There's still hope for global freedom
Beatrice Yeung Hong Kong International School
While 2011 was seen as a year of movement towards global liberalism, in reality, no significant changes happened.
The Freedom in the World 2012 report shows more countries registered declines, not gains, in civil liberties last year.
This is the sixth year of decline in global democracy, the longest such period since Freedom House first published the report in 1973.
Last year was marked by several instances of hope for democracy, such as the Arab Spring and reforms in Myanmar, which were hailed as milestones in global liberalism.
However, it appears that these democratic achievements are dwarfed by disillusionment, as the number of 'not free' and 'partially free' regimes continues to outnumber those that are 'free', by 108 to 87.
For example, although many observers said there was a positive outlook for change in North Korea following the death of dictator Kim Jong-il, the regime remained intact, with no move towards democracy. This shows the world needs to do some hard thinking if democracy is to prevail in the long run.
The effects of the ongoing Arab Spring, for example, have encouraged most countries to recognise reform and rights issues as political priorities.
However, the protests have led to a common, but incorrect, understanding that they equate to genuine political reforms. But the unrest has not translated into an enhancement of civil freedom. In Syria, for example, freedom ratings have decreased. Although the impact of these uprisings is appreciated, there is still a long road ahead to global democracy.
The future of global liberalism is still unknown, with areas such as the rule of law, freedom of the press and civil rights still murky in many parts of the developing world.
Although there isn't a single additional 'free' regime in this sixth year of decline, that's no reason to give up hope. Despite the disappointment, it is essential for global optimism to remain intact.