Freedom House released its annual report on freedom this week, and the news should be a wake-up call to the world: the nonprofit has documented the 15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom, finding less than a fifth of the world’s population lives in what it considers “free” countries.
The 2021 report, “Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy Under Siege,” found that countries experiencing deterioration outnumbered those with improvements by the largest margin recorded since the negative trend began in 2006. While part of the downward trend can be attributed to the pandemic, many other factors contributed to democracy’s decline around the world; disinformation, excessive surveillance, economic and physical uncertainty, discriminatory restrictions on movement and assembly, and arbitrary or violent enforcement of such restrictions by police and nonstate actors.
The report also named the “eclipse of US leadership” under former President Donald Trump’s years in power as another contributor. While still considered “free,” the US score in the index dropped by 11 points over the past decade, falling by three points in 2020 alone. The changes moved the country out of a cohort that included other leading democracies, such as France and Germany, and brought it into the company of states with weaker democratic institutions, such as Romania and Panama.