Connect with us

Politics

The Worrying Decline of Freedom Around the World

Published

on

The 20th century was a bull market for literacy, freedom, prosperity, health, and technology.

As a result of these gains, wealth has increased exponentially, and world poverty is now at all-time lows. Life expectancy continues to improve in most countries, global literacy is near 90%, and there are well over 100 democracies throughout the planet.

But not every positive trend can keep going forever. Sometimes things regress temporarily, only to be corrected later on. Other times things change more fundamentally – and that regression can be the beginning of a newer, long-term reality.

The Decline of Freedom: An 11-Year Trend

According to the Freedom in the World 2017 Report, which scores countries annually on various levels of freedom, there have been recent setbacks in political rights and civil liberties in a number of “Free” countries. These newest declines are partially the result of populist and nationalist forces making significant gains in democratic states.

But Freedom House, the international watchdog organization that produces the annual report, says that this is not an isolated occurrence. In fact, based on their data and methodology, freedom has actually declined on a global basis for the last 11 years.

Here are the aggregate gains and declines in freedom for each year – you can see that declines have been outweighing gains since 2006.

11 Years of Decline

The Decline of Freedom Over the Last 10 Years

While the trend is clear, the most worrying part is that the biggest aggregate declines happened in the two most recent years. Is that a coincidence, or is the decline of freedom accelerating?

Here are the specific countries that have had the biggest declines in freedom over the last decade:

Largest Aggregate Declines Over the Last Decade

The Decline of Freedom Over the Last 10 Years

Countries like Yemen and Ethiopia, which are classified as “Not Free”, have lost further freedom. However, “Free” countries like Hungary or Nauru also lost 10 or more points in the index.

2016: Another Year of Setbacks

The biggest mover in 2016 was Turkey, a country that the Washington Post says is in a “permanent state of crisis”.

A failed coup attempt, the assassination of a Russian ambassador, trouble in bordering Syria, and economic crises have accelerated the march to authoritarianism in the country – and it’s had a 15-point decline of freedom as a result, according to Freedom House.

Biggest Movers in 2016

The Decline of Freedom Over the Last 10 Years

Hungary and Poland are among the Western democracies that lost significant points in 2016, but the report also has its crosshairs on the United States for 2017. It notes the U.S. as a “country to watch” this year because of the Trump administration’s approach to civil liberties, as well as a potential redefinition of the United States’ role in the world.

Here are where things stand as of now:

Map: World Freedom in 2017

Freedom in the World in 2017 by Aggregate Score

For the whole report, which is a highly-recommended read, go here.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Continue Reading
Comments

Flags

24 Iconic World Flags, and What They Mean

Many world flags are instantly recognizable, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. What are the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic flags?

Published

on

From the skull and bones at the top of a pirate ship to a white flag on a battlefield, a single piece of fabric can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Depending on where they fly, flags can represent freedom or control, danger or safety.

In the context of modern times, flags are best known as national symbols — and they’re used to air a country’s past, present, and future vision all rolled into one.

The Meaning of Flags

Today’s infographic from Just the Flight looks at some the world’s most iconic flags, and the intricate stories and ideals that can be found in their designs.

Flags of the World

The Americas

Since 1777, the star-spangled banner of the United States has gone through several facelifts. The current version has been in use since Hawaii gained statehood in 1960. Puerto Rico has been voting to become the 51st state in recent years — and if the U.S. government proved to accept such a resolution, the flag would be amended once more.

The largest country in South America, Brazil adopted its flag design in 1889. The primarily green background represents its lush Amazonian forest while the yellow diamond signifies its wealth in gold. Meanwhile, the Portuguese slogan on the flag, Ordem e Progresso, is a nod to democracy.

Europe

Denmark holds the Guinness world record for the oldest continuous use of their national flag, since 1625. The Danish flag is known as the Dannebrog, or Danish Cloth — as legend has it, the Dannebrog ‘miraculously’ fell from the sky in a battle during the Northern Crusades.

The Union Jack of the United Kingdom combines aspects of three older national flags and was adopted in 1801. Displaying the flag upside down is considered lèse-majesté — “to do wrong to majesty”, or an insult to the Crown — and is offensive to some.

