Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay


We studied the ASBMT 6 month (m) freedom from treatment failure (FFTF) as a predictor of survival for patients with acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) requiring treatment.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay


Adult patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) from February 2007 to March 2009 who were enrolled in a prospective biomarker clinical trial and developed aGVHD requiring systemic corticosteroids by day +100 were included (N=44). Six month FFTF was defined per ASBMT guidelines [absence of death, malignancy relapse/progression, or systemic immunosuppression change within 6 months of starting steroids and before chronic GVHD development]. aGVHD was treated with systemic corticosteroids in 44 patients. Day 28 response after steroid initiation (CR+VGPR+PR) occurred in 38 (87%) patients, but only 28 (64%) HCT recipients met the 6 m FFTF endpoint.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Day 28 response predicted 6 m FFTF. Achieving 6 m FFTF was associated with improved 2 year (y) overall survival (OS) [81% vs. 48%, P= 0.03)] and decreased 2 y non-relapse mortality [8% vs. 49% (P= 0.01)]. In multivariate analysis, 6 m FFTF continued to predict improved OS (HR, 0.27; P=0.03). The 6 m FFTF endpoint measures fixed outcomes, predicts long-term therapeutic success, and could be less prone to measurement error than aGVHD clinical response at day 28.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Keywords: acute graft versus host disease, hematopoietic stem cell transplant, clinical trials
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Despite prophylactic immunosuppression (IST) and improvements in high-resolution HLA typing, acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) remains the major early complication following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). High dose corticosteroids are the established first-line treatment of moderate to severe aGVHD,1 however, only 50-60% of patients will achieve a complete response to front-line therapy with steroids.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay 2 Incomplete responses and recurrent aGVHD symptoms are common with steroids, thus indicating a need for improved treatment options. Furthermore, there is no established second-line therapy for steroid-refractory aGVHD. Well-designed clinical trials with validated endpoints for treatment success are needed to rigorously examine new therapies to improve aGVHD outcomes. 3 At present, the optimal endpoints for aGVHD clinical trials have not been established thus interfering with the ability to identify and compare novel regimens for aGVHD treatment.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Emerging data indicates that aGVHD response after 28 days of treatment could be an important early endpoint for assessing therapeutic success in aGVHD clinical trials. 2, 4, 5 Although day 28 response appears to be a valid proximal predictor of more distal outcomes, there are several important limitations associated with this marker.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay First, day 28 response as determined by rash, persistent anorexia/nausea, quantity of diarrhea, and serum bilirubin concentration can be affected by non-GVHD factors including infections, medications, or organ dysfunction related to conditioning (i.e., hepatic veno-occlusive disease / sinusoidal obstruction syndrome). In addition, grading of aGVHD and determining clinical response to treatment can be associated with inter-observer variation, which could be problematic for multicenter clinical trials.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) has proposed the 6 month (m) freedom from treatment failure (FFTF) as a primary endpoint to gauge treatment efficacy in aGVHD clinical trials. The ABSMT 6 m FFTF is not directly determined by clinical response and is instead defined by the absence of death, malignancy relapse/progression, or systemic immunosuppression (IST) change within 6 months of starting initial treatment and prior to chronic GVHD (cGVHD) diagnosis. 1, 6 The association of 6 m FFTF with important clinical characteristics and transplant outcomes is currently unknown. We hypothesize that the ASBMT 6 m FFTF will be associated with the day 28 response and that the 6 m FFTF can predict long term therapeutic success in patients with aGVHD requiring treatment without the associated limitations inherent to the more commonly used day 28 clinical response.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

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From February 2007 to March 2009, 100 adult patients with hematological malignancies received myeloablative or reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) followed by a T cell replete matched related or unrelated donor (URD) HCT at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Seventy-four of these individuals were enrolled in a prospective biomarker clinical trial.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay 7 Within 100 days of transplant, 45 (61%) HCT recipients developed aGVHD requiring treatment with systemic steroids. One patient was excluded due to malignancy progression prior to steroid treatment. Thus 44 patients were included in the final analysis. The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Human Subject Institutional Review Board (IRB) at VUMC. Signed informed consent was obtained.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

All patients received GVHD prophylaxis with a calcineurin inhibitor and either methotrexate or mycophenolate mofetil. Patients receiving T cell depletion with thymoglobulin were excluded from the original clinical trial. Only 1 patient received a donor lymphocyte infusion for relapsed malignancy during the study period. aGVHD was diagnosed clinically and was confirmed by biopsy in all patients. Clinical features of aGVHD or cGVHD were assessed weekly for the first 100 days after HCT. Thereafter GVHD status was updated at least monthly during visits in the long-term transplant clinic or at the time of acute hospitalizations. The recorded features included aGVHD or cGVHD incidence, organ involvement, severity, recurrence rates, and response to treatment. Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay The clinical severity of aGVHD was determined by the overall grade (0-4) and the individual organ stage (0-4), as defined by the 1994 consensus conference criteria.8 cGVHD diagnosis and severity was determined as per 2005 National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus guidelines. 9

aGVHD therapy and response
Patients with moderate to severe aGVHD were treated with high dose corticosteroids (1-2 mg/kg/day of intravenous methylprednisolone or oral prednisone) per institutional guidelines for 7-10 days followed by a standard taper of 10% every 5-7 days. Secondary aGVHD therapy was administered to patients per standard of care practice within our institutional guidelines for 1) aGVHD progression after 3 days of high dose corticosteroids, 2) no response after 7 days of corticosteroids, or 3) aGVHD flare while on corticosteroids and after initial response to treatment. Generally, extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) was used as the standard second-line treatment for aGVHD at our institution. Rituximab or TNF-blockade were added to ECP for severe skin or gut aGVHD, respectively or they were used as primary therapy if ECP was contraindicated (i.e., medically unstable patient, inability to place pheresis catheter due to active bacteremia, etc.).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Patients were followed for 6 months after the start of steroids. aGVHD response to systemic steroids at day 28 after treatment initiation was classified as complete response (CR), very good partial response (VGPR), partial response (PR), and no response (NR) as previously defined by the ASBMT joint statement and modified by Macmillan et. al. (Supplementary Table 1).2, 10 Six month treatment failure was defined per recent ASBMT consensus as follows: death from any cause, relapse or progression of malignancy, or change in systemic IST within 180 days of starting steroid therapy and prior to cGVHD diagnosis.1, 6 During analysis, patients meeting criteria for 6 month treatment failure were counted only once irrespective of the number of failure events they experienced. Triamcinolone cream and psoralen with ultraviolet A therapy (PUVA) were not considered systemic IST and when added to primary therapy were not counted as steroid failure events. cGVHD development was treated as a competing risk for 6 month aGVHD steroid failure.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Statistical analysis
Overall survival (OS) was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and cumulative incidence was used to estimate the probability of non-relapse mortality (NRM) and 6 month treatment failure. OS and NRM were calculated from the initiation of steroid therapy. NRM was defined as death in the absence of disease relapse or progression. Relapse was considered a competing risk for NRM. Time to 6 month treatment failure was defined as the date from steroid initiation to 6 months of follow up or the first of the following events: death, malignancy relapse/progression, or initiation of second-line systemic treatment for aGVHD. Patient data was censored at the time of cGVHD if diagnosis occurred during the first 180 days of steroid treatment for aGVHD. Survival outcomes between groups were compared with a log-rank test for univariate analysis and a Cox proportional hazards regression for multivariate analysis. Nominal variables were described by the percentage or frequency and were compared by the χ2 or Fisher’s exact test. McNemar’s test was used to compare the proportion of patients in a group before and after an intervention. P-values were 2-tailed and considered significant at P <0.05. Analyses were performed using SPSS version 18 (SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL) and R version 2.7.0 (Free Software Foundation, Boston, MA).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

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Response to systemic corticosteroids was assessed in 44 evaluable patients with aGVHD [grade 1 (N= 2), grade 2 (N= 30), grade 3-4 (N=12)]. Two patients with grade 1 aGVHD were treated with systemic steroids for rapid progression of skin rash despite topical therapy with triamcinolone cream. Clinical characteristics of the cohort are outlined in Table 1. The median time to aGVHD and initiation of steroid therapy after HCT was 24 days (range, 7-56) and 28 days (range, 7-91), respectively. Skin only, gut only, and multi-organ aGVHD affected 7 (16%), 19 (43%), and 18 (41%) patients, respectively.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Table 1
Clinical and transplant characteristics of 44 patients with aGVHD requiring systemic corticosteroids, stratified by 6 month treatment failure (percentage)

6 Month Responders 6 Month Treatment Failures
Number 28 16
Median 46 42
Range 27-65 21-70
Male 12 (43) 6 (38)
Female 16 (57) 10 (62)
Acute leukemias, MDS 13 (46) 7 (44)
CML + MPD 3 (11) 0
NHL + HL + MM + CLL 8 (29) 4 (25)
Other 4 (14) 5 (31)
Disease Risk*
Standard 17 (61) 8 (50)
High 11 (39) 8 (50)
Conditioning Regimen
Reduced Intensity 9 (32) 5 (31)
Myeloablative 19 (68) 11 (69)
Related 15 (54) 8 (50)
Unrelated 13 (46) 8 (50)
Stem Cell Source
Peripheral Blood 18 (64) 10 (63)
Other 10 (36) 6 (37)
Matched 24 (86) 14 (88)
Mismatched 4 (14) 2 (12)
Donor/Recipient Sex
Female to male 3 (11) 0
Other 25 (89) 16 (100)
CD34+, × 10^6/kg 5.89 5.85
Median 0.04-10.1 0.09-9.81
aGVHD prophylaxis
CSA + Methotrexate 17 (61) 9 (56)
CSA + MMF 11 (39) 7 (44)
aGVHD grade
Grade 1 2 (7) 0
Grade 2 21(75) 9 (56)
Grade 3-4 5(18) 7 (44)
aGVHD organ involvement
Skin only
Gut only 4 (14) 3 (19)
Multi-organ 13 (47) 6 (37)
11 (39) 7 (44)
aGVHD day 28 response
CR † 12 (43) 2 (12)
VGPR 4 (14) 3 (19)
PR 10 (36) 7 (44)
NR 2 (7) 4 (25)
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aGVHD, acute graft-versus-host disease; MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome; CML, chronic myeloid leukemia; MPD, myeloproliferative disorder; NHL, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma; HL, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia; MM, multiple myeloma; CSA, cyclosporine; MMF, mycophenolate mofetil; CR, complete response; VGPR, very good partial response; PR, partial response; NR, no response

