This piece was originally published by The Guardian, in print and online.
Fundamental human rights are reported to have diminished in almost two-thirds of the 113 countries surveyed for the 2018 Rule of Law Index, amid concerns over a worldwide surge in authoritarian nationalism and a retreat from international legal obligations.
“All signs point to a crisis not just for human rights, but for the human rights movement,” said Professor Samuel Moyn of Yale University. “Within many nations, these fundamental rights are falling prey to the backlash against a globalising economy in which the rich are winning. But human rights movements have not historically set out to name or shame inequality.”
The 2018 index, published by the World Justice Project (WJP), gathers data from more than 110,000 households and 3,000 experts to compare their experiences of legal systems worldwide, by calculating weighted scores across eight separate categories. While Venezuela retains its unwanted position at the bottom of the index – just behind Cambodia and Afghanistan – the Philippines is this year’s biggest faller, dropping 18 places to 88th in the table, on top of a slump of nine places in the 2016 survey.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has put a “palpable strain upon established countervailing institutions of society”, according to Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. He said there had been a “chilling effect” on the country’s opposition in the wake of attacks against personalities who have criticised Duterte’s policies.
Non-discrimination, freedom of expression and religion, the right to privacy and workers’ rights were all taken into account in calculating observance of people’s fundamental rights across the world. Respondents’ belief in the protections afforded by such rights has dropped in 71 of the 113 countries surveyed for the latest index.
“The WJP’s findings provide worrying confirmation that we live in very dangerous times for the rule of law and human rights,” said Murray Hunt, director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.
“The worldwide resurgence of populism, authoritarian nationalism and the general retreat from international legal obligations are trends which, if not checked, pose an existential threat to the rule of law. Preventing violations of the rule of law and human rights is always better than curing them after the event,” Hunt said.