Freedom House

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Freedom House
Formation 1941
Type Research institute, think tank
Headquarters Washington, D.C., United States
Key people William H. Taft IV, chairman of the Board of Trustees
Jennifer Windsor, executive director
Staff Approximately 120[1]

Freedom House is a United States-based international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights.[2] It publishes an annual assessment of the perceived degree of democratic freedoms in each country, which is used in political science research.[3]

The organization was founded by Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941, and describes itself as "a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world." The group states "American leadership in international affairs is essential to the cause of human rights and freedom" and that this can primarily be achieved through the group's "analysis, advocacy, and action".[4] Freedom House receives about 80% of its budget from the U.S. government,[5] but also receives funding from various other sources, for example the Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Dutch government, and a list of others.[5]


[edit] Mission Statement

As stated by Freedom House:

"Freedom House is an independent organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, belief and respect for the rights of minorities and women are guaranteed."

"Freedom ultimately depends on the actions of committed and courageous men and women. We support nonviolent civic initiatives in societies where freedom is denied or under threat and we stand in opposition to ideas and forces that challenge the right of all people to be free. Freedom House functions as a catalyst for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law through its analysis, advocacy, and action."[4]

Freedom House also states its "diverse Board of Trustees is united in the view that American leadership in international affairs is essential to the cause of human rights and freedom."[4]

[edit] History

The organization was founded by Wendell Willkie, Eleanor Roosevelt, George Field, Dorothy Thompson, Herbert Bayard Swope, and others in 1941. Originally launched in response to the threat posed by Nazism, it now describes itself as a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world. Freedom House claims that it:

"has vigorously opposed dictatorships in Central America and Chile, apartheid in South Africa, the suppression of the Prague Spring, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, and the brutal violation of human rights in Cuba, Burma, the People's Republic of China, and Iraq. It has championed the rights of democratic activists, religious believers, trade unionists, journalists, and proponents of free markets."

The group states that during the 1940s, Freedom House supported the Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATO. Freedom House also states that it was highly critical of McCarthyism.[6] During the 1950s and 1960s, it supported the U.S. civil rights movement and its leadership included several prominent civil rights activists. It supported Andrei Sakharov, other Soviet dissidents, and the Solidarity movement in Poland. Freedom House assisted the post-Communist societies in the establishment of independent media, non-governmental think tanks, and the core institutions of electoral politics.[6]

More recently, Freedom House has supported citizens involved in revolutions in Serbia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. It states "In Jordan, Freedom House worked to stem violence against women; in Algeria, it sought justice for victims of torture; in Uzbekistan, a brutal dictatorship, it sought to defend human rights advocates; in Venezuela, it worked with those seeking to protect and promote human rights in a difficult political environment."[6]

[edit] Organization

Freedom House is a nonprofit organization. It is predominantly funded by the U.S. government,[5] and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It has field offices in about a dozen countries, including Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Jordan, Mexico, and a number of countries in Central Asia.

It is controlled by a Board of Trustees, which it describes as composed of 'business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars, writers, and journalists'. While some board members were born outside the United States, and many have been affiliated with international groups, all are current residents of the United States. It does not identify itself with either of the American Republican or the Democratic parties. The board is currently chaired by William H. Taft IV. Taft assumed chairmanship of the board in January 2009, replacing previous chair Peter Ackerman. Other current notable board members include Kenneth Adelman, Farooq Kathwari, Azar Nafisi, Mark Palmer, P. J. O'Rourke, and Lawrence Lessig,[7] while past notable board members have included Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Samuel Huntington, Mara Liasson, Otto Reich, Donald Rumsfeld, Whitney North Seymour, Paul Wolfowitz, Steve Forbes, and Bayard Rustin.

Freedom House receives the majority (80%) of its funding from the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and the State Department. It also receives some funding from foundations such as the Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Dutch government, and a list of others.[5]

Freedom House describes its relationship with the U.S. government as follows: "Freedom House is an independent, non-governmental organization that was initially created in 1941 to urge the U.S. government to adopt policies supporting democracy and human rights at home and abroad. Its reports and analyses are independent of any governmental influence and are enriched by an intellectual atmosphere of scholarly inquiry. In recent years, Freedom House has received grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department for various projects, usually as a result of public competition. Freedom House has also applied for and received funds from other democratic governments and international bodies that promote democracy, including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway and the European Union. Freedom House chooses to respond to specific funding opportunities, but never accepts funds from government institutions, including U.S. government agencies, in the form of contracts, and never functions as an extension of any government."[8]

[edit] Reports

See also: Freedom in the World (report)
This map reflects the findings of Freedom House's 2008 survey Freedom in the World, concerning the state of world freedom in 2007.      Free      Partly Free      Not Free
Countries highlighted in blue are designated "electoral democracies" in Freedom House's 2009 survey Freedom in the World
This graph shows the number of nations in the different categories given above for the period for which there are surveys, 1972-2005

Since 1972, (1978 in book form) Freedom House publishes an annual report, Freedom in the World, on the degree of democratic freedoms in nations and significant disputed territories around the world, by which it seeks to assess[3] the current state of civil and political rights on a scale from 1 (most free) to 7 (least free). These reports are often[9] used by political scientists when doing research. The ranking is highly correlated with several other ratings of democracy also frequently used by researchers.[3]

In its 2003 report, for example, Canada (judged as fully free and democratic) got a perfect score of a "1" in civil liberties and a "1" in political rights, earning it the designation of "free." Nigeria got a "5" and a "4," earning it the designation of "partly free," while North Korea scored the lowest rank of "7-7," and was thus dubbed "not free." Nations are scored from 0 to 4 on several questions and the sum determines the rankings. Example questions: "Is the head of state and/or head of government or other chief authority elected through free and fair elections?", "Is there an independent judiciary?", "Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?"[10] Freedom House states that the rights and liberties of the survey are derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[10]

The research and ratings process involved two dozen analysts and more than a dozen senior-level academic advisors. The eight members of the core research team headquartered in New York, along with 16 outside consultant analysts, prepared the country and territory reports. The analysts used a broad range of sources of information--including foreign and domestic news reports, academic analyses, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, individual professional contacts, and visits to the region--in preparing the reports.[11]

The country and territory ratings were proposed by the analyst responsible for each related report. The ratings were reviewed individually and on a comparative basis in a series of six regional meetings — Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Western Europe — involving the analysts, academic advisors with expertise in each region, and Freedom House staff. The ratings were compared to the previous year's findings, and any major proposed numerical shifts or category changes were subjected to more intensive scrutiny. These reviews were followed by cross-regional assessments in which efforts were made to ensure comparability and consistency in the findings. Many of the key country reports were also reviewed by the academic advisers.[11] Regardless, such a process contains elements of subjectivity.

The survey's methodology is reviewed periodically by an advisory committee of political scientists with expertise in methodological issues.[11]

Freedom House also produces annual reports on press freedom (Press Freedom Survey), governance in the nations of the former Soviet Union (Nations in Transit), and countries on the borderline of democracy (Countries at the Crossroads). In addition, one-time reports have included a survey of women's freedoms in the Middle East.

Freedom House generally uses standard geographic regions for its reports, though it groups the countries of the Middle East and North Africa together, separately from Sub-Saharan Africa; and it still uses the arguably outdated concept of Western Europe, to include countries such as Turkey and Cyprus, while categorizing Central and Eastern Europe separately — a division stemming from the Cold War era which ignores the eastwards expansion of such organizations such the EU and NATO. However, these groupings have nothing to do with the individual country ratings; they're merely used to make nations easier to find when perusing their reports, and also for comparative statistics between the modern day and the ratings of decades past.

It has been cited in thousands of scholarly articles and books.[1]

On January 16, 2008, Freedom House dropped the "freedom status" of the Philippines to partially free from a list of totally free countries. It based the downgrade on a spate of political killings "specifically targeting left-wing political activists in the country."[12]

[edit] Praise

On its website, Freedom House provides praise of its reports. Professor of International Political Economy Francis Fukuyama is quoted on the Freedom House web site as saying, "An essential source, Freedom in the World works from the assumption that freedom is a universal value, not reserved for the rich."[13] Foreign affairs writer Fareed Zakaria is also quoted on the organization's web site as saying: "While there are many sources of economic data, good political data is hard to find. Freedom House's survey is an exception. For anyone concerned with the state of freedom, or simply with the state of the world, Freedom in the World is an indispensable guide."[13]

[edit] Other activities

In addition to these reports, Freedom House participates in advocacy initiatives, currently focused on North Korea, Africa, and religious freedom. It has offices in a number of countries, where it promotes and assists local human rights workers and non-government organizations.