*Standard risk disease is defined by acute leukemia in CR1 or 2, CML in chronic phase 1, MDS without excess blasts. All others were considered high-risk disease
†Two patients met study criteria for 6 month steroid response but were categorized as NR at day 28 due to steroid escalation in 1 patient and the addition of psoralen with ultraviolet A therapy (PUVA) in the other individual
aGVHD Treatment Response
Day 28 response to steroids was CR [N=14 (32%)], VGPR [N= 7 (16%)], PR [N= 17 (39%)], and NR [N= 6 (13%)]. The probability of achieving 6 m FFTF was 61% (95% CI, 0.46-0.76) for the entire cohort. Thus, 38 (87%) patients responded (CR+VGPR+PR) to treatment by day 28 after steroid initiation, but only 28 (64%) patients met the 6 m FFTF endpoint. The causes for treatment failure are described in Figure 1. cGVHD developed in 11 (25%) patients during the first 6 months of treatment but only 1 of these individuals had a failure event censored for cGVHD diagnosis prior to IST change.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay The most common indication for 6 month treatment failure was the addition of new IST (11 out of 16 treatment failure events), occurring at a median of 37 days (range, 4-160) after starting steroids. Indications for adding second line-therapy were progressive aGVHD after 3 days of high dose steroids (N= 3), no response after 7 days of high dose steroids (N= 1), or aGVHD flare while on steroids and after initial response to treatment (N= 7). Among patients with changes in systemic IST, 7 had initially responded to treatment by day 28 but had recurrent aGVHD symptoms during the steroid taper. Specifically, 3 patients had a flare of aGVHD > 100 days after the start of steroids, requiring second line therapy. The type and number of second-line agents used to treat aGVHD after steroid failure varied and therapies included: ECP (N= 8), TNF-α blockade (N= 4), and rituximab (N= 3). The remaining steroid failure events were not associated with changes in IST and were attributed to 4 patients with malignancy relapse and 1 patient death while in remission (Figure 1).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

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Figure 1
Venn diagram showing causes for 6 month treatment failure and their associations with each other in patients with aGVHD treated with systemic corticosteroids (N= 16).

As expected day 28 NR was significantly associated with treatment failure at 6 months (P= 0.01) (Table 1). In addition, grade 3-4 aGVHD tended to be more common in patients categorized as 6 month treatment failures [7 out of 16 patients (44%)] as compared to HCT recipients with 6 m FFTF [5 out of 28 individuals (18%)] (P= 0.06). No other clinical variables outlined in Table 1 were associated with 6 m FFTF.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The median follow-up for surviving patients (N= 29) was 3 years (range, 0.5-4 y). Death from relapse and NRM occurred in 8 (18%) and 7 (16%) individuals, respectively. Causes of NRM included: infection (N= 2), bronchiolitis obliterans (N= 2), aGVHD (N= 1), diffuse alveolar hemorrhage (N= 1), and secondary malignancy (N= 1). Transplant outcomes were improved in patients responding to steroids (CR+VGPR+PR) when compared to those with NR at day 28 [2 y OS of 75% (95% CI, 0.58-0.86) vs. 22% (95% CI, 0.01-0.62) P= 0.02 and 2 y NRM of 11% (95% CI, 0.04-0.30) vs. 73% (95% CI, 0.31-0.99) (P= 0.01)]. FFTF at 6 months was associated with superior 2 y OS [81% (95% CI, 0.61-0.92) vs. 48% (95% CI, 0.22-0.70) P= 0.03] and decreased NRM [8% (95% CI, 0.02-0.29) vs. 49% (95% CI, 0.22-0.84) (P= 0.01)] when compared to individuals failing steroids by 6 months (Figure 2). To replicate a therapeutic aGVHD clinical trial, analyses were repeated using only patients with grade 2-4 aGVHD (N= 42). Results were unchanged after excluding the 2 individuals with grade 1 aGVHD with a 2 y OS of 85% (95% CI, 0.71-0.99) vs. 48% (95% CI, 0.22-0.73) (P= 0.03) and 2 y NRM of 8% (95% CI, 0.03-0.19) vs. 49% (95% CI, 0.14-0.84) (P= 0.02) for HCT recipients with FFTF contrasted with those with failure at 6 months, respectively. To minimize heterogeneity, a subset analysis was also performed using only patients with related donors (N= 23). All of these transplants were HLA identical and all patients received mobilized peripheral blood stem cells except 1 individual. Among patients with match related donors, OS at 2 y was 80% (95% CI, 0.60-0.99) for those with FFTF at 6 months and 38% (95% CI, 0.04-0.72) for treatment failures (P= 0.04), similar to the results using the entire cohort.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

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Figure 2
Clinical outcomes stratified by day 28 response and 6 month freedom from treatment failure (6 m FFTF) in patients with aGVHD requiring systemic corticosteroids
Probabilities of overall survival based on day 28 response (A) and 6 m FFTF (B). Cumulative incidence of non-relapse mortality based on day 28 response (C) and 6 m FFTF (D). All graphs were calculated from the start of corticosteroids.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Prolonged exposure to high dose corticosteroids can have detrimental health outcomes. Therefore we modified the original ASBMT criteria for 6 m FFTF to include 10 additional patients who had an increase in steroid dosage within 6 months of starting initial treatment or who had steroid doses ≥ 0.25 mg/kg 180 days after beginning treatment but this did not improve the predictive power of the endpoint [OS (P=0.17) or NRM (P=0.23)].Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Multivariate Analysis
After adjusting for important clinical variables including recipient age, disease risk, conditioning regimen intensity, donor type, and stem cell source, the 6 month FFTF continued to be associated with improved OS (HR, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.08 to 0.85; P= 0.03) and decreased NRM (HR, 0.02; 95% CI, 0.01 to 0.39; P= 0.01) (Table 2).

Table 2
Cox proportional hazard regression models for overall survival and non-relapse mortality

Overall Survival
Non-relapse Mortality
Prognostic Factor HR 95% CI P HR 95% CI P
6 m FFTF 0.27 0.08 – 0.85 0.03 0.02 0.01 – 0.39 0.01
Age 1.04 0.97 – 1.11 0.29 0.98 0.89 – 1.08 0.67
High risk disease 1.47 0.45 – 4.74 0.52 2.01 0.38 – 10.75 0.41
Ablative conditioning 1.82 0.28 – 12.07 0.54 17.51 0.58 – 530 0.10
Related donor 7.58 0.90 – 63.75 0.06 12.43 0.54 – 289 0.12
Peripheral blood graft 0.22 0.03 – 1.88 0.17 0.10 0.01 – 2.09 0.14
HR, hazard ratio; CI, confidence interval; 6 m FFTF, 6 month freedom from treatment failure.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

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We studied the 6 m FFTF as recently proposed by Martin and colleagues as a potential clinical trial endpoint for determining aGVHD treatment success. 1, 6 The 6 m FFTF was found to be an important marker of therapeutic efficacy which was associated with both improved OS and decreased NRM in patients receiving T cell replete transplants. The primary implication of this endpoint is that the necessity of changing aGVHD therapy results from suboptimal response to initial treatment which ultimately increases the risk for adverse outcomes. It also takes into account that most deaths related to uncontrolled aGVHD or from infections due to excessive immunosuppression occur within 6 months and that longer follow up may be confounded by recurrent malignancy or cGVHD.6 The advantage to this endpoint is its inherent reduction of subjectivity by assessing fixed outcomes including: death, relapse, or change in systemic IST within 6 months of steroid initiation and prior to the development of cGVHD.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

To investigate whether expanding the 6 m FFTF definition could further enhance the prediction of outcomes, we added the following endpoints: 1) any increase in steroids within 180 days, or 2) a steroid dose ≥ 0.25 mg/kg/day at 180 days after initiation of therapy as additional markers of treatment failure. In our limited sample size, these supplementary endpoints were not statistically significant. However, there may be value in studying this expanded definition of 6 month steroid failure in a larger cohort of patients.

