With democracy under threat globally, Barbados is still considered the freest country in the Caribbean and one of the freest in the world, according to the Freedom in the World 2018 survey.
The annual study of political rights and civil liberties puts Barbados as the 16th freest country out of 195 countries and 14 territories, making it the third freest country in the Americas behind Canada and Uruguay, which are ranked fifth and sixth respectively.
The island received an aggregate score of 96 out of 100, and a freedom rating of 1.0. on the freedom rating scale, which goes from one to seven, with one considered more free and seven least free.
However, while Barbados has maintained its freedom rating over the years, its aggregate score has declined from 98 in 2016 to 97 last year.
A full country report was not available for the island, but this year’s report, which was entitled, Democracy in Crisis, pointed out that “democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets – including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of press, and the rule of law – came under attack around the world”.
Among other things, the survey, which is produced by Freedom House, examines countries’ electoral processes, political pluralism and participation, freedom of expression or belief, organizational rights, the rule of law, the functioning of the government and personal autonomy and individual rights.
“Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom,” it said.
Sweden (100), Norway (100), Finland (100), the Netherlands (99) and Canada (99) were considered the top five freest nations, while Syria was considered the least free country with an aggregate score of -1 and a freedom score of seven.
Other Caribbean countries making the cut are Dominica with an aggregate score of 93; St Lucia (91); Bahamas (91); St Vincent and the Grenadines (90); St Kitts and Nevis (89); Grenada (88); Antigua and Barbuda (83); Trinidad and Tobago (81); Jamaica (77) and Guyana (74).
Meanwhile, Haiti was considered “partly free” with an aggregate score of 41 and a score of 5.0 on the freedom scale while Cuba was considered not free with an aggregate score of 14 and a freedom mark of 6.5.
In all, 49 countries were considered not free, representing 25 per cent of the world’s polities. The number of countries qualifying as free were 88, representing 45 per cent of the world’s 195 states and more than 2.9 billion people.
The number of countries qualifying as partly free stood at 58, or 30 per cent of all countries assessed, and they were home to nearly 1.8 billion people, or 24 per cent of the world’s total.
“The number of people living under not free conditions stood at nearly 2.7 billion, or 37 per cent of global population, though it is important to note that more than half of this number lives in just one country – China. The number of not free countries stayed the same,” it noted.
President of Freedom House Michael Abramowitz also pointed out that “the United States retreated from its traditional role as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy and an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties.
“Over the period since the 12-year global slide began in 2006, 113 countries have seen net decline, and only 62 have experienced a net improvement,” he added.
“Civil rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterized by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom,” he pointed out.
The US received a freedom score of 1.5 and an aggregate score of 86.