Democracy is on the march worldwide: That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI). But its findings also urge caution.
Russia has been labeled a "defective democracy" by the report
The latest report from the BTI, which rates countries around the world on their progress towards democracy and a socially responsible market economy, puts Mauritius and Slovenia top of the 2006 Index and shows countries around the world are improving their political systems.
But the report also calls for caution, with some countries faltering on their path to democracy, and others resisting altogether.
When it comes to progress towards democracy, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index is a global report card. Joseph Janning, Head of the International Relations Program for Bertelsmann said that for the 2006 report, the general trend is good.
"Democracy and market economy is still a model that is attractive in various regions around the world," Janning told Deutsche Welle. "We see a slight growth in the number of democracies. At the same time market economies are doing fine, but it is mostly doing so because the global economic conditions are rather favorable."
One star performer is the tiny island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. When it comes to the performance of its government in organizing change, the BTI puts it in first place.
Praise for Mauritius and EU's eastern states
"Previously this was a sugar producing island," Janning added. "In recent years, Mauritius has been very successful in developing a quite competitive textile industry; tourism has been developed, so Mauritius has diversified its economic basis from one product into several key areas which all flourish now."
The BTI is published every two years. More than 250 experts worldwide collect data in to rank 119 countries on their progress towards a broad goal: a representative democracy under the rule of law combined with a socially responsible and sustainable market economy.
In practice, the report looks at areas like freedom of expression and the media, opportunities for small business and social and ecological sustainability.
Countries from every continent have shown progress. In Europe, expansion of the European Union has been a powerful force for democratic transition, with Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia and the Czech Republic all ranked in the top ten overall. EU applicants Croatia and Turkey also showed strong improvement.
Elsewhere in the world, Chile, Botswana, Taiwan and South Korea were all among the global top performers.
Russia's democracy on the wane, says BTI
Russian President Vladimir Putin's government do not get a favorable report card from the BTI.
But further east, Russia's progress is not so certain. The management competence of President Vladimir Putin's government was downgraded 56 places to 87th, with the BTI calling it a "defective democracy."
"We have seen that freedom of the press, the role of independent media has been turned back rather than consolidated or advanced," Janning said. "Then we have seen striking examples of the limited degree of the rule of law in Russia, the lack in independence of the judicial system from political prerogatives."
Dictatorships and autocracies still a problem
Gunmen keep guard as the speaker of the Somali parliament, Shariif Hassan Sheikh Aden, unseen, arrives in this, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005 picture in Mogadishu, Somalia.Somalia is a safe haven for terrorists in East Africa and the government-in-exile is needed to restore law and order to the Horn of Africa nation, the commander of a U.S. counterterrorism task force told The Associated Press Friday, May 13, 2005. U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Samuel Helland, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, said in an exclusive interview from his headquarters in Djibouti, that U.S. troops were working with Somalia's neighbors to improve their border security since U.S. pressure on the al-Qaida terror group in Pakistan and Afghanistan may force some members to seek refuge in East Africa.(AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)
But while the overall trend is towards democratization, the report notes that the pace of democratic change has fallen since the 1990s. The number of dictatorships and autocracies in the world has remained constant since the last report in 2003, and state failure remains a problem in Africa.
But the Joseph Janning said that development aid offers donor governments a powerful tool to promote democratic change in these regimes.
"International organizations or donors can work with the BTI to more effectively to single out best practices or good practices at least that could be brought to bear in specific other countries that they are interested in," he said.