The Americas are second only to Western Europe in levels of freedom and respect for human rights. Nonetheless, a rise in violent crime and in populist governments with authoritarian tendencies has led to backsliding in several countries. Among other serious human rights issues, parts of the region suffer from threats to freedom of the press, including violence against journalists, and infringements on freedoms of association and assembly. Throughout the Americas, Freedom House enables human right defenders and democracy activists to play a prominent role in counteracting these restrictions on fundamental rights, both domestically and through intergovernmental bodies.
Over the past five years, the Asia-Pacific region has been the only one to record steady gains in political rights and civil liberties as measured by Freedom House. Although it is home to China, where over half the world’s Not Free population lives, and North Korea, the least free country in the world, a number of Asia-Pacific countries have made impressive gains in the institutions of electoral democracy—elections, political parties, pluralism—and in freedom of association. Nonetheless, problems persist regarding many fundamental rights, and Freedom House supports local civil society groups throughout Southeast Asia in promoting and advocating the work of human rights defenders.
Countries in this region range from among the best to among the worst in the world with regard to respect for human rights. Most states in the non-Baltic former Soviet Union rank at or near the bottom of Freedom House’s ratings for political rights and civil liberties, while the democracies of Central Europe have established institutions that generally protect most fundamental rights, despite some recent backsliding. Georgia, Ukraine, and most countries in the Balkans fall somewhere in between, and need ongoing monitoring to ensure continued democratic progress. Freedom House’s programs in the region support courageous activists in their struggle to strengthen basic human rights, provide independent news and analysis, and combat grave violations of the rule of law.
Countries from this region are evaluated annually in Freedom House's Nations in Transit study, as well as in our flagship publication, Freedom in the World, and the Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net surveys.
Western Europe has traditionally maintained an exemplary level of respect for democratic standards and human rights, and has generally continued to do so in recent years despite serious economic turmoil. Nevertheless, many countries have developed problems related to their treatment of immigrants and minorities, and freedom of expression faces threats in several states. Through its presence in Brussels, Freedom House works to address these issues and to increase Western Europe’s role in supporting democratic progress abroad.
The Arab Spring of 2011 launched an era of sweeping political changes in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which has historically been the least free region in the world. The fall of longtime leaders and the people's rising demands for a stronger voice in their own governance have brought new opportunities for reform and democratic transition in countries otherwise marked by severe abuses of almost all fundamental political rights and civil liberties. Freedom House is helping citizens to realize these aspirations through a variety of programs across the region.
Despite being home to several of the world’s worst performing countries in terms of respect for human rights, the region saw overall if uneven progress toward democratization during the 1990s and the early 2000s. However, recent years have seen backsliding among both the top performers, such as South Africa, and the more repressive countries, such as The Gambia and Ethiopia. Lack of adherence to the rule of law, infringements on the freedoms of expression and association, widespread corruption, and discrimination against women and the LGBT community remain serious problems in many countries. Across the continent, Freedom House works to strengthen elections and civic mobilization, good governance, defense of human rights, rule of law, and independent media.