Countries at the Crossroads

Countries at the Crossroads 2011

The 2011 edition of the Countries at the Crossroads report analyzes the performance of 35 countries, including six in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The countries’ scores cover the period from April 2007 through December 2010, and generally indicate grim and deteriorating conditions in the run-up to the Arab Spring.

Overall country declines exceeded improvements in both number and degree in this year’s report, with widespread efforts by governments around the world to restrict freedom of expression—two out of every three countries with previous data declined in this subcategory. The free and fair electoral laws and elections subcategory was also hit hard, as 17 countries with previous data declined in this area.

The report found that countries in the MENA region face grave challenges to successful democratic transition due to government institutions that have been seriously undermined under current and previous authoritarian regimes. It predicts that failure to institute thoroughgoing reforms in areas such as rule of law, accountability of the army and security services to civilian authorities, protection from state abuse, and official corruption could lead to the ascendance of forces hostile to freedom, and autocratic rule is likely to be maintained, or reasserted in the case of those countries that have seen uprisings.

Venezuela, along with Syria, underwent the sharpest decline in the rule of law category, according to the report. China showed significant signs of deteriorating governance, with particularly notable declines in the areas of civil society, media freedom, and the rule of law. Additionally, Greece and Italy, analyzed for the first time in Crossroads, faced deep challenges related to corruption, bloated and inefficient civil services, and excessive bureaucratic regulations.

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