The purpose of the Comparative Survey of Freedom since its inception in the 1970s has been to provide an annual evaluation of political rights and civil liberties everywhere in the world.
The Survey attempts to judge all places by a single standard and to point out the importance of democracy and freedom. At a minimum, a democracy is a political system in which the people choose their authoritative leaders freely from among competing groups and individuals who were not chosen by the government. Putting it broadly, freedom is the chance to act spontaneously in a variety of fields outside the control of government and other centers of potential domination. Normally, Westerners associate the adherence to political rights and civil liberties with the liberal democracies, such as those in North America and the European Community. However, there are also Third World democracies such as Costa Rica and Botswana. In another case, Western Samoa combines political parties and competitive elections with power for the matai, the heads of extended families.
Freedom House does not view democracy as a static concept, and the Survey recognizes that a democratic country does not necessarily belong in our category of "free" states. A democracy can lose freedom and become merely "partly free." Sri Lanka and Colombia are examples of such "partly free" democracies. In other cases, countries that replaced military regimes with elected governments can have less than complete transitions to liberal democracy. El Salvador and Guatemala fit the description of this kind of "Partly free" democracy. (For an explanation of the designations "free," "partly free," and "not free," see the section on The Map of Freedom below.)
Just as democracy is not a static concept, the Survey itself adapts to changing conditions. Readers of the previous editions of the Survey will note that the ratings of many countries and related territories have changed since 1989. Events have changed some ratings, but other changes reflect methodological refinements developed by the Survey team.
Definitions and categories of the Survey
The Survey's understanding of freedom is broad and encompasses two sets of characteristics grouped under political rights and civil liberties. Political rights enable people to participate freely in the political process. By the political process, we mean the system by which the polity chooses the authoritative policy makers and attempts to make binding decisions affecting the national, regional or local community. In a free society this means the right of all adults to vote and compete for public office, and for elected representatives to have a decisive vote on public policies. A system is genuinely free or democratic to the extent that the people have a choice in determining the nature of the system and its leaders.
Civil liberties are the freedoms to develop views, institutions and personal autonomy apart from the state.
The Survey employs checklists for these rights and liberties to help determine the degree of freedom present in each country and related territory, and to help assign each entity to a comparative category.
The checklist for Political Rights
1. Is the head of state and/or head of government or other chief authority elected through free and fair elections?
2. Are the legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
3. Are there fair electoral laws, equal campaigning opportunities, fair polling and honest tabulation of ballots?
[point 4. is missing from original text]
5. Do the people organize freely in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
6. Is there a significant opposition vote, de facto opposition power, and a realistic possibility for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
7. Does the country have the right of self-determination, and are its citizens free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies or any other powerful group?
8. Do cultural, ethnic, religious and other minority groups have reasonable self-determination, self-government, autonomy or participation through informal consensus in the decision-making process?
9. Is political power decentralized, allowing for local, regional and/or provincial or state administrations led by their freely elected officials? (For entities such as tiny island nations, the absence of a decentralized system does not necessarily count as a negative in the Survey.)
Additional discretionary political rights questions
A. For traditional monarchies that have no parties or electoral process, does the system provide for consultation with the people, encourage discussion of policy, and allow the right to petition the ruler?
B. Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group? (Note: This question appears for the first time in the 1992-93 Survey.)
When answering the political rights questions, Freedom House considers the extent to which the system offers the voter the chance to make a free choice among competing candidates, and to what extent the candidates are chosen independently of the state. We recognize that formal electoral procedures are not the only factors that determine the real distribution of power. I many Latin American countries, for example, the military retains a significant political role, and in Morocco the king maintains significant power over the elected politicians. The more people suffer under such domination by unelected forces, the less chance the country has of getting credit for self-determination.
Freedom House does not have a culture-bound view of democracy. The Survey team rejects the notion that only Europeans and those of European descent qualify as democratic. The Survey demonstrates that, in addition to those in Europe and the Americas, there are free countries with varying kind of democracy functioning among people of all races and religions in Africa, the Pacific and Asia. In some Pacific islands, free countries can have competitive political systems based on competing family groups and personalities rather than on European- or American-style parties.
The checklist for Civil Liberties
1. Are there free and independent media, literature and other cultural expressions? (Note: in cases where the media are state-controlled but offer pluralistic points of view, the Survey gives the system credit.)