Our study also showed that day 28 response predicted treatment failure at 6 months as defined by the ASBMT criteria. Levine et. al. first examined whether response to aGVHD treatment predicted outcomes by analyzing time to response at days 14, 28, and 56 in a phase II trial that consisted of initial therapy with high dose steroids plus a second immunosuppressive agent.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay While all 3 response time-points showed utility in predicting outcomes, they particularly identified that day 28 CR or PR was most predictive of OS and NRM after 9 months from initiation of treatment. 5 Day 28 response to initial steroid therapy has been further studied by MacMillan et. al.2 and Saliba et. al.4, and their results suggest that the day 28 response is also likely the best early endpoint. Our data is consistent with these studies in that OS and cumulative incidence of NRM at 2 years was significantly improved in steroid responders at day 28 (CR+VGPR+PR) when compared to those with NR.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

For aGVHD, day 28 response may be inadequate to fully measure treatment efficacy, specifically in a clinical trial setting. A major limitation of this endpoint is its dependence on accurately measuring clinical response to aGVHD treatment which is subject to inter-observer variation. Furthermore, response to aGVHD treatment is usually based on measuring clinical variables including: body surface area involved by rash, volume of diarrhea, and liver function tests. These parameters can be affected by a variety of other etiologies unrelated to alloreactivity such as medications, and thus confound the aGVHD response assessment. The advantage to the 6 m FFTF is that it assesses fixed endpoints and is therefore less affected by these problems. The composite 6 m FFTF endpoint also evaluates other important clinical outcomes that could be affected by aGVHD therapy including death and relapse which are not directly measured by the day 28 response criteria. It is possible that an extremely effective immunosuppressant which induces high rates of response could be associated with undesirable consequences including increased risk for fatal infections or increased incidence of relapses due to impaired graft-versus-leukemia effect. Clinical trials will need to account for both the positive and negative outcomes associated with therapy that effectively suppresses aGVHD.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

This present study is limited by patient heterogeneity and a small sample size. As with previous aGVHD trials, other parameters such as variability in initial steroid doses, duration of therapy, and steroid tapering schedules are confounding issues that are difficult to account for. On the other hand, this was a prospective clinical trial with weekly blinded assessment of aGVHD parameters. Despite the modest sample size and heterogeneous cohort, we have shown that the 6 m FFTF predicted survival and confirmed previous data regarding day 28 response indicating that these are robust endpoints even in small cohorts. The predominance of gut aGVHD could suggest under-diagnosis of skin aGVHD, however even if cutaneous involvement was underdiagnosed the clinical significance is questionable since it did not meet threshold for treatment with systemic steroids and therefore should not affect the current analysis. In addition, our results pertain only to patients undergoing T cell replete transplants as individuals receiving manipulated grafts or thymoglobulin were excluded.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

aGVHD causes significant morbidity and mortality. Despite this, no therapeutic agent has obtained FDA approval for the treatment of aGVHD. This is due in part to lack of standardized endpoints in aGVHD clinical trials. Therefore, establishing accepted markers of effective aGVHD treatment which also serve as surrogates measures of long-term transplant survival is of paramount significance for aGVHD trials. Our data indicates that 6 m FFTF is associated with day 28 response and both are predictive of transplant outcomes. However 6 m FFTF which assesses fixed outcomes is less affected by the limitations and the variability associated with determining clinical response to aGVHD therapy. If validated, the 6 m FFTF could be used as the primary endpoint in future therapeutic aGVHD trials and subsequently facilitate approval of new therapies for aGVHD treatment.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

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Supplementary Material
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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Grant K12 CA090625, the American Cancer Society–Institutional Research Grant (#IRG-58-009-48) and the Sartain-Lanier Family Foundation.

Global freedom suffered its third year of decline in 2008, although the pace of erosion seemed less severe than in previous years. Most regions experienced stagnation, with sub-Saharan Africa and the non-Baltic former Soviet Union experiencing the most acute deterioration. The decline in freedom has coincided with a forceful reaction against democratic reformers, international assistance to those reformers, and ultimately the idea of democracy itself by a number of powerful authoritarian regimes in the wake of the “color revolutions” of 2003–05. Significantly, the countries that have been most aggressive in suppressing political opposition and civil society either showed no evidence of positive change in 2008 or—as with Iran, Russia, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela—demonstrated enhanced antidemocratic tendencies.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The United States and other established democracies will face serious challenges in developing strategies to counter the gathering authoritarian pushback against opposition parties, nongovernmental organizations, and the press. For the incoming U.S. administration, these challenges will be complicated by the worldwide economic crisis, whose effects on the state of democracy are still unclear. The new administration will also face pressure from those who contend that the promotion of freedom should be abandoned as a foreign policy goal in order to improve relations with authoritarian adversaries.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

To be sure, the picture of global freedom as measured by Freedom in the World,Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, reflects a number of positive developments along with the worrying setbacks. The number of country declines, 34, was greater than the number of gains, 14, but many of the declines were modest.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

One of the most significant changes was Afghanistan’s decline in status from Partly Free to Not Free. At the same time, five countries in South Asia experienced gains during the year, a hopeful sign for a subregion that has been subject to political volatility and upheaval in recent years. In contrast, 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, one-fourth of the regional total, experienced setbacks. These included status changes for Mauritania, which moved from Partly Free to Not Free, and Senegal, which moved from Free to Partly Free, as well as notable declines in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. In the non-Baltic former Soviet Union, fully half of the 12 countries suffered a decline.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Among other developments and trends were the following:
Continuation of a decade-long trend of regression for the countries of the non-Baltic former Soviet Union, including declines for Russia and Georgia. For the first time, South Ossetia was included in the roster of territories evaluated separately in Freedom in the World. It received a designation of Not Free and ranks among the world’s most repressive regimes.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
Stagnation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with conditions exacerbated by the fighting in Gaza at year’s end.
Continuation of a negative global trend with respect to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the rule of law.
Declines in civil liberties in two European countries, Italy and Greece.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
Declines in four politically significant Latin American countries—Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and Nicaragua.
China’s failure to make human rights improvements during its year as host of the Olympic Games.

View the Freedom in the World Population Statistics

The number of countries judged by Freedom in the World to be Free in 2008 stood at 89, representing 46 percent of the world’s 193 countries and 3,055,885,000 people—46 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries declined by one from the previous year’s survey.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The number of countries qualifying as Partly Free stood at 62, or 32 percent of all countries assessed by the survey, and they comprised 1,351,014,000 people, or 20 percent of the world’s total. The number of Partly Free countries increased by two from the previous year.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Forty-two countries were judged Not Free, representing 22 percent of the total number of countries. The number of people living under Not Free conditions stood at 2,276,292,000, or 34 percent of the world population, though it is important to note that over half of this number lives in just one country: China. The number of Not Free countries declined by one from 2007.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The Global Trend

Year Under
Review Free Partly Free Not Free
1978 47 56 55
1988 60 39 68
1998 88 53 50
2008 89 62 42

Three countries, all from the South Asia subregion, moved from Not Free to Partly Free: Pakistan, Maldives, and Bhutan. Three other countries experienced declines in status: Afghanistan, which moved from Partly Free to Not Free; Mauritania, from Partly Free to Not Free; and Senegal, from Free to Partly Free.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Tracking Electoral Democracy

Year Under



2008 Number of Electoral




The number of electoral democracies dropped by two and stands at 119. One country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been under the political control of officials appointed by the international community, qualified to join the world’s electoral democracies. Bangladesh also achieved electoral democracy status due to improvements in its electoral processes and national elections that were widely judged to be fair and competitive.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Developments in four countries—the Central African Republic, Georgia, Mauritania, and Venezuela—disqualified them from the electoral democracy list. The decline of these countries is significant given their regional importance and the fact that two, Mauritania and Georgia, were previously hailed as new additions to the democratic world. Georgia was the site of the first in the recent spate of color revolutions and represented one of the few bright spots in the former Soviet Union; its erratic course, including a state of emergency in 2007 and war with Russia in August, ranks among the more disturbing developments of the past two years.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush made American support for democratic movements abroad a centerpiece of his administration’s foreign policy. Yet even as Bush stressed the importance of freedom as an American value, his administration was widely and often harshly criticized for several of its counterterrorism policies, including the use of torture, extraordinary renditions, and the treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military base. Others criticized Bush for employing a rhetoric of freedom that was not supported by consistent policies, especially with regard to the democratic performance of key American allies and the conflation of democracy promotion with military action in Iraq. On the other hand, policy changes that linked U.S. aid to democratic governance and made the expansion of democracy in the Middle East a priority were important steps forward.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Clearly, the Bush record will stand as a source of controversy for some time to come. It is worth emphasizing here that domestic actors are always the main force for change in a given society, and no outside entity can take the lion’s share of credit for a country’s democratic progress. Moreover, to the extent that the policies of the international community do make a difference, their effects do not always correspond neatly to the terms of particular U.S. administrations. That being said, there may be some utility in assessing the fortunes of global democracy during the Bush presidency, as measured in Freedom in the World.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

For the period between 2000, the year prior to Bush’s first term, and 2008, his final year in office, the record shows modest change in terms of overall status, with three more countries ranked as Free and six fewer countries designated as Not Free. The number of electoral democracies for 2008, 119, is actually one fewer than for 2000.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

At the same time, an assessment based on the numerical scale employed by Freedom in the World—a subtler indicator than the Free, Partly Free, and Not Free designations—suggests a more positive record during the Bush years. A total of 81 countries, over 40 percent of the world total, registered numerical improvements from 2000 to 2008, with 36 moving backward during the period. On a regional basis, the most notable gains were registered in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic, with 13 logging improvements in freedom and none showing regression.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay These advances, it should be noted, are essentially a continuation of the progress that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and was supported by the common policies of at least three U.S. presidents. Significantly, the only area to show outright decline during the Bush years was the non-Baltic former Soviet Union, potent evidence of a steadily growing “freedom divide” between those former communist countries that have joined, or sought to join, the European Union, and those which have yet to cast off the Soviet legacy.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Other regions that showed notable gains during the period were sub-Saharan Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa. In the last of those three, nine countries, or half of the regional total, showed gains, while two countries registered declines.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

