambia won international praise in 2011 for free and fair elections that led to a peaceful transfer of power to the longtime opposition party—a rarity in Southern Africa. However, recent democratic setbacks in the country, overshadowed by threats to freedom in larger countries like Mali, Kenya, and South Africa, have yet to attract much attention abroad.
Democracy advocates would do well to scrutinize the white paper released last month by the Scottish National Party in preparation for an independence referendum scheduled for September 2014. The document and the vote it heralds may have important implications for the viability of multinational democracies elsewhere, the global balance of forces between free and authoritarian countries, and the fundamental notion of democracy as a sturdy supplier of good governance.
For those aiming to promote democracy around the globe, Mandela’s life holds invaluable lessons for current and future struggles for freedom. He is renowned for his principled opposition to a racist and undemocratic regime in South Africa, but his cause was also the cause of all people who seek to uphold the universal principles of liberty and equality, anywhere in the world.
People all around the world are mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela, but it is in South Africa—the country he helped to liberate from oppression—that the loss is most keenly felt. In this blog post, staff members from Freedom House’s Johannesburg office have shared what Mandela means to them and their reactions to his passing.