On January 12, 2006, as part of a crackdown on unauthorized nongovernmental organizations, the Uzbek government ordered Freedom House to suspend operations in Uzbekistan. Resource and Information Centers managed by Freedom House in Tashkent, Namangan, and Samarkand offered access to materials and books on human rights, as well as technical equipment, such as computers, copiers and Internet access. The government warned that criminal proceedings could be brought against Uzbek staff members and visitors following recent amendments to the criminal code and Code on Administrative Liability of Uzbekistan. Other human rights groups have been similarly threatened and obliged to suspend operations.

Freedom House is a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of more than 70 non-governmental organizations that monitors free expression violations around the world and defends journalists, writers and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Regarding regime change, Freedom House states "Freedom House works directly with men and women around the world to expand the political rights and civil liberties they experience in their countries. More specifically, Freedom House focuses on initiatives that contribute to long-term stability and growth in countries, such as strengthening civil society, promoting open government, defending human rights, and facilitating the free flow of information and ideas. While these activities - and the liberties they represent - may be threatening to some repressive governments, Freedom House does not initiate or sponsor regime change or popular revolutions. We help men and women of good will to improve their own societies."[8]

The Financial Times has reported that Freedom House is one of several organizations selected by the State Department to receive funding for 'clandestine activities' inside Iran.[14] In a research study, with Mr. Ackerman acting as chief adviser, Freedom House sets out its conclusions: "Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, non-violent civic resistance - which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders."[14]

On June 8, 2006, the vice-chairman of Freedom House's board of trustees[15] asked the U.S. Senate to increase the share of NGO funding aimed at helping support non-violent foreign democratic activists organize for potential overthrows of their non-democratic governments. Palmer argued in favor of shifting funding away from NGOs working in already democratic nations to fund this effort.[16]

[edit] Debate at UN's 2001 NGO Committee Meeting

In May 2001, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations heard arguments for and against Freedom House. Representatives of Cuba alleged that the organization is a U.S. foreign policy instrument linked to the CIA and "submitted proof of the politically motivated, interventionist activities the NGO (Freedom House) carried out against their Government". They also claimed a lack of criticism of U.S. human rights violations in the annual reports. Cuba also claimed that these violations are well documented by other reports, such as those of Human Rights Watch. Other countries such as China and Sudan also gave criticism. The Russian representative inquired "why this organization, an NGO which defended human rights, was against the creation of the International Criminal Court."[17]

The United States representative claimed that alleged links between Freedom House and the CIA were "simply not true." The representative said he agreed that the NGO receives funds from the United States Government, but said this is disclosed in its reports. The representative said the funds were from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which was not a branch of the CIA. The representative said his country had a law prohibiting the government from engaging in the activities of organizations seeking to change public policy, such as Freedom House. The representative said his country was not immune from criticism from Freedom House, which he said was well documented. The US representative further argued that Freedom House was a human rights organization which sought to represent those who did not have a voice. The representative said he would continue to support NGOs who criticized his Government and those of others.[17]

On June 25, 2005, economist and writer F. William Engdahl asserted on the website that Freedom House was "created in the late 1940’s to back the creation of NATO" and criticized the group for being headed by former CIA director James Woolsey at the time of his article's publication.[18]

[edit] Controversy

Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman, and some nations[17] have criticized the organization for receiving funding from and allegedly furthering the interests of the U.S. government,[19] while some within the U.S. government have offered praise to the group.[20] Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, in their book Manufacturing Consent, wrote that in 1979 Freedom House monitored the election of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and found them "fair", but found the 1980 elections won by Mugabe under British supervision "dubious".[21] Chomsky and Herman further write that the group's history has been characterised as excessively criticising states opposed to US interests and unduly sympathetic to those regimes supportive of US interests.[21] The authors suggest this can be most notably seen by the way it perceived the US ally El Salvador in the early 1980s, a regime that used the army for mass slaughter of the populace to intimidate them in the run up to an "election", but Freedom House found these elections to be "admirable".[21]

The methodology Freedom House uses for its reports has been criticised by social scientist K. A. Bollen for its perceived bias towards countries with pro-US positions.[22] Bollen argues that by relying on 'experts' or 'judges', the methodology falls into what is described as 'systematic measurement error': "Regardless of the direction of distortions, it is highly likely that every set of indicators formed by a single author or organization contains systematic measurement error. The origin of this measure lies in the common methodology of forming measures. Selectivity of information and various traits of the judges fuse into a distinct form of bias that is likely to characterize all indicators from a common publication."[23]

As noted in the section on organization above, Freedom House receives most of its funding from the U.S. government, and prominent U.S. government officials reside on its board. Self-described "freelance journalist" Diana Barahona has made allegations.[24] The organization states that its board of trustees contains Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are a mix of business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars and journalists.[8]

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, claimed in 1988 that Freedom House "had interlocks with AIM, the World League for Freedom and Democracy, Resistance International, and U.S. government bodies such as Radio Free Europe and the CIA, and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the (U.S) government and international right wing."[19] He justifies this claim by presenting a series of national elections that he claims were staged and that the Freedom House observers praised. He also criticizes Freedom House's claimed expenditure of "substantial resources in criticizing the media for insufficient sympathy with U.S. foreign-policy ventures and excessively harsh criticism of U.S. client states." Chomsky further argues that "Its most notable publication of this genre was Peter Braestrup's Big Story, which contended that the media's negative portrayal of the Tet offensive helped lose the war. The work is a travesty of scholarship, but more interesting is its premise: that the mass media not only should support any national venture abroad, but should do so with enthusiasm, such enterprises being by definition noble."[19]

Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, wrote that the executive director of Freedom House told him in 2003 that the group decided to back off from its efforts to spotlight human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, because some Republican board members (in Murray’s words) “expressed concern that Freedom House was failing to keep in sight the need to promote freedom in the widest sense, by giving full support to U.S. and coalition forces.” Human rights abuses in Uzbekistan at the time included treatment of prisoners who were killed by "immersion in boiling liquid," and by strapping on a gas mask and blocking the filters, Murray reported.[25] Jennifer Windsor, the executive director of Freedom House now and in 2003, said Murray's "characterization of our conversation is an inexplicable misrepresentation not only of what was said at that meeting, but of Freedom House’s record in Uzbekistan." "Freedom House has been a consistent and harsh critic of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, as clearly demonstrated in press releases and in our annual assessments of that country," she wrote.[26]

On December 7, 2004, U.S. House Representative Ron Paul criticized Freedom House for allegedly administering a U.S.-funded program in Ukraine where "much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate." Paul said that

"one part that we do know thus far is that the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), granted millions of dollars to the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative (PAUCI), which is administered by the U.S.-based Freedom House. PAUCI then sent U.S. Government funds to numerous Ukrainian non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This would be bad enough and would in itself constitute meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. But, what is worse is that many of these grantee organizations in Ukraine are blatantly in favor of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko."[27]

Freedom House reports have criticized both the United States and its major allies to a certain extent, for example in its 2006 report on the U.S. and Israel. It criticized the U.S. for its policies on interrogation and detention during the War on Terrorism and urged they should be brought into compliance with international law.[28][29] The occupied Palestinian territories, administered by Israel and Palestinian Authority, have not receive good scores.[30]

Freedom House has also been critical of some traditional U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Chile under Augusto Pinochet, classifying them as "Not Free." It was also strongly critical of apartheid South Africa and military dictatorships in Latin America.[31]

Russia, identified by Freedom House as "Not Free" in 2007, has called Freedom House biased and has also accused the group of serving U.S. interests. Sergei Markov, a Duma deputy from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, called Freedom House a "Russophobic" organization. "You can listen to everything they say, except when it comes to Russia," Markov argued. "There are many Russophobes there," he asserted.[32] In response, Christopher Walker, director of studies at Freedom House, argued that Freedom House made its evaluations based on objective criteria explained on the organization's web site, and he denied that it had a pro-U.S. agenda. "If you look closely at the 193 countries that we evaluate, you'll find that we criticize what are often considered strategic allies of the United States," he said.[32]

[edit] Praise

Former US President Bill Clinton, giving a speech at a Freedom House breakfast, said:

I'm honored to be here with all of you and to be here at Freedom House. For more than 50 years, Freedom House has been a voice for tolerance for human dignity. People all over the world are better off because of your work. And I'm very grateful that Freedom House has rallied this diverse and dynamic group. It's not every day that the Carnegie Endowment, the Progressive Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Foreign Policy Council share the same masthead.[33]

Writing in the conservative National Review Online, John R. Miller, a research professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School, states that

Freedom House has unwaveringly raised the standard of freedom in evaluating fascist countries, Communist regimes, and plain old, dictatorial thugocracies. Its annual rankings are read and used in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as by the U.S. State Department. Policy and aid decisions are influenced by Freedom House’s report. Those fighting for freedom in countries lacking it are encouraged or discouraged by what Freedom House’s report covers. And sometimes — most importantly — their governments are moved to greater effort."[20]

Miller nevertheless criticized the organization in 2007 as not paying enough attention to slavery in its reports. He wrote democracies such as Germany and India, but mostly repressive regimes, needed to be held to account for their lack of enforcement of laws against human trafficking and the bondage of some foreign workers.[20]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Freedom House: Frequently Asked Questions
  2. ^ Voice of America:Cuba After Fidel - What Next?
  3. ^ a b c The Limited Robustness of Empirical Findings on Democracy using Highly Correlated Datasets
  4. ^ a b c Freedom House: About Us
  5. ^ a b c d 2006 Freedom House Annual Report
  6. ^ a b c Freedom House: A History
  7. ^ Freedom House Board of Trustees
  8. ^ a b c Frequently Asked Questions
  9. ^ Illumnia Login The political science journal database Illumina lists between 10 and 20 peer reviewed journal articles referencing the "freedom in the world" report each year
  10. ^ a b Methodology
  11. ^ a b c Freedom House Methodology
  12. ^ Abs-Cbn Interactive, Int'l democracy watchdog: RP only 'partly free'
  13. ^ a b FH: Freedom in the World
  14. ^ a b "Bush enters debate on freedom in Iran".,_i_rssPage=de095590-c8f4-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html. Retrieved on 2006-04-06. 
  15. ^ FH Board of Trustees: Mark Palmer
  16. ^ Promotion of Democracy by Nongovernmental Organizations: An Action Agenda - Testimony by Ambassador Mark Palmer before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 8, 2006.
  17. ^ a b c UN: NGO Committee hears arguments for, against Freedom House
  18. ^ Color Revolutions, Geopolitics and the Baku Pipeline
  19. ^ a b c Manufacturing Consent. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, "Manufacturing Consent" Pantheon Books (1988).
  20. ^ a b c Miller, John R., "Does 'Freedom' Mean Freedom From Slavery? A glaring omission., article in National Review Online, February 5, 2007, accessed same day
  21. ^ a b c Chomsky and Herman: Manufacturng Consent, Vintage 1994, p28
  22. ^ * Bollen, K.A. (1992) Political Rights and Political Liberties in Nations: An Evaluation of Human Rights Measures, 1950 to 1984. In: Jabine, T.B. and Pierre Claude, R. "Human Rights and Statistics". University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812231082. Page 189
  23. ^ * Bollen, K.A. (1992) Political Rights and Political Liberties in Nations: An Evaluation of Human Rights Measures, 1950 to 1984. In: Jabine, T.B. and Pierre Claude, R. "Human Rights and Statistics". University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812231082
  24. ^ FH Files.Diana Barahona, "The Freedom House Files" Monthly Review, March, 2007
  25. ^ Glorious Nation of Uzbekistan, By TARA McKELVEY, New York Times Book Review, December 9, 2007. Book review of DIRTY DIPLOMACY: The Rough-and-Tumble Adventures of a Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror, by Craig Murray.
  26. ^ NYTimes Sunday Book Review: Jennifer Windsor letter
  27. ^ Ron Paul: U.S. Hypocrisy in Ukraine
  28. ^ FH: 2006 Freedom in the World Report
  29. ^ Freedom House Urges President Bush to Bring U.S. Policies on Interrogation and Detention into Compliance with U.S. and International Law
  30. ^ FH: 2007 Map of Freedom in the World: Palestinian Authority-Administered Territories [Israel]
  31. ^ Comparative scores for all countries from 1973 to 2006
  32. ^ a b Freedom Is Downgraded From 'Bad'
  33. ^ Remarks at a Freedom House breakfast - President Bill Clinton speech

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Official links

[edit] Freedom House reports

[edit] Related links

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