2. Is there open public discussion and free private discussion?
3. Is there freedom of assembly and demonstration?
4. Is there freedom of political or quasi-political organization? (Note: This includes political parties, civic associations, ad hoc issue groups and so forth.)
5. Are citizens equal under the law, do they have access to an independent, nondiscriminatory judiciary, and are they respected by the security forces?
6. Is there protection from unjustified political terror, imprisonment, exile or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system, and freedom from war or insurgency situations? (Note: Freedom from was and insurgency situations enhances the liberties in a free society, but the absence of wars and insurgencies does not in itself make an unfree society free.)
7. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents?
8. Are there free professional and other private organizations?
9. Are there free businesses or cooperatives?
10. Are there free religious institutions and free private and public religious expressions?
11. Are there personal social freedoms, which include such aspects as gender equality, property rights, freedom of movement, choice of residence, and choice of marriage and size of family?
12. Is there equality of opportunity, which includes freedom from exploitation by or dependency on landlords, employers, union leaders, bureaucrats or any other type of denigrating obstacle to share of legitimate economic gains?
13. Is there freedom from extreme government indifference and corruption?
When analyzing the civil liberties checklist, Freedom House does not mistake constitutional guarantees for the respect for human rights in practice. For tiny island countries and territories and other small entities with low populations, the absence of unions and other types of association does not necessarily count as a negative unless the government or other centers of domination are deliberately blocking association. The question on equality of opportunity prevents disadvantaged individuals from enjoying a full exercise of civil liberties. Typically, desperately poor countries and territories lack both opportunities for economic advancement and the other liberties on this checklist. We have a question on gross indifference and corruption, because when governments do not care about the social and economic welfare of large sectors of the population, the human rights of those people suffer. Government corruption can pervert the political process and hamper the development of a free economy.
The Survey rates political rights and civil liberties separately on a seven-category scale, 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free. A country is assigned to a particular category based on responses to the checklist and the judgments of the Survey team at Freedom House. The numbers are not purely mechanical; they also reflect judgment. The team assigns initial ratings to countries by awarding from 0 to 2 points per checklist item, depending on the degree of compliance with the standard. The only exception to this is the discretionary question on cultural destruction and deliberate demographic change to tip the political balance. In that case, we subtract 1-2 points depending on the situation's severity. The highest possible score for political rights is 18 points, based on up to 2 points for each of nine questions. The highest possible score for civil liberties is 26 points, based on up to 2 points for each of thirteen questions.
After placing countries in initial categories based on checklist points, the Survey team makes minor adjustments to account for factors such as extreme violence, whose intensity may not be reflected in answering the checklist questions. These exceptions aside, in the overwhelming number of cases, the checklist system reflects the real world situation and is adequate for placing countries and territories into the proper comparative categories.
The map on pages 68-69 divides the world into three large categories: "free," "partly free," and "not free." The Survey places countries and territories into this tripartite division by averaging the category numbers they received for political rights and civil liberties. Those whose category numbers average 1-2.5 are considered "free," 3-3.5 "partly free," and 5.5-7 "not free." The dividing line between "partly free" and "not free" and "not free" falls within the group whose category numbers average 5.5. For example, countries that receive a rating of 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties, or a 5 for political rights and a 6 for civil liberties, could be either "partly free" or "not free." The total number of raw points is the factor which makes the difference between the two. Countries and territories with combined raw scores of 0-14 points are "not free," and those with combined raw scores of 15-29 points are "partly free." "Free" countries and territories have combined raw scores of 30-44 points.
The differences in raw points between countries in the three broad categories represent distinctions in the real world. There are obstacles which "partly free" countries must overcome before they can be called "free," just as there are impediments which prevent "not free" countries from being called "partly free." Countries at the lowest rung of the "free" category (category 2 in political rights, category 3 in civil liberties) differ from those at the upper end of the "partly free" group (category 3 in both). Typically, there is more violence and/or military influence on politics at 3.3 than at 2.3 and the differences become more striking as one compares 2.3 with worse categories of the "partly free" countries.
