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Gains and Losses in Freedom around the World according to Freedom House
On December 23, 1991, I boarded an airplane in St. Petersburg, Russia, and returned to the United States after a college semester studying Russian. Two days later, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was condemned to history’s dustbin. Twenty years later the world witnessed the start of another dramatic wave of freedom, this time in the Arab world. As Arch Puddington of Freedom House recently put it, “The political uprisings that swept across the Arab world over the past year represent the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism.” But as Freedom House’s latest Freedom in the World survey documents, more than half of the world’s population still lives in countries where an individual’s basic rights are restricted or denied. By Freedom House’s count, 12 countries showed positive gains for freedom in 2011, Tunisia and Burma among them. However, a whopping 26 countries experienced declines, including Syria, Bahrain, Hungary, Ukraine, Greece, Yemen, and Nicaragua. Yet hope prevails. “Unaccountable and oppressive rulers have been put on notice that their actions will not be tolerated forever,” writes Puddington. “The year of Arab uprisings has reminded the world that ordinary people want freedom even in societies where such aspirations have been written off as futile.” Liberty declared victory over communism and Soviet tyranny 20 years ago. Despite violence against innocents and some serious setbacks, freedom is on its way to doing the same today in the Arab world and beyond. For more on Freedom House’s survey, I recommend Puddington’s recent piece on ForeignPolicy.com: “The Top Ten Trends in Global Freedom”. This post written by Amanda Schnetzer, Director of Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute.