Open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media are the hallmarks of any free country. Many societies strive to achieve it, and a number of them have succeeded. But according Freedom House’s 2011 Freedom in the World Report, for the fifth year in a row, global freedom has declined.
The Report, issued in mid January by Freedom House - an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights - states that the number of countries designated as free in 2010 is 87, two less than in 2009. These represent about 45 percent of the world's 194 countries.
Almost a quarter of the world's people live in the 60 countries that are just partly free, while 47 countries were deemed Not Free. The number of Not Free countries remained unchanged from 2009.
According to Freedom House Director Arch Puddington, more brazen authoritarian regimes, along with a lack of response from democratic countries are to blame for the decline in freedom. "If the world’s democracies fail to unite and speak out in defense of their own values, despots will continue to gain momentum."
Democracy and advocacy of human rights are a major part of U.S. foreign policy. Speaking at a panel discussion about the report, then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner said the Obama administration is "increasingly in a range of discussions with other governments making clear the link between how they perform, how they act on human rights and democracy, and their ability to work with us as a close ally or a partner."
As President Obama said in his June 2009 Speech at Cairo University: "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere."