Freedom in the World 2003 | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2003

Freedom and democracy made significant worldwide progress in 2002 despite threats posed by global terrorism.

Freedom in the World 2003 shows that in 2002, 28 countries demonstrated forward progress in freedom, a dramatic increase from one year ago. Of those, four- Brazil, Lesotho, Senegal, and Yugoslavia-entered the ranks of Free countries. Two countries-Bahrain and Kenya-made the transition to Partly Free. A total of eleven countries registered setbacks, including two-Cote d'Ivoire and Togo-that regressed to Not Free.*

Real gains outnumbered setbacks by nearly a three-to-one margin.** By contrast, in 2001, 16 countries registered gains and 17 displayed a retreat from freedom.

"While some repressive governments use the global war on terrorism to justify crackdowns on peaceful political opponents, the survey's findings suggest that overall, the world has not seen a serious erosion of human rights since September 11, 2001," said Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky.

While many of the gains made in 2002 took place in countries where global terrorist networks have not had a direct impact, such as Brazil and Yugoslavia, notable improvements were made in parts of the world where terrorism poses a direct threat, including majority Muslim and Arab countries.

Genuine evidence of change was registered in majority Muslim Senegal, which entered the ranks of the Free, and in Bahrain, which moved from Not Free to Partly Free. There were also distinct signs of civic ferment in Iran and Kuwait, together with indications of a commitment to political opening in Qatar. Progress was also registered in majority Muslim Afghanistan, Albania, Comoros, Tajikistan, and Turkey.

"These gains are attributed to civic dynamism and a growing understanding that democratic accountability is the best way to counter the appeal of extremist and violent ideologies," said Mr. Karatnycky.

Thirty Year Trends

This year represents the 30th anniversary of Freedom in the World. The 2002 survey finds that the number of countries rated Free has more than doubled from 30 years ago. The highest-ever proportion of the world's population is living in freedom today.

According to the annual survey, 89 countries are now Free, up from 43 in 1972. Their inhabitants enjoy a broad range of rights. Fifty-five countries are considered Partly Free, an increase from 38 in 1972. Political rights and civil liberties are more limited in these countries, in which corruption, dominant ruling parties, and, in some cases, ethnic or religious strife are often the norm. The survey finds that 48 countries fall into the Not Free category, down sharply from 69 in 1972. Inhabitants of these countries are denied basic political rights and civil liberties.

"The dramatic increase in the number of Free countries points to the broad and growing appeal of democracy among the world's many peoples and cultures," said Freedom House co-Vice Chairman Mark Palmer. "This underscores the universality of democracy and its basic principles, including freedom of speech, religion, and thought," he said.

Thirty years ago, 1.3 billion people (35 percent of the world's population) lived in Free countries. Today, that total stands at 2.7 billion people (44 percent). At the same time, the number of people living in Not Free countries has moved from 1.8 billion people to 2.2 billion people. This, however, represents a proportional decline of people living under Not Free systems, from 47 percent in 1972 to 35 percent today. Of the 2.2 billion people who are considered Not Free, almost 60 percent, or 1.28 billion, live in the People's Republic of China.

Over the last 30 years, freedom's progress has been most dramatic in Latin America, the Asia-Pacific region, and Central and Eastern Europe. Modest progress has also been registered in Africa. The Middle East and many majority Islamic countries have seen stagnation in terms of overall levels of freedom in the last three decades.

Despite the lack of progress in large parts of the Islamic world, especially its Arabic core, the survey analysis finds no inexorable link between Islam and political repression. Indeed, it shows that the majority of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims lives under democratically elected governments, in countries like Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Turkey.

The overall lack of progress on democratic reform within specific Muslim countries can be attributed to high degrees of military influence, the persistence of monarchies and personal authoritarianism, and the influence of radical ideologies such as Baathism and jihadist Islamism. All have helped give birth to tyrannical regimes and violent movements in the region.

Among the study's principal findings:

  • After a successful transition from a United Nations mandate, East Timor became the world's newest democracy in 2002.
  • There are 121 electoral democracies in the world today, out of 192 states (63 percent). In 1987, 66 countries were electoral democracies out of a total of 167 (40 percent). However, only 89 of today's 121 electoral democracies have an environment in which there is broad respect for human rights and stable rule of law. The remaining democracies fail to provide systematic protection for all basic civil liberties.
  • In 2002, the GDP of Free countries stood at $26.8 trillion, while the GDP of Not Free countries was $1.7 trillion.

Regional Findings

Democracy and freedom remain deeply rooted in Western Europe, with 24 states rated Free. One (Turkey) is rated Partly Free.

In the Americas, 23 countries are Free, 10 are Partly Free, and 2 (Haiti and Cuba) are Not Free

In the Asia-Pacific region, 18 countries are Free, 10 are Partly Free, and 11 are Not Free.

In Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, 12 countries are Free, 9 are Partly Free, and 6 are Not Free. Dramatic progress has been confined mostly to Central and Eastern Europe, where the 12 Free countries reside. In the non-Baltic states that emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union, there are no Free countries, while 6 states are Partly Free and 6 are Not Free.

In the Middle East and North Africa, there has been the least progress over the last 30 years. One country-Israel-is Free, 4 Countries are Partly Free and 13 are Not Free.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 11 countries are Free, 21 are Partly Free, and 16 are Not Free.

*Ratings reflect global events from January 1, 2002 through December 1, 2002.

**Minor adjustments to the survey methodology led to upward trends in 14 additional countries and to downward trends in 3 states.

Note: Click on the second tab below for reports on individual countries and territories. Territories are identified with asterisks.





Middle East and North Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa


Not Free

Partly Free