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Freedom House’s Vanessa Tucker Uses Data To Track Democracy Around The Globe

Brian Hardzinski

Since its founding in 1941 to combat spreading Nazism during World War II, the non-governmental organization Freedom House has expanded its mission to measure the rights and civil liberties of 209 countries and territories around the world using a quantified scale.

“We have a regional discussion of academic advisors, regional experts, methodological advisors within our organization and we go through every single country in the world, what happened over the past year and how the scores reflect those developments,” The organization’s vice president for analysis Vanessa Tucker told KGOU’sWorld Views.

Vanessa Tucker used to direct Countries at the Crossroads, a research project studying freedom in 70 specific countries. Her research focuses on ranking countries’ freedoms in areas such as political rights and freedom of expression and beliefs.

Although the United States typically scores well within Freedom House, police pushback during protests like Occupy Wall Street showed the organization the U.S. isn’t perfect when it comes to freedom of speech. But Tucker acknowledges quantifying qualitative information can still be subjective. The goal is to use the scores to benefit the countries, and help other NGOS figure out what areas of the world need the most aid.

“You start to see where the weaknesses and strengths are, and that's a good foundation for reforms and for identifying where real work needs to be done,” Tucker said.

Over the past decade, Tucker says she’s seen democracy decline around the globe. Countries on the lower end of the spectrum typically don’t contest the scores because the citizens don’t have access to them. The NGO also struggles to get accurate and up-to-date information.

“There's been a real erosion in public interest of what democracy means and why it continues to be an important cause,” Tucker said.

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