The distinction between the least bad "not free" countries and the least free "partly free" may be less obvious than the gap between "partly free" and "free," but at "partly free," there is at least one extra factor that keeps a country from being assigned to the "not free' category. For example, Bahrain (6.5) has a system of consultation between ruler and subjects, and rights of petition. These are examples of aspects that separate this country from its "not free" neighbor, Iraq (7.7). The gap between "partly free" and "not free" is easier to see if one compares Zimbabwe (5.4) with Somalia (7.7). Zimbabwe has some independent political parties and nongovernmental institutions that function peaceably, while Somalia has violently destructive, competing "governments" that have left the country a wasteland of starving people and broken institutions.
Freedom House wishes to point out that the designation "free" does not mean that a country has perfect freedom or lacks serious problems. As an institution which advocates human rights, Freedom House remains concerned about a variety of social problems and civil liberties questions in the U.S. and other countries that the Survey places in the free category. Similarly, in no way does an improvement in a country's rating mean that human rights campaigns should cease. On the contrary, we wish to use the Survey as a prod to improve the condition of all countries.
The approach of the Survey
The Survey attempts to measure conditions as they really are around the world. This approach is distinct from relying on intense coverage by the American media as a guide to which countries are the least free. The publicity given problems in some countries does not necessarily mean that unpublicized problems of other countries are not more severe. For example, while U.S. television networks are allowed into Israel and El Salvador to cover abuses of human rights, they are not allowed to report freely in North Korea, which as far less freedom. To reach such comparative conclusions, Freedom House evaluates the development of democratic governmental institutions, or lack thereof, and also examines the quality of civil society, life outside the state structure.
Without a well-developed civil society, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have an atmosphere supportive of democracy. A society that does not have free individual and group expressions in nonpolitical matters is not likely to make an exception for political ones. As though to prove this, there is no country in the Survey that places in category 6 or 7 for civil liberties and, at the same time, in category 1 or 2 for political rights. In the overwhelming majority of cases in the Survey, countries and territories have ratings in political rights and civil liberties that are within two categories of each other.
Readers should not necessarily interpret the ratings as a commentary on the intentions of particular governments. Rather, the ratings represent Freedom House's evaluation of the countries' and territories' situations, which are formed by both governmental and nongovernmental factors.
The Survey rates both countries and related territories. For our purposes, countries are internationally recognized independent states whose governments are resident within their officially claimed territories. In the unusual case of Cyprus, we give two ratings, since there are two governments on that divided island. However, in the 1992-93 Survey, we have changed Turkish Cyprus from a country to related territory. By having participated in negotiations (albeit unsuccessful ones) to reach a settlement with the Greek Cypriots through the U.N. in 1992, the Turkish Cypriot government acknowledged implicitly that its unrecognized status is untenable. In no way does the listing of Turkish Cyprus as a related territory imply that Freedom House endorses Cyprot division. We note only that neither the predominately Greek Republic of Northern Cyprus is the de facto government for the entire island. An internationally recognized state, Monaco, counts as a related territory here, due to its officially dependent relationship with France and its lack of full U.N. membership. With that exeption, related territories consist mostly of colonies, protectorates, occupied territories and island dependencies. although many countries recognize the PLO as the government of Palestine, we do not count Palestine as an independent country, because the PLO does not govern a Palestinian state. Since the publication of our 1991-92 yearbook, Freedom House has carried separate ratings for the republics of the former Soviet Union and for Yugoslavia. This edition of the Survey adds Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia to the list of independent countries rated. The new Yugoslavia (not including the territories of Kosovo and Vojvodina), as rated in the Survey, is comprised of Montenegro and Serbia. We have designated Kosovo and Vojvodina as related territories, in order to call attention to their human rights situations and issues of self-determination. Similarly, Iraqi Kurdistan becomes a related territory this year, because the area has distance human rights problems, held regional elections, and instituted self-government in 1992. Svalbard, a Norwegian Arctic territory with a Russian majority, and the Aland Islands, a Finnish territory with a Swedish majority, also become new related territories. Northern Ireland gained separate status as related territory in our 1991-92 yearbook and is so designated in Freedom Review for the first time. Due to their increasing international recognition and full U.N. membership, Liechtenstein and San Mariano change status from related territories to independent countries in this Survey.
The Survey excludes uninhabited related territories and entities such as the U.S.-owned Johnston Atoll, which has only a transient military population and no native inhabitants. Since most related territories have a broad range of civil liberties and some form of self-government, a higher proportion of them have the "free" designation than do independent countries.