While data from Freedom in the World indicate that freedom moved in a positive direction during the Bush years, those gains were concentrated in his first term, and the same data show a turnaround in democracy’s fortunes beginning in 2005 and continuing through 2008. Early 2005 marked the culmination of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the most significant, and thus far the most enduring, of the three recent color revolutions—largely nonviolent protest movements that succeeded in supplanting corrupt and autocratic governments in the former Soviet Union. In the aftermath of the events in Ukraine, a number of governments took measures to repress domestic opposition, weaken independent media, and hinder democracy assistance efforts by nongovernmental organizations based in the United States and elsewhere. A reflection of this antidemocratic resurgence is the global decline in freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the rule of law over the past three years.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The full impact of this pushback against freedom remains unclear. But it is indisputable that the effort has had an effect in a number of regions. The countries whose governments have been the most outspoken in denouncing internal democratic forces and alleged subversion by outsiders, and the most aggressive in repressing opposition parties, nongovernmental organizations, and independent media—namely China, Egypt, Iran, Cuba, Russia, and Zimbabwe—also rank among the more repressive states in Freedom in the World. While leading authoritarian regimes have succeeded in implementing more sophisticated and less obviously brutal methods to silence alternative voices and prevent the development of a credible democratic opposition, they have also demonstrated a willingness to use whatever means are necessary to maintain total political control.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The Russian Neighborhood: Conflict and a Widening Democratic Divide

While many interpreted the quick and overwhelming military defeat of Georgia in the conflict over Abkhazia and South Ossetia as additional evidence of Russia’s regional aggression, the past year was equally notable for a further consolidation of authoritarian rule within Russia under the leadership of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Although he stepped down as president in keeping with constitutional term limits, he continued to function as the dominant presence in Russian politics, and the methods of political control introduced during his presidency were, if anything, intensified. Putin’s successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, won a election in which opposition candidates were marginalized through laws and regulations that have effectively made Russia a one-party state and rendered effective international vote-monitoring impossible. At year’s end, the parliament approved a law that would extend presidential terms from four to six years—a move seen as a prelude to Putin’s return to the presidency—and was giving serious consideration to measures that would pose further threats to nongovernmental organizations and restrict access to jury trials in cases involving charges of terrorism and other high-profile crimes.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Among Russia’s neighbors, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova all experienced some degree of decline. Armenia’s political rights rating dropped because of obstacles placed in the way of the political opposition during the presidential election, as well as the use of violence to disperse opposition protesters and the incarceration of over 100 people after the voting.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Azerbaijan declined due to the increasing monopolization of power by President Ilham Aliyev and the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party; the flawed elections in October were boycotted by the opposition, and the leadership began pursuing measures to eliminate presidential term limits. Georgia declined due in part to growing authoritarian tendencies in the governing style of President Mikheil Saakashvili. Moldova suffered a decline in political rights due to increased official corruption, while Kyrgyzstan suffered from new constraints on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The decline of Kyrgyzstan bolstered the perception of Central Asia as one of the world’s most authoritarian subregions. Two other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, rank among the most repressive regimes on the Freedom in the World scale. The wealthiest Central Asian country, Kazakhstan, has thus far failed to implement any significant liberalizing measures in advance of its assumption of the chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Conditions in the non-Baltic former Soviet Union have deteriorated to the point that the area ranks at the very bottom on a number of indicators measured by Freedom in the World. Its average political rights score has dropped sharply over the past three years and is now worse than that of any region, including the Middle East and North Africa. The non-Baltic former Soviet Union lags far behind sub-Saharan Africa on the average scores for political rights and civil liberties, as well as on the majority of individual indicators, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the rule of law.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The dire condition of democratic freedoms and individual liberties in the countries of the non-Baltic former Soviet Union contrasts sharply with the strength of democratic institutions in the former communist countries of the Baltic and Central and Eastern Europe. When the averaged political rights and civil liberties scores for this subregion are compared with those of the world’s main regions, it ranks second, behind only Western Europe. However, several of these countries have shown signs of modest decline, primarily due to corruption and problems with the rule of law. In 2008, Bulgaria suffered a decline in political rights due to its inability to stem corruption and organized crime, a problem that caused the European Union to suspend aid payments. Macedonia also faced a setback due to flawed parliamentary elections.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Sub-Saharan Africa: Year of Regression

After several years of modest improvement, sub-Saharan Africa experienced a year of substantial reversals for democracy. The decline affected several of the continent’s largest and most influential countries and stemmed in part from military coups, ethnic conflict, and violent attempts to suppress civil society. While the countries in question included one with an impressive record of adherence to democratic standards, the dominant trend was setbacks, or maintenance of the status quo, in countries that already had well-established patterns of poor governance, authoritarian rule, and repression.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Thus, deterioration was registered in Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Somaliland, and Zimbabwe—all of which have relatively poor rankings in Freedom in the World. The reasons for decline varied: the undermining of pluralism in Burundi, a crackdown on the political opposition in Cameroon, civil strife in the DRC, severe media restrictions and an enhanced environment of fear in Equatorial Guinea, crackdowns against civil society in Gabon, threats to freedom of expression in Gambia, and brutal attacks on the opposition in Zimbabwe. There were also two coups during the year: in Guinea, where military officers seized control after the death of the country’s long-ruling dictator, and more significantly in Mauritania, where the military ousted a democratically elected leader and imposed restrictions on the press and freedom of assembly. The action caused Mauritania, which had been designated an electoral democracy the previous year, to be dropped from Partly Free to Not Free status.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Senegal, a country that enjoyed a reputation for adherence to democratic standards, dropped from Free to Partly Free due to a growing authoritarian trend in the policies of President Abdoulaye Wade, exemplified by the postponement of municipal elections. Another country with a record of democratic achievement, Namibia, experienced moderate decline due to the authorities’ intimidation of a new opposition party. Nigeria suffered a drop in its political rights rating because of the ruling party’s increasing consolidation of power and marginalization of the opposition, as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s ruling against opposition challenges to the results of the deeply flawed 2007 presidential election. One territory, Somaliland, experienced a decline in political rights when the upper house of parliament extended President Dahir Riyale Kahin’s term in office and postponed the presidential election.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

There were also positive developments in the region during 2008. Zambia’s civil liberties rating improved, as did the political rights rating for Comoros. The political rights rating for Cote d’Ivoire also gained ground, a possible sign of overall improvement in a society that has been mired in civil conflict for a number of years. Angola, another country with a history of civil war, registered gains thanks to legislative elections that were judged to be credible despite irregularities.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Asia-Pacific: Welcome Gains for South Asia

The year’s most significant gains for democracy took place in South Asia. Despite generalized political strife and continued terrorism in its tribal areas, Pakistan advanced from Not Free to Partly Free status due to the end of military rule and the election of a parliament and president in balloting that was widely considered free and competitive. Bangladesh, which had also been under military rule, experienced an improvement in its political rights rating due to successful balloting conducted under reformed electoral laws.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Other countries in South Asia that registered gains were Bhutan, which moved from Not Free to Partly Free after holding its first competitive elections; Maldives, which moved from Not Free to Partly Free due to an opposition victory in the first multiparty presidential election; Nepal, also after successful national elections; the territory of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, amid greater openness for opposition parties; and the territory of Indian-controlled Kashmir, where opposition candidates made gains in legislative elections. One other country, Malaysia, showed notable progress thanks to expanded opportunities for the political opposition, fewer restrictions on public protest, and greater pluralism in the media. Thailand experienced a modest upgrade in its political rights rating, though at year’s end the country remained in a state of political turmoil and faced serious threats to the future of its democratic institutions.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In addition to Afghanistan’s fall to Not Free status, declines were registered in Burma, due to an intensification of political repression; Fiji, due to government harassment of the press; Papua New Guinea, due to the increased domination of the government by patronage networks; Singapore, due to the politically tinged handling of defamation cases by the courts; and the territory of Tibet, due to a deterioration in freedom of movement stemming from the increased military presence, roadblocks, and other forms of restriction that followed antigovernment demonstrations.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Perhaps the most disappointing development in the region was the failure of China to enact significant democratic reforms, or even gestures toward improved human rights, during its year as the host of the Olympic Games. In the run-up to the games, the leadership of the Communist Party had issued generalized pledges of political change as part of the overall Olympics process. During the games, however, the government strengthened the existing array of restrictions by cracking down on bloggers and internet journalists, placing human rights lawyers under house arrest, jailing democracy activists, and persecuting protesters. The Chinese authorities tightened control over key elements of the judiciary as well as internet portals, and increased the use of extralegal forms of detention, such as reeducation through labor and psychiatric arrest. Of particular note was the persecution of minorities, including Tibetans and Uighurs, with the latter suffering severe restrictions on their freedom to practice Islam. Other religious believers, including underground Christians and Falun Gong adherents, were also subject to stepped-up controls.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Asia is a complex and varied region whose democratic achievements are often overshadowed by the volatility of certain countries, particularly in South Asia, and the unfortunate presence of some of the world’s most repressive regimes. China, North Korea, Burma, Vietnam, and Laos have all resolutely resisted political change, suppressed the opposition, persecuted human rights advocates, and refused to institute anything approaching an independent judiciary. Standing in contrast to these dictatorships are the successes of relatively new democracies like Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea, and the ability of India to maintain its democratic standards despite ethnic and religious diversity, widespread poverty, and the serious challenges of political violence and terrorism. During 2008, nine countries in the Asia-Pacific region held successful national elections, collectively refuting the theory that democracy is not compatible with Asian culture.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Middle East and North Africa: Hopeful Signs, But Authoritarianism Prevails

After several years of modest gains for freedom in the early part of the decade, the MENA region has experienced a period of stagnation. The trend continued in 2008, with little significant movement arising from a part of the world that has proven most resistant to democratic change.

