What does personal freedom entail? For a citizen to have full personal freedom within a state, they must have freedom of movement, private property ownership and security, freedom of expressing dissenting opinions, and the right to a fair unbiased trial. These are the unwavering pillars of the data set provided by the Legatum Prosperity Index. This organization’s release of the Personal Freedom rankings measures how much the governments of different countries allow their citizens to live their lives without overbearing limits imposed on them. The Index uses a multifactorial ranking system, since it is not as easy as simply stating whether a nation provides personal freedom to its citizenry or not. Seeing that it considers multiple criteria that must be met in order for personal freedom to be considered present, the Legatum ranking is particularly nuanced. A government may provide freedom of movement, but at the same time have an unfair judicial system. Within such a system, the more stipulations that are met, the higher a country’s ranking for personal freedom will be. Taking into account the variables of tolerance for immigrants and minorities, civil liberty and free choice, and satisfaction with freedom of choice, the index takes each of these as weighted coefficients and combines them into an overall score. With the Index’s conclusions in mind, we have taken a closer look into three of the countries considered to have some of the fewest personal freedoms for their populaces.
Which Countries Have the Least Personal Freedoms?
Sudan recently split with its lower half in 2011, when South Sudan gained autonomy and independence. The former Sudan had two distinct ethnic groups, often categorized as “Arab” and “African.” South Sudan was populated with different ethnic African groups. The political power and resources were concentrated in the North, leaving South Sudan extremely marginalized. While it existed as one country, Sudan was plagued with violence and civil war. Omar Al Bashir, the current President of the post-separation Sudan, has an arrest warrant out for him that was issued in 2009 by the International Criminal Court for planning and executing mass killings and rapes in Darfur. Nonetheless, he is still the president today. Power in Sudan is still concentrated in the hands of a small group of elites, and resources are barely provisioned outside of the capital. The fact that the country’s sitting president is wanted for crimes against humanity is symbolic of why it has the ranking it does. A lack of resources and personal freedoms, and a surplus of corruption and violence all serve to make Sudan one of the least free countries in the world. One of the basic tenets of personal freedom is your freedom to express your beliefs and opinions. With Omar Al Bashir as president orchestrating genocide within his own country, it can be concluded that citizens’ personal expressions are not even considered by the leadership.
Yemen has been on the brink of civil war for years now between the Houthi rebels who follow a branch of Shi’a Islam called Zaidism and the Yemeni government, as well as some members of the Sunni branch of Islam. The government is considered weak and large areas of the country are now under Houthi control, which is actively working to gain more territory and power. The government cannot provision sufficient resources to its citizens because it has few to offer. Yemen has been a stronghold for several terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, from which to stage their violent acts, and the result has been a country left shattered. While the ranking of Yemen may be a fair one, it should be noted that it is here not simply because the government is not allowing its citizens personal freedom. There are other factors involved and, moreover, it seems to be the case that presently the Yemeni government does not even have the tools and infrastructure on hand necessary to ensure such freedoms.
Even in the post-Taliban climate, Afghanistan is not free from human rights abuses. Although the country technically has an article in its constitution that aims to protect freedom of speech, the threatening and harassment of journalists and public figures has been reported. It has also been stating that the problem of corruption is growing in Afghanistan today. Corruption can refer to anything from small-scale to an unjust police force. Land grabbing, which refers to the acquisition of land on a large-scale, is another type of corruption said to run rampant throughout Afghanistan.
What Can Be Done to Improve Personal Freedoms?
Much like the problems affecting personal freedoms are complicated, the solution most likely is too. Unfortunately, in countries where economic insecurity and corruption are felt on the most acute of levels, there are often populations of people whose basic human needs are not being met. In these cases, it can be difficult to resolve issues such as freedom of the press or bribery that, while important, can be minimized by other major issues faced by the country in question, such as war. However, it is possible for countries who are experiencing a low degree of personal freedoms right now to gradually turn around over time.