Freedom at Issue: Insights on the global struggle for democracy | Freedom House

Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

The most recent in China's growing list of transnational censorship efforts involves the University of Sydney, one of Australia’s most respected institutions of higher education. According to a Reuters report, the university’s Institute for Democracy and Human Rights had invited the Dalai Lama to speak at a campus forum during his planned visit to the country in June. Subsequently, university authorities demanded that the event be moved off campus, that the university logo not be displayed, that there be no press coverage, and that attendance by campaigners for a free Tibet be barred. Not surprisingly, organizers called off the event instead.

According to a 2012 Win-Gallup poll of some 50,000 individuals from 57 countries, 36 percent of respondents classified their religious identity as “Atheist” or “Non-Religious.” The result indicated a shift of 12 percentage points from “Religious” to the other two categories since 2005, when the poll was last conducted. However, the interests of nonbelievers are still frequently ignored in discussions of religious freedom and persecution around the world.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to look into conditions in North Korea. Given Pyongyang’s recent nuclear bombast and its loud threats to reduce South Korea to rubble and chase the United States from the region, it is no wonder that a human rights investigation of this kind has received little attention. There are, however, reasons to welcome the new effort to come to grips with North Korea’s regime of domestic repression.

At an event on April 18, Freedom House auctioned off photographs from more than 20 different countries, including Bahrain, Belarus, China, Russia, South Sudan, and Syria. The images, taken by amateur and professional photographers, were chosen as finalists from among hundreds of submissions to Freedom House’s second annual photo contest, “Images of Repression and Freedom.”

Secretary of State John Kerry will appear this week before the House and Senate committees on appropriations and foreign affairs to explain the Obama administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request for the Department of State and foreign operations. Freedom House compiled a series of key questions it would like Secretary Kerry to answer about administration policy and budget priorities during the hearings.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on April 16. The UAE is ranked Not Free in the Freedom in the World report, and its scores have declined over the past several years, the downward trajectory continuing in 2013. Continue reading to see a shortened version of the UAE report from Freedom in the World 2013.

As internet access spreads around the world and more countries consider ways to regulate users’ online activities, the United States has a responsibility to set an example by enacting legislation that combats online security threats while protecting individual privacy. Unfortunately, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which is scheduled to undergo markup this week by the House Intelligence Committee, fails to strike this balance, and threatens to set a negative example for other countries looking to adopt similar laws.

On March 22, the Organization of American States (OAS) held its 44th Special Session of the General Assembly to approve recommendations presented by the Permanent Council for strengthening the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Last week, Freedom House signed on to a declaration by almost 100 policy figures and former heads of state that urged the OAS to sustain the commission’s mandate to protect fundamental freedoms in Latin America. Freedom House trustee Diana Villiers Negroponte shares her views on the significance of the final resolution, agreed upon after 12 hours of deliberation by OAS foreign ministers, and what it means for the future of the IACHR as an independent watchdog in the region.


The dividing line between developmental assistance and aid that is intended to strengthen human rights and democratic governance is an obscure boundary, yet it has considerable moral and strategic significance. Donor countries must weigh a variety of factors—including security and economic questions and the geopolitical role of the beneficiary country—that often leave democracy and human rights goals on the back burner. Such a ranking of priorities has an immediate negative effect on the ground, and it ultimately represents a costly trade-off in which long-term interests are exchanged for short-term gains.

March 21 marked the end of the New York leg of Cuban blogger and activist Yoani Sánchez’s highly publicized international tour. Since beginning the 80-day, 12-country whirlwind of speaking engagements in February, Sánchez, whose blog Generación Y is now translated into nearly 20 languages, has been met with equal measures of protest and warmth in Brazil, Mexico, Europe, and the United States. Arguably the most influential blogger writing within Cuba, Sánchez was denied an exit visa 21 times over the last five years, but she finally received permission to leave the island last month under a broader government initiative to loosen travel restrictions.