The only country to register a gain, albeit small, was Iraq. The country benefited from ebbing violence, the decline of government-sponsored Shiite militias, and a reduction in political terror. Meanwhile, declines were registered in Jordan, whose civil liberties rating dropped due to greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly; Bahrain, due to declines in freedom of expression and attempts to dilute the strength of the Shiite majority; Iran, due to the nullification of numerous candidacies for political office and the closure of many media outlets; the Palestinian Authority, due to the persecution of political opponents by both Fatah and Hamas as well as restrictions imposed by Hamas on independent civic organizations; and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, which suffered from border closures, restrictions on freedom of movement, and increased civilian insecurity during the fighting between Israel and Hamas in December.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Since the MENA region was the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s Freedom Agenda, the lack of more significant and durable gains for freedom stands as a major disappointment for American policy. During the Bush years, 9 of the region’s 18 countries experienced some improvement on the Freedom in the World scale, including Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf states. There were, however, no major breakthroughs: in 2008, as in previous years, Israel was the only country in the region to enjoy a status of Free, although as the occupying power in the Palestinian territories, Israel is largely responsible for the Not Free status of the areas under its control. The countries of the Middle East have had to grapple with the rise of terrorism and religious extremism, the repercussions of the Iraq conflict, and the continuing strife between Israel and the Palestinians, which flared anew at year’s end. But for decades, the authoritarian leaders of the region have justified their antidemocratic policies by pointing to such threats. In shining a spotlight on the Middle East’s freedom deficit, the United States has insisted that the countries of the region be evaluated according to the same standards that are applied to the rest of the world. This in itself is a step forward.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Latin America and the Caribbean: Status Quo Despite Turmoil

Even as they have experienced economic turbulence, an increase in violent crime that has reached epidemic levels in some countries, and the rise of populist demagogues, Latin America and the Caribbean have largely succeeded in maintaining the democratic achievements of the 1980s. As measured by Freedom in the World, the Americas region has actually undergone a modest degree of progress during the past three years, a time when most other regions suffered varying levels of decline. This overall progress has featured an impressive improvement in political rights scores, offset by a decline in civil liberties scores, with the most worrying trends involving the freedoms of expression and association.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

During 2008, declines were noted in four countries of political significance: Colombia, whose civil liberties rating dropped due to increases in internal displacement and a rise in extrajudicial killings; Nicaragua, whose political rights rating declined due to a growing centralization of control by the government and harassment of opposition parties during municipal elections; Mexico, due to the government’s failure to control violent drug cartels; and Venezuela, due to the politically motivated disqualification of opposition candidates and abuse of state resources during state and local elections.

Two improvements were noted: Paraguay, due to free and fair elections that led to the first peaceful transfer of power from the Colorado Party; and Cuba, which saw a modest improvement in civil liberties due to expanded economic rights and social freedoms for homosexuals. Cuba, however, remains among the world’s most repressive regimes.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Western Europe and North America: Press Freedom, Immigration, Economic Crisis

The countries of Western Europe and North America continued to register the highest scores on the Freedom in the World scale despite problems in Southern Europe, growing challenges to freedom of the press and expression, the ongoing struggle to assimilate large numbers of immigrants from developing countries, and the financial crisis that emerged toward the end of the year.

In the United States, the electoral victory of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a black member of the Senate, represented a historic moment for a country with a legacy of racial injustice. The election’s outcome was greeted with international enthusiasm, and some expressed the hope that it would trigger an enhanced role for nonwhite political figures in Europe and elsewhere. Obama’s victory, and the sweeping gains for the Democratic Party in congressional elections, also augured major changes to American counterterrorism policy. During his campaign, Obama pledged to close down the detention facility for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and institute other reforms that would improve America’s adherence to civil liberties standards. While the Bush administration continued to draw sharp criticism for tactics it has employed in the war on terrorism, it has apparently ended certain practices, such as the extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects to third countries, and has met with further reversals in the U.S. court system on matters affecting the rights of terrorism suspects. Meanwhile, European countries continue to grapple with terrorism-related issues; high-profile cases have gone to trial in Germany, Britain, and Denmark, and an alleged terrorism network was broken up in Belgium.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Two European countries experienced declines in 2008: Italy, whose civil liberties rating dropped due to increased media concentration under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the growing influence of organized crime on private business; and Greece, due to an upsurge in violence during riots that gripped the country in December.

The year’s developments also suggested that freedom of the press and expression, along with the economic health of the media, would loom as important challenges in the future. Canada faced threats to freedom of expression as government agencies brought charges against journalists who wrote commentaries that were critical of Islam. In Britain, several cases emerged in which journalists and scholars were brought to court on libel charges by individuals from foreign countries—most often countries under authoritarian rule. The problem has prompted press freedom advocates to cite “libel tourism” as a serious menace to intellectual inquiry and the robust exchange of ideas. In the United States, meanwhile, the newspaper industry confronts an economic crisis that has threatened the survival of established, high-circulation papers in a number of major cities.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

While 2008 marked the third consecutive year of decline in global freedom, this should not be interpreted as a major abandonment of democracy or the democratic idea. Recent years have brought a series of dire developments: terrorism, religious extremism, genocide in Darfur, chaotic failed states, civil conflict, the growing influence of economically powerful authoritarian states, America’s loss of influence and prestige, and a financial panic whose full impact has still not been felt. Yet despite these and other problems, the setbacks in global freedom have for the most part been modest in nature, driven more by Not Free countries becoming less free than by new or well-established democracies falling under authoritarian rule. Similarly, new democracies have been more likely to fall short in the consolidation of an independent judiciary or other institutions of democratic governance than to engage in wholesale press censorship or the imprisonment of the opposition.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Furthermore, democracy remains the only system of government that commands global respect. While Russia, China, Iran, and Venezuela all represent challenges to the spread of democracy, none has succeeded in creating a political system that can truly compete with democracy and its freedoms. There is in fact no China model or Russia model, and practically no one would want their societies to be governed by Vladimir Putin or the Chinese Communist Party. Indeed, authoritarian leaders routinely insist that their states are democracies, though they often attach qualifying words to indicate the supposed distinctiveness of their systems: sovereign democracy, democracy in formation, managed democracy. In the Middle East, where many disdain the word “democracy,” surveys show that when asked whether they prefer dictatorship or elections, free expression or censorship, the right to protest or constraints on that right, a clear majority prefer the rights that, taken together, define political democracy.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

It is not the purpose of this report to recommend a course of action to policymakers in the United States or elsewhere. But the new administration in Washington will be assuming office at a time when many voices are proclaiming a global retreat of democracy. Some have argued that emphasizing support for democratic change is contrary to the American national interest and should be jettisoned. In fact, an honest analysis of the state of freedom suggests that democracy is not in disarray or experiencing rollback. Rather, democracy has suffered declines in several parts of the world that are in most cases reversible, even as it faces a major challenge in powerful authoritarian states whose leaders are committed to retaining power at any cost.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

As the new administration decides on its own approach to the task of expanding freedom’s reach, recent developments, and the data from Freedom in the World, suggest certain propositions for policymakers to consider:
While, as many have argued, elections are not in themselves sufficient to build successful democracies, they are certainly a prerequisite. Even flawed elections, such as those conducted in Venezuela, can contribute to a democratic resurgence or prevent a potential dictator from consolidating control.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
More attention must be paid to the suppression of civil society, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. Increasingly, it is nongovernmental organizations and democracy advocates that constitute the most effective societal forces for reform in authoritarian states. Democracies should monitor the state of freedom of association and labor rights with the same scrupulousness that the United States currently employs in monitoring global religious freedom. This also applies to restrictions on the free flow of information, especially on the internet and other new media platforms.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
Dissidents and freedom advocates deserve the support and protection of the world’s democracies. The emergence of a movement of democracy advocates in China at year’s end, under the banner of Charter 08, offers hope that something like a genuine community of dissidents is in formation. But Charter 08 and similar groups will fail to gain a foothold if their programs and personalities are ignored by their allies in established democracies. President Bush set a good example by meeting regularly with dissidents, bloggers, women’s rights advocates, and other champions of freedom. It is an example that other democratic leaders should follow.
Authoritarian regimes should not be rewarded. When the International Olympic Committee designated Beijing as the host city for the 2008 games, many predicted that the honor would lead to a better human rights environment and enhanced democratic freedoms. These changes never materialized; what the world saw in August was a self-confident totalitarian spectacle. Now Russia has been designated to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Kazakhstan will soon assume the chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, an entity that has played a significant role in monitoring democratic performance in the post-Soviet world. While the isolation of dictatorships may prove counterproductive, engagement does not require rewards and honors for governments that imprison the political opposition, close down newspapers, suppress minority cultures, and intimidate neighboring democracies.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
The leaders of the world’s democracies, and especially President Obama, should reject the premise, often unstated, that engaging with authoritarian adversaries means ignoring their policies of domestic repression. Democracies have numerous and nuanced instruments—including the tools of traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy, and assistance programs—that can be deployed to register disapproval, censure acts of persecution, or shine the light of publicity on a regime’s dark corners. In a period when democracy’s antagonists are increasingly assertive and its adherents are filled with doubt, the American leadership in particular should develop creative strategies to carry forward the struggle for freedom.

In a year of intensified repression against human rights defenders and democratic activists by many of the world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes, Freedom House found a continued erosion of freedom worldwide, with setbacks in Latin America, Africa, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. For the fourth consecutive year, declines have trumped gains. This represents the longest continuous period of deterioration in the nearly 40-year history of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual assessment of the state of political rights and civil liberties in every country in the world.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
In 2009, declines for freedom were registered in 40 countries, representing 20 percent of the world’s polities. In 22 of those countries, the problems were significant enough to merit downgrades in the numerical ratings for political rights or civil liberties. Six countries moved downward in their overall status designation, either from Free to Partly Free or from Partly Free to Not Free. The year also featured a drop in the number of electoral democracies from 119 to 116, the lowest figure since 1995.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

A series of disturbing events at year’s end reinforced the magnitude of the challenge to fundamental freedoms, including the violent repression of protesters on the streets of Iran, lengthy prison sentences meted out to peaceful dissidents in China, attacks on leading human rights activists in Russia, and continued terrorist and insurgent violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

There were a few bright spots. Of the 194 countries assessed, 16 experienced gains in freedom. Broad improvements were recorded in the Balkans, as Montenegro moved into the Free category and Kosovo moved up to Partly Free, while ratings increases were seen for Croatia, Moldova, and Serbia. Countries including Iraq, Lebanon, Malawi, and Togo also made noteworthy gains. There were advances for freedom in South Asia for the second consecutive year, and political institutions in major Asian democracies showed impressive strength in the face of global economic upheaval.

