CIVICUS has presented its annual ranking of civil liberties around the world, which it has published since 2017.
Only 3.2% of the world’s people can fully and safely express their opinions and protest. This data is contained in the annual civil liberties ranking compiled by the CIVICUS alliance of human rights organisations. Russia is among the worst of the five “closed” countries.
According to the document, in 2022, protests by citizens, for the most part peaceful, were recorded in 131 countries around the world. These protests ranged from rising food prices due to inflation to indignation over government corruption or repression.
In at least 92 countries, protesters were detained, and in 57, excessive force was used.
Killings of peaceful protesters have been documented in at least 24 countries around the world. Citizen activists, journalists and human rights workers were targeted in more than 100 countries last year. The ranking assessed 197 countries and territories.
CIVICUS is an association of more than 20 human rights NGOs and social movements around the world founded in 1993 to promote the development of civil society. It is headquartered in Johannesburg and has offices in New York and Geneva.
The rating classifies countries into five categories according to the extent to which civil liberties are restricted: countries with a free civil society (“Free”); countries where civil liberties are partially restricted (“Restrictive”); countries where civil society is severely hampered (“Obstructive”); countries where civil society is repressed (“Repressive”); countries where any attempt to exercise civil liberties is severely suppressed (“Closed”).
As the authors point out, the rating data show that civil society finds itself in an increasingly hostile environment.
Considering the situation in 2022, only 3.2% of the world’s population live in countries which are included in the “Free” category. CIVICUS estimates that only 38 out of 197 countries fall into this category, including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Iceland and Portugal.
The category of countries where civil liberties are partially restricted includes 42 countries, including Armenia, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Italy, Georgia, Japan, Moldova and the United States. These countries are home to 11.3% of the world’s population.
The UK, Ukraine, South Africa, Serbia, Poland and 35 other states were placed in the “Obstructive” category, which are countries that oppress civil liberties.
CIVICUS lists 50 countries in the “Repressive” category as having the highest proportion of the world’s population at 42.2%. They include Angola, Chad, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Venezuela.
The remaining 27 states are in the “Closed” category, as CIVICUS points out, the worst category of all. These include Afghanistan, Myanmar, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, DPRK and Saudi Arabia.
These countries are home to 28.5% of the world’s population or over 2 billion people. The most free civil society states are in the Europe and Central Asia region – 20, and the most Closed countries are in the Middle East and North Africa.
Over the past year, 15 countries have moved into a lower category, worsening their scores for civil society freedom. For example, the UK’s move into the “Obstructive” category is attributed by the authors of the ranking to “increasing authoritarianism” in the adoption of restrictive and punitive laws against public protests. According to CIVICUS, the British government is creating a “climate of hostility” towards campaigners, charities and other civil society organisations. Russia, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Tajikistan moved from the ‘Repressive’ to ‘Closed’ category.