The World Justice Project (WJP) Wednesday released its 2022 Rule of Law Index. For the fifth year in a row, the majority of countries experienced a decline in the rule of law. 85 out of 140 countries, accounting 61 percent and 4.4 billion people, saw a decline in rule of law. 52 countries, or 39 percent, saw overall improvement.The index measures eight areas of society: constraints on government power, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice. 44 sub-factors, like labor rights and due process of law, delve deeper into each major category.According to Rule of Law Index Co-Director Alicia Evangelides, three main factors drove the overall decline this year. Checks on government powers eroded in 58 percent of countries, effectiveness of civil justice systems fell in 61 percent of countries due to issues like delays and system-wide discrimination and respect for fundamental rights fell in 66 percent of countries. Since 2015, fundamental rights have declined more than any other factor; 76 percent of countries saw a decline. Evangelides attributed this decline to authoritarian tendencies in areas like freedom of expression and freedom of association.Regulatory enforcement is the only category that has improved worldwide since 2015; 59 percent of countries saw an increase in this category.Executive Director Elizabeth Andersen said the index “allows us to underscore the way in which rule of law performances correlates to other things we care about.” Observers can also map increases or decreases in rule of law to current world events. For example, states like Kosovo and Moldova experienced improvements as they seek entry to the European Union. Ukraine improved its rankings for four consecutive years but declined this year due to Russia’s invasion. Next year, Evangelides said the US may see declines in women’s rights rankings due to increasing abortion restrictions across the country.Andersen believes “the rule of law is not just for judges and lawyers.” In a media briefing, she explained:It is a project for everyone in society to advance, and so we are really focused on disseminating these findings and getting them in the hands of as many people as possible and encouraging folks to use them in their spheres of influence and their communities to understand where the strengths and weaknesses are and to drive change. We’ve seen enormous success in that with colleagues around the world who have taken this data and grappled honestly with the issues that they point to and then worked together across society, public and private sector, in government and out of government, to develop reforms that can move the needle.Andersen pointed to Kosovo as a success story. The nation announced a five-year rule of law strategy using the WJP indicators in 2021. Private sector actors can also use the indicators to guide investments and media strategies.Andersen and Evangelides addressed the US’ position specifically. From 2016 to 2021, the US “experienced some of the world’s biggest declines in the rule of law in recent years – similar in magnitude to those in Hungary, Philippines, Myanmar, and Nicaragua.” During that time, restraints on government powers particularly suffered. Andersen said the US has “partially improved” its deterioration since 2016, but “[a]uthoritarian trends have weakened both trust and accountability, and our democracy is not as healthy as it should be.”The US ranked 26 out of 140 countries for overall rule of law. In several categories, the US displayed concerning trends, ranking 103 for discrimination, 115 in access to criminal justice and 121 in access to civil justice. Evangelides said the impartiality of criminal justice and labor rights sub-factors are especially troublesome for the US.
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