By absolute historical standards, the overall state of freedom in the world has improved over the last two decades. Many more countries were in the Free category and were designated as electoral democracies in 2009 than in 1989, and the majority of countries that made major progress 20 years ago have retained those improvements.

Indeed, as the world marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the democratic institutions of the post-communist countries of Central Europe, the Baltic region, and the Balkans have shown encouraging resilience despite mounting stresses. The majority of new democracies in Latin America have not seen major ratings declines, and a number of young democracies in the Asia-Pacific region have maintained or improved their ratings.

But over the last four years, the dominant pattern has been one of growing restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of expression and association in authoritarian settings, and a failure to continue democratic progress in previously improving countries due to unchecked corruption and weaknesses in the rule of law.

The continued downward spiral throughout Central Asia in 2009, with Kyrgyzstan moving from Partly Free to Not Free, gave it the dubious distinction of becoming the world’s least free subregion. The Kazakh government notably failed to enact the fundamental political reforms it had promised during its campaign to secure the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2010.

Sub-Saharan Africa suffered the largest setbacks, with 15 countries registering declines and 4 securing gains. Nigeria and Kenya, both large and influential states that had demonstrated some democratic improvements in the past, saw continued backsliding. They were joined by a number of other African countries that had earned records of democratic achievement, including Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Mozambique.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Several parts of the Arab Middle East also saw deterioration, causing three countries in the region—Bahrain, Jordan, and Yemen—to drop into the Not Free category.

Other notable trends in 2009 include:

Authoritarian crackdowns on frontline human rights defenders. In Russia, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova, and human rights advocate Natalya Estemirova were among the victims of unsolved political murders. In China, Liu Xiaobo, an organizer of the Charter 08 democracy movement, received an 11-year prison sentence, though he was only one among dozens of civic activists sentenced to long prison terms during the year. In Vietnam, a group of dissidents were given five-year prison sentences for advocating multiparty politics. And in Iran, hundreds of regime critics were detained, tortured, or killed in the aftermath of the June presidential election.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Attacks on journalists and new threats to new media. The massacre of 29 journalists in a single incident in the Philippines stood out in a year of killings in such disparate locations as Russia, Pakistan, Mexico, and Somalia. Meanwhile, authoritarian governments expanded their efforts to stifle free expression by systematically blocking the use of new media for any activity they saw as a threat to their power. China remained at the cutting edge of this campaign, developing and deploying new forms of internet control and cracking down on bloggers and internet journalists who crossed political redlines. Bloggers in other authoritarian countries—including Iran and Azerbaijan—also faced increased threats, censorship, and prosecution for their activities.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Coups d’etat. Coups have been a rare phenomenon in the last two decades. During 2009, however, a number of countries experienced what amounted to coups. In Guinea, a classic military takeover that began at the end of 2008 took hold during the year, while in Honduras, Niger, and Madagascar, extraconstitutional mechanisms were used to remove or extend the rule of sitting leaders.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Challenges from nonstate actors, including religious extremists and drug lords. Violent Islamic extremism continued to plague a number of countries from Africa to South Asia, including Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. At the same time, regimes continued to use such problems to justify their crackdowns on civic activists or ethnic minorities, as China did with its concerted repression of the Uighur population. Organized drug trafficking contributed to insecurity and corruption in Afghanistan as well as in parts of Central America and Africa.

Click here to view the Freedom in the World population statistics

An analysis of Freedom in the World subcategories under the broader political rights and civil liberties rubrics from 2005 through 2009 shows that the past year was not an anomaly. Throughout this period, there have been growing pressures on freedom of expression, including press freedom, as well as on civic activists engaged in promoting political reform and respect for human rights, including the rights of workers to organize.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Overall, however, the most significant declines were in the rule of law arena. Judicial systems on the whole remain weak, unable to act independently or apply the law equally to all members of society. Arbitrary detention and human rights violations by both state and nonstate actors continue to hamper progress toward the institutionalization of democratic gains in many societies.

On a positive note, most regions have shown an outright improvement in the conduct of elections over the last five years. Globally, the elections scores in Freedom in the World would have improved by a significant degree were it not for a broad decline in one subregion: the former Soviet Union. Asian countries registered a substantial improvement on indicators tied to the conduct of elections and the ability of the political opposition to compete on a level playing field.

Thus, despite the vote-rigging, fraud, and other manipulations that occurred in a number of countries in 2009, the global picture over the last five years suggests that governments are more likely to permit relatively honest elections than to allow an uncensored press, a robust civil society, and an independent judiciary.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The number of countries assessed by Freedom in the World to be Free in 2009 stood at 89, representing 46 percent of the world’s 194 countries and 3,088,704,000 people—46 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries remained unchanged from the previous year’s survey.

The number of countries qualifying as Partly Free stood at 58, or 30 percent of all countries, and they comprised 1,367,440,000 people, or 20 percent of the world’s total. The number of Partly Free countries declined by four from the previous year. (Among the Partly Free countries for 2009 was Kosovo, which in previous editions of Freedom in the World had been listed as a disputed territory.)Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Forty-seven countries were deemed Not Free, representing 24 percent of the total. The number of people living under Not Free conditions stood at 2,333,869,000, or 34 percent of the world population, though it is important to note that more than half of these people live in just one country: China. The number of Not Free countries increased by five from 2008.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Two countries, both in the Balkans, registered positive changes in status during the year. Montenegro moved from Partly Free to Free, and Kosovo rose from Not Free to Partly Free. Six countries experienced declines in status: Lesotho moved from Free to Partly Free, while Bahrain, Gabon, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and Yemen fell from Partly Free to Not Free.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The number of electoral democracies dropped by three and stands at 116. Setbacks in four countries—Honduras, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Niger—led to their removal from the electoral democracy list. One country, the Maldives, joined the ranks of the world’s electoral democracies.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The Global Trend

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Tracking Electoral Democracy

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Latin America: Regional and Internal Challenges

Declines for freedom in Honduras and Nicaragua were signal developments in a year of general deterioration in Central America.

The elite classes’ fear of a power grab by Honduran president Manuel Zelaya provoked a coup that resulted in his forced exile. This clear democratic rupture was complicated by an institutional clash: Zelaya’s ouster, though disapproved of in opinion polls, was supported by the country’s legislature and Supreme Court, and it came after Zelaya himself had acted in ways that many felt violated the checks and balances of the Honduran constitution. But while Zelaya’s actions provided his opponents with much fodder, his forced exile and the restrictions imposed on civil liberties by his successors resulted in declines for the country’s political rights and civil liberties ratings.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In Nicaragua, civil liberties declined due to President Daniel Ortega’s continued use of violent intimidation and politicized courts to overcome obstacles to his plans for reelection. Guatemala’s political rights rating fell as a result of the government’s inability to implement policies and legislation in the face of rampant organized crime and related violence. Indeed, the violence perpetrated by nonstate actors, including drug traffickers, have over the years led to declines in civil liberties in a number of countries in Central America, as well as in Mexico and Colombia.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Political rights in Venezuela have deteriorated due to the ongoing concentration of power by President Hugo Chavez and the further marginalization of the political opposition. These developments in turn have influenced politics in the rest of the region. Chavez’s populist message resonates in some places, and left-of-center candidates have scored electoral victories in a number of countries, most notably in the Andean and Central American subregions. Unfortunately, fears of growing Venezuelan influence also helped motivate the coup in Honduras. Nevertheless, many in Latin America have both rejected the populist-authoritarian model of Venezuela and strengthened their countries’ democratic institutions. This has been the case in Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

There remained one Not Free country in the Western Hemisphere in 2009: Cuba. The Cuban government took no significant measures during the year to open up the political system or allow citizens to exercise their freedoms of expression and association. At year’s end, Cuban authorities arrested an American who was in the country to distribute telecommunications equipment to political dissidents. Cuba remains one of the handful of countries worldwide that treats the distribution of laptops and mobile telephones to civil society groups as a crime.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Middle East and North Africa: Some Gains, But Reversals Prevail

News from the region was dominated by the upheaval in Iran, where election rigging, deadly state violence against civilians, and repression of the political opposition were met by a protest movement that impressed the world with its size, courage, commitment to democratic values, and staying power. Overall, the Middle East and North Africa region suffered a number of significant setbacks, and these were often centered in countries that had produced some evidence of reformist intentions in the recent past. Declines in 2009 brought the portion of the region’s residents who live in Not Free societies to 88 percent.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Three countries—Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen—dropped from the Partly Free to the Not Free category. Jordan suffered a decline in political rights due to the king’s decision to dissolve the parliament and postpone elections. In Bahrain, political rights suffered as a result of the harassment of opposition political figures and discrimination by the minority Sunni elite against the Shiite majority. Yemen’s political rights rating declined due to rapidly deteriorating security conditions and the increased marginalization of the parliament and other political institutions. Although Morocco’s status did not decline in 2009, the increased concentration of power in the hands of forces aligned with King Mohammed VI, along with stepped-up harassment of opposition critics, increased concerns about the erosion of political rights in that country.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Improvements were noted in two countries that have experienced conflict in recent years: Iraq and Lebanon. Iraq’s political rights rating improved in light of provincial elections, which were generally regarded as fair and competitive, and due to the government’s enhanced autonomy as the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops got under way. Lebanon benefited from a decline in political violence, which resulted in an improvement in its civil liberties rating.

Nevertheless, violence remains a dominant theme in the politics of the region and a significant impediment to the exercise of fundamental freedoms in many countries, including Iraq. The beginning of the year was marred by fierce fighting between the Israeli military and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. While Israel remains the only country in the region to hold a Freedom in the World designation of Free, freedoms of assembly and association came under pressure there during the year. Hundreds of people were arrested during demonstrations against the Gaza conflict, and the parliamentary elections committee passed a measure banning two political parties from national elections, though the ban was quickly overturned by the Supreme Court.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Sub-Saharan Africa: Year of Major Setbacks

While the advances made in sub-Saharan Africa in recent decades have not eroded overall, the region suffered the largest setbacks of 2009, with 15 countries registering declines and only 4 countries marking gains.

Botswana and Lesotho both experienced reversals, with Lesotho moving from Free to Partly Free status. A decline in Botswana’s political rights rating was attributed to growing secrecy in the government. In Lesotho, political rights deteriorated as a result of the government’s failure to negotiate in good faith with the opposition over flaws in the election system that emerged during balloting in 2008.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Three countries experienced coups: Guinea, Madagascar, and Niger. In the case of Guinea, the military takeover was followed by a terrifying rampage in which soldiers massacred and raped peaceful protesters.

Among the region’s most repressive or least free states, declines were recorded in Eritrea, Gabon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend in the region is the decline over several years of some of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest and most influential countries, which had previously made important democratic progress. Kenya continued to see declines in freedom stemming from charges of vote-rigging during the 2007 elections, the violence that came in the election’s wake, and a failure to hold those responsible to account.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Another regional powerhouse, Nigeria, continued on its downward path of recent years, which have featured flawed elections, pervasive corruption, and troubling levels of sectarian and religious violence. These problems have eroded some of the gains the country made following the transition from military rule in 1999.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Ethiopia’s trajectory has also been negative for a number of years, as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has persecuted the political opposition, tilted the political playing field, and suppressed civil society.

Improvements were noted in four countries: Malawi, Burundi, Togo, and Zimbabwe. While harsh conditions in Zimbabwe eased somewhat after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was brought into a unity government as prime minister and a parliament led by his party was sworn in, the country remained among the continent’s most repressive. The authoritarian president, Robert Mugabe, remained in office, and his allies in the security forces continued to harass, arrest, and torture opposition figures.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Central and Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union: Balkan Progress, Central Asian Decay

The year 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was also a year when many of the countries that had won their freedom from Soviet domination found themselves under increased pressure from the global economic downturn. Latvia, Hungary, and Bulgaria were among those most severely affected by the crisis, but the entire region suffered to some degree, with skyrocketing rates of unemployment, increased poverty, financial instability, and waning confidence in free-market capitalism. Despite these pressures, the institutions of freedom remained remarkably resilient throughout Central Europe, the Baltics, and the Balkans.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Five countries in the western Balkans experienced gains for freedom during the year. The most notable improvements occurred in Kosovo, which advanced from Not Free to Partly Free status after holding elections that were deemed to be in compliance with international standards and strengthening the protection of minority rights. The other countries registering gains were Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro, with the last moving from Partly Free to Free.

Meanwhile, the countries of the non-Baltic former Soviet Union continued their decade-long backslide during 2009. Conditions in this subregion have deteriorated to the point that almost every country ranks at the very bottom on multiple indicators measured by Freedom in the World. The area’s average political rights score—which covers the spheres of electoral process, political pluralism, and functioning of government—has dropped sharply over the past four years and is now comparable to that of the Middle East and North Africa. The non-Baltic former Soviet Union lags far behind sub-Saharan Africa on the average scores for political rights and civil liberties, as well as on the majority of individual indicators, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the rule of law.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The dominant regional power, Russia, suffered further deterioration despite assurances from President Dmitry Medvedev that reform is in the offing. While Medvedev announced policies to fight corruption, loosen controls on civil society organizations, strengthen the rule of law, and enhance freedom of expression, the country met with a range of setbacks for political rights and civil liberties. Credible reports suggest that local and regional elections were suffused with irregularities. New restrictions were placed on religious minorities. A new commission was established to influence the presentation of history in schools and elsewhere, a move consistent with the Kremlin’s wider efforts to manage and manipulate information in the public sphere. Human rights defenders and journalists remained vulnerable to persecution and murder, and there was a distinct lack of progress in punishing those responsible for previous politically motivated killings.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Central Asia remained one of the repressive areas in the world. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have long ranked at or near the bottom of the Freedom in the World scale. The decline of Kyrgyzstan from Partly Free to Not Free was of particular concern, as the country seemed to have been embarked on a reformist course at various times in the post-Soviet period. Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s wealthiest state, also registered a decline. It has made no progress toward implementation of reforms it had promised in advance of its assumption of the chairmanship of the OSCE. During 2009, the Kazakh authorities took a further step backward when they arrested and sentenced Yevgenii Zhovtis, a prominent human rights advocate.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The regimes in other authoritarian states on Russia’s periphery, including Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, have shown no signs of abandoning their repressive policies. Ukraine, which has also suffered heavily from the economic downturn and is burdened by enormous corruption problems, remains the only Free state in the non-Baltic former Soviet Union.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Asia-Pacific: Modest Improvements

As the world’s most populous region, Asia is home to some of the globe’s largest democracies as well as its biggest authoritarian regime, presenting a unique dynamic for democratic development. While most regions experienced various degrees of decline for freedom in 2009, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole experienced modest gains. Three of its most strategically significant countries—India, Indonesia, and Japan—held competitive and fair general elections, with the historic victory of Japan’s opposition Democratic Party reconfirming that Japanese citizens can change their government when they choose to do so.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Other gains for political rights were seen in Bangladesh, where an elected civilian government replaced a military-backed administration, and the Maldives, where the first democratic parliamentary elections passed peacefully. Polls in Mongolia and both Indian and Pakistani Kashmir similarly contributed to improvements in the realization of political rights.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Not all election-related developments were positive, however. In Afghanistan, which saw a decline in its political rights rating, a deeply flawed presidential poll exacerbated an already unstable security situation and exposed the prevalence of corruption within the government. And in the Philippines, the massacre of civilians in connection with a local official’s attempt to register his candidacy, and the government’s subsequent declaration of martial law in the area, were indicative of heightened political violence in the run-up to 2010 elections.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Among civil liberties, particular pressure was placed on the rule of law and respect for freedom of expression, with reversals noted in both authoritarian and democratic societies. In Cambodia, the government recriminalized defamation and then used the new legislation to intimidate independent journalists. In Vietnam, a prominent independent think tank was shut down and prodemocracy civic activists were imprisoned. In Indonesia, top law enforcement officials were implicated in efforts to undermine anticorruption bodies. In Taiwan, increased government efforts to enforce anticorruption laws were marred by flaws in the protection of criminal defendants’ rights, and new legislation restricted the political expression of academics. And in China, Communist Party leaders sought to tighten control over judges, while embarking on a sweeping crackdown against leading human rights lawyers and nonprofits offering legal services.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Indeed, as China’s leaders showed greater confidence on the world stage, their actions at home demonstrated continued insecurity and intolerance with respect to citizens’ demands for legal rights and accountable governance. The authorities’ paranoid handling of a series of politically sensitive anniversaries—such as the 60-year mark of the Communist Party’s time in power—included lockdowns on major cities, new restrictions on the internet, the creation of special extralegal taskforces, and harsh punishments meted out to democracy activists, petitioners, Tibetans, Falun Gong adherents, and human rights defenders.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Separately, long-standing government policies of altering the demography and repressing religious freedom in the Xinjiang region came to a head in 2009, when an eruption of ethnic violence was followed by forced “disappearances” of Uighur Muslims, a series of executions, and tightened internet censorship. Often at great personal risk, many of China’s bloggers, journalists, legal professionals, workers, and religious believers nevertheless pushed the limits of permissible activity in increasingly sophisticated ways. They managed to expose cases of official corruption, circulate underground political publications, and play a role in forcing the government’s partial retraction of a policy to install monitoring and censorship software on personal computers. Growing labor unrest and better organized strikes reflected workers’ ability to bypass the party-controlled union, sometimes resulting in concessions by employers.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

South Asia saw several improvements in 2009. Bangladesh’s new civilian-led government enacted important legislation to improve transparency, and while the issue of detainee deaths remained a serious concern, lower levels of politically motivated violence and detentions, as well as fewer restrictions on the media, led to better scores for the country in a number of categories. Scores for the Maldives also improved, thanks to the holding of generally free legislative elections and a series of reforms in the areas of accountability, anticorruption, free assembly and association, and prison conditions.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

While Pakistan remained mired in official corruption and extremist violence, positive signs were noted in initial reforms of the administration of the tribal areas and especially in the peaceful resolution of the judicial crisis, which included the reinstatement of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the restoration of a large measure of judicial independence.

