7.24.2005

Countries at the Crossroads 2005: A Survey of Democratic Governance

A new Freedom House study, “Countries at the Crossroads 2005: A Survey of Democratic Governance,” assesses governance in 30 countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia. The report evaluates countries according to four broad categories: rule of law, transparency and anti-corruption, governmental accountability, and civil liberties.

The Freedom House description: “Countries at the Crossroads: A Survey of Democratic Governance evaluates government performance in 60 strategically important countries from across the globe, including emerging market countries and at-risk states. The in-depth, comparative analysis and quantitative ratings--examining Accountability and Public Voice, Civil Liberties, Rule of Law, and Anticorruption and Transparency--serve as a valuable tool for policy analysts, educators and students, government officials, and the business community. Countries at the Crossroads covers 30 countries each year in alternating years.”

Thanks to the Freedom House for this valuable study, such surveys are much needed. The following is the conclusion of the included essay, "Meeting the Democratic Governance Challenge":

Conclusion
Recent events in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Lebanon demonstrate the ability of popular resistance to effect change in corrupt and unresponsive political leadership. These advances have been spurred in part by the information revolution, which allows news of transformations in any corner of the globe to be transmitted across borders with a speed unimaginable even a generation ago. However, in many of the countries covered in this survey, citizens paradoxically face considerable hurdles to obtaining information about their own government’s performance. While transparency has taken a high place on the international agenda, itremains an aspiration in many of the countries under review here.

In countries where corruption and cronyism have become entrenched, average citizens are becoming more frustrated with their leadership’s inability to deliver political goods and to promote public welfare. The directing of public resources under these mismanaged regimes into a relatively small circle of private hands creates an untenable governance atmosphere for average citizens. Over the long haul, such arrangements will lead neither to stable political environments nor to sound and reliable business environments. Key international stakeholders—national governments, relevant multilateral organizations, and the business community—all have a genuine interest in encouraging improved governance in these countries.

Sound governance cannot be achieved by decree. Consensual decision making is required, in which leaders are chosen through free and fair elections and institutions such as the media and the judiciary are permitted to share information and hold the authorities accountable. Open channels between the government and civil society—operating under the rule of law—can contribute to strengthening regime legitimacy. Regimes that claim to rely on self-reform or self-policing, without the benefit of independent institutions and their own citizens’ voices, will be at a severe—perhaps fatal—disadvantage in managing the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

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