Asia and Oceania

India’s tricolor flag was first flown in 1923. However, the colors do not represent religions or hours in the day — saffron symbolizes indifference to material gains, the white band represents light while the navy blue Dharma Chakra (wheel of truth) depicts dynamic change, and green demonstrates the country’s relationship to nature.

New Zealand’s flag features elements from the British Commonwealth. Since 2015, there have been ongoing debates among Kiwis about whether to amend the flag’s design. Frequent confusion with Australia is a significant pro for change, but national identity and financial costs are strong arguments against it.

Nepal is the only country without a rectangular (or square) national flag. The two triangles pay tribute to its geographic location in the Himalayas as well as the Shah and Rana dynasties. The sun and moon symbols on the flag used to have human faces on them, but were removed in 1962.

Africa

South Africa boasts one of the world’s most colorful flags. When it was first adopted after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, it was the first world flag to have six colors but no seal or brocade. Interestingly, while there is no inherent meaning in its colors, the Y shape symbolizes the convergence of diverse elements and societal unity.

Mozambique is the only national flag in the world to feature a modern weapon – specifically, an AK-47 with an attached bayonet. Adopted in 1983, the rifle represents vigilance and defense, while the hoe crossing it represents the country’s agriculture.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Continue Reading

Data Visualization

Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

Where are the happiest, least happy, and fastest improving countries worldwide? We’ve broken down this annual ranking by region to answer that question.

Published

on

Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

The state of our world is shifting beneath our feet — economics alone no longer equate to satisfaction, let alone happiness.

Today’s visualization pulls data from the seventh World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. We’ve previously shown the variables used to measure happiness in this report, but here, we break down rankings by continent and region for a clearer picture of where each country lies.

happiness north america map

North America

Unhappy Americans have caused the country to tumble in rankings for a third straight year, despite evidence that things are generally looking up. The report attributes much of this erosion to a variety of addictions: opioids, workaholism, gambling, internet, exercise, and even shopping are among them.

Haiti is the least happy country in this region. The country is still struggling to rebuild sanitation infrastructure and other educational and healthcare programs, despite foreign aid.

In brighter news, Nicaragua is seeing great gains in happiness levels, as the country makes a concentrated effort to reduce poverty.

happiness south america map

South America

In South America, the majority of countries cluster around a score of six on the happiness scale.

The one notable exception to this is Venezuela, which is faltering in both happiness rank and regional improvement. The nation’s hyperinflation and humanitarian crisis both show no signs of slowing down.

happiness europe map

Europe

Finland comes out on top of the world for a second consecutive year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The country boasts a stable work-life balance, bolstered by a comprehensive welfare state.

Scandinavian countries appear among the happiest nations for similar very reasons — elevating the region’s score to 16% above the global average.

On the flip side, Ukraine is the unhappiest, likely intensified by the ongoing war in southeastern Donbass. Greece is the least improved, as it continues to heal from the sovereign debt crisis.

happiness middle east map

Middle East and Central Asia

Uzbekistan shows the swiftest regional improvement, as the country has launched an ambitious reform agenda for greater economic, social, and political development and openness.

Unfortunately, Syria’s continued civil war comes with a heavy price for its people and economy, as does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — although the latter doesn’t seem to impact Israel’s happiness ranking. In fact, Israel finished with the 13th best score, globally.

happiness asia 2019

Rest of Asia and Oceania

In East Asia, the average happiness score is quite close to the global average, with Taiwan standing out as the happiest country.

Singapore out-competes other countries within Southeast Asia, despite only being home to a population of 5.6 million. Its neighbor Malaysia, however, plunged from 35th to 80th place.

Oceania stands alone – Australia and New Zealand are closely matched in their individual happiness scores.

happiness africa map

Africa

The African continent as a whole fares 19.2% below the global average. But there are silver linings, with strong strides towards improvement being made.

Mauritius benefits from good governance and a buoyant tourism sector — with visitor arrivals equal to the island’s 1.3 million population. Meanwhile, Benin has soared in the rankings, and is supported by the World Bank in key structural reforms such as poverty reduction and access to basic services.

What could these rankings look like in another ten years?

Notes: The Africa map was updated to show more country scores. The report only covers 156 countries, so “Oceania” only refers to Australia and New Zealand in this instance.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Continue Reading
Foran Mining Company Spotlight

Subscribe

Join the 100,000+ subscribers who receive our daily email

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Popular