WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Democracy declined across the globe in 2012, marking the seventh consecutive year of democratic government’s decline.

According to the annual democracy report from independent watchdog organization Freedom House, 27 places had new restrictions placed on their right of assembly, expression and media. Three billion people, or 43 percent of the global population, enjoyed full political rights and civil liberties, while 1.6 billion resided in partly free countries, where there is only limited respect for freedoms in place.

There “is a critical need for leadership from the United States and other democracies,” the Freedom in the World 2013 report said, arguing in favor of more American engagement with civil society in oppressed nations.

Freedom House describes their mission for democracy on their website: “Freedom is possible only in democratic political environments where governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed.”

The report leans heavily on the Arab uprisings and other political changes sweeping the Middle East.

“The gains that were recorded in Tunisia, and to a considerably lesser extent in Egypt and Libya, were offset by more dubious trends elsewhere in the region,” reads the report. “Indeed, the overthrow of autocrats in these countries provoked determined and often violent responses in many others, most notably in Syria, where by year’s end the Assad dictatorship had killed over 5,000 people in its efforts to crush widespread antigovernment protests.”

The report did note some gains for democracy last year.

According to the report, 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. In some cases, protest and upheaval was followed by the beginnings of democratic institution building.

“At year’s end, two countries with unbroken histories of fraudulent polling, Tunisia and Egypt, had conducted elections that observers deemed competitive and credible, and freedom of expression had gained momentum in many Middle Eastern societies.”

The report also found that 90 countries enjoyed “full freedom” in 2012 – up from 87 nations in 2011.

According to its website, Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world.


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