In Sri Lanka, improvements in political freedom following the end of the long-running civil war were balanced by the government’s unwillingness to meaningfully address ethnic grievances, the internment in squalid conditions of several hundred thousand displaced civilians for much of the year, and increased hostility toward journalists and nongovernmental organizations.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

W. Europe and N. America: Some Change in U.S., Assimilation Crisis Endures in Europe

The countries of Western Europe and North America continued to register the highest scores on the Freedom in the World scale despite their ongoing struggle to assimilate large numbers of immigrants from developing countries, the continued tension between security and civil liberties, and problems stemming from libel tourism and other threats to freedom of expression.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In the United States, the presidency of Barack Obama was greeted with enthusiasm by civil libertarians, as his campaign platform had suggested a major rollback of controversial antiterrorism policies instituted by his predecessor, George W. Bush. In some areas, Obama did pursue a markedly different course than did Bush. For example, at year’s end Obama issued an order than will result in the release to the public of millions of documents that had been classified during World War II, the Cold War, and other conflict periods. The new administration also issued a policy that forbade the use of torture by U.S. personnel; announced plans to close down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and decided that some of the terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo would be tried in U.S. civilian courts, while others would be brought before military tribunals.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay More broadly, however, Obama decided against reversing course on many Bush-era security policies. Furthermore, the goal of shutting down the Guantanamo facility was complicated by the revelation that a number of previously freed detainees had joined jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere; by a nearly successful attempt to destroy an American airliner at year’s end; and by political resistance to the relocation of terrorism detainees to facilities in the United States.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In Europe, cultural tensions driven by an influx of immigrants from Muslim countries continued to pose challenges to the region’s tradition of tolerance and civil liberties. A number of countries have experienced political disputes over the building of mosques and minarets, the wearing of headscarves and burqas, the treatment of women in Muslim families, and similar issues. Apprehensions over immigration have led to the growth of right-wing political parties whose platforms are centered on demands for immigration restrictions. Switzerland, home to the region’s most politically successful anti-immigrant party, suffered a decline in its Freedom in the World score after its citizens voted in a referendum to ban the construction of minarets. Malta also suffered a decline due to its record of often refusing to come to the aid of foundering boats carrying immigrants from North Africa, as well as the poor condition of its immigrant detention centers. Turkey experienced a modest score decline due to a court decision that outlawed a political party representing the interests of Kurds, an action that seriously undermined the government’s efforts to end the Kurdish insurgency.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Challenges to freedom of expression remained a problem, especially in the United Kingdom, where journalists and scholars have been brought to court on libel charges by individuals from foreign countries—most often countries under authoritarian rule. The problem has prompted press freedom advocates to cite such “libel tourism” as a serious menace to intellectual inquiry and the robust exchange of ideas. The controversy deepened in 2009, when libel charges were advanced against scientists who had written critiques of the conclusions of fellow scholars. Meanwhile, several states in the United States have passed laws that would effectively nullify monetary awards for libel or defamation issued by foreign courts in most instances. In a positive development, a court decision in Canada significantly narrowed the conditions under which cases of libel or defamation can be brought before the judicial system.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Meeting the Authoritarian Challenge

Despite the record of global setbacks during the past year, the overall state of freedom in the world remains quite positive by any historical measurement. With some exceptions, the societies that embraced democracy during the Cold War’s waning years and immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union have retained their array of free institutions. The apparent durability of democracy in a number of Asia’s most important countries represents a bright spot, as do the gains for freedom in the Balkans, a region that was mired in civil war and ethnic hatred during the 1990s. The fact that more societies did not seek authoritarian alternatives in the face of a severe worldwide economic crisis last year could be held up as a testament to the strength of the democratic idea.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Still, the notion that things could have been worse is poor consolation for a year in which freedom showed some measure of decline in roughly 40 countries. And the results for 2009 were no isolated occurrence: they marked the fourth consecutive year of overall decline, the longest such stretch of negative data in the history of Freedom in the World. This is a phenomenon that should be galvanizing civic leaders and governments throughout the democratic world, no less than it should be concerning to those men and women elsewhere who aspire to live in free societies. Yet it comes at a time when American public opinion, at least, is experiencing a resurgence of isolationism in key respects.

According to a survey published by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press on December 3, 2009, for the first time since World War II, a plurality of Americans (49 percent) believe the United States should “mind its own business and let other countries get along the best they can.” The steepest specific change in general public attitudes surveyed is the decline in interest in “spreading democracy around the world,” from 44 percent just after the 2001 terrorist attacks to a mere 10 percent today. As was the case when Freedom House was founded in 1941, the reluctance of American public opinion to support active engagement in a messy world, despite clear infringements on democratic liberties overseas, makes it extremely difficult for American foreign policy to defend democracy from its enemies.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Another source of concern is the growing paranoia of even the largest and most headstrong among the world’s authoritarian powers. No country can compete in this respect with China, which—despite its waxing economic and military prowess—behaves as if it were under siege by its own citizens. The prison sentence recently issued to democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo is reminiscent of the anti-dissident campaigns of the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev. Similarly disturbing is Beijing’s persecution of lawyers who have represented defendants in politically sensitive cases, including ethnic and religious minorities and independent journalists. While China asserts that its relations with the rest of the world are based on a fundamental principle of noninterference, it recently tried to intimidate foreign cultural officials into silencing regime critics at conferences and exhibition venues in Germany, Australia, South Korea, and Bangladesh. It has likewise badgered foreign countries to return Uighurs seeking asylum abroad, and succeeded in persuading Pakistan and Cambodia to do so despite a credible risk of torture and execution.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

While these acts of repression are disturbing, so is the absence of protest from the democratic world. When the Soviet Union arrested a dissident or suppressed religious expression, it drew widespread condemnation by figures ranging from heads of state to trade union leaders, as well as by human rights organizations and prominent humanitarians. China’s current actions, by contrast, elicit little more than boilerplate criticism, and just as often they provoke no response whatsoever. Nor is China the only authoritarian power that has managed to avoid global attention for its breaches of democratic standards. Kazakhstan holds the chairmanship of the OSCE for the year 2010 despite a record of fraudulent elections and repression of independent critics in the media and civil society—behavior that only grew worse as 2010 approached. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has beguiled many and escaped censure by the Organization of American States despite his increasingly contemptuous attitude toward pluralism and his own country’s constitution. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other influential authoritarian states in the Middle East similarly avoid criticism for their assaults on citizens who seek to improve the climate for rights and freedoms in their countries.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The Cold War has ended, but the tendency of authoritarians of various stripes to band together and pursue common strategic, diplomatic, and occasionally economic interests remains a reality of international behavior. Authoritarians prefer alliances with other authoritarians and continue to regard the United States and the world’s other democracies as adversaries. They are deeply unsettled by citizen-driven movements for change, such as the one witnessed in the U.S. electoral campaign of 2008, or those that—in very different contexts—currently threaten the forces of repression in Iran and Zimbabwe. Authoritarian rulers fear their own citizens: hence their frequently expressed apprehensions about an American-inspired “velvet revolution.” In response, they devote more and more strategic thought and material resources to the challenge of keeping their people under control and the democratic world at bay.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

While a “freedom recession” and an authoritarian resurgence have clearly emerged as global trends, they are subject to reversal. Democracy remains the preferred form of government; indeed, no other system or model has gained widespread support. The United States and other democracies should take the initiative to meet the authoritarian challenge, and democratic leaders should make the case to their wary publics about the importance of doing so now, while the balance remains relatively favorable, rather than waiting for a further erosion in the global state of freedom.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Reconstruction and the Formerly Enslaved

W. Fitzhugh Brundage
William B. Umstead Professor of History, University of North Carolina
National Humanities Center Fellow
©National Humanities Center

The Reconstruction era is always a challenge to teach. First, it was a period of tremendous political complexity and far-reaching consequences. A cursory survey of Reconstruction is never satisfying, but a fuller treatment of Reconstruction can be like quick sand—easy to get into but impossible to get out of. Second, to the extent that students may have any preconceptions about Reconstruction, The Big Questions of Reconstruction

Who was an American?
What rights should all Americans enjoy?
What rights would only some Americans possess?
On what terms would the nation be reunited?
What was the status of the former Confederate states?
How would citizenship be defined?
Were the former slaves American citizens?
When and how would former Confederates regain their citizenship?
What form of labor would replace slavery?
they are often an obstacle to a deeper understanding of the period. Given these challenges, I have gradually settled on an approach to the period that avoids much of the complex chronology of the era and instead focuses on the “big questions” of Reconstruction.
However important a command of the chronology of Reconstruction may be, it is equally important that students understand that Reconstruction was a period when American waged a sustained debate over who was an American, what rights should all Americans enjoy, and what rights would only some Americans possess. In short, Americans engaged in a strenuous debate about the nature of freedom and equality.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

With the surrender of Confederate armies and the capture of Jefferson Davis in the spring of 1865, pressing questions demanded immediate answers. On what terms would the nation be reunited? What was the status of the former Confederate states? How would citizenship be defined in the postwar nation? Were the former slaves American citizens now? When and how would former Confederates regain their American citizenship? What form of labor would replace slavery?Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

White Americans did not expect blacks to participate in Reconstruction-era debates. Blacks thought otherwise. The nation’s approximately four million African Americans, of whom roughly 3.5 million had been enslaved, were at the center of each of these questions. If white northerners had only gradually come to understand that the Civil War was a war to end slavery, they recognized immediately during the postwar era that the place of blacks in American society was inextricably bound up in all these pressing questions of the day. Even so, white northerners, and more so white southerners, presumed that they would debate and resolve these questions with little or no consideration of black opinion. Nothing in the previous history of race relations in North America prepared white Americans for the conspicuous role that African Americans played in the events after the Civil War. By the end of Reconstruction, no Americans could doubt that African Americans were intent on claiming their rights as citizens or participating in the debate about their future.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Black citizenship depended on the status of the Confederate states. That African Americans became American citizens was arguably the signal development during Reconstruction. Only a decade earlier the Supreme Court had ruled in the Dred Scott decision in 1858 that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants—whether or not they were slaves—could never be citizens of the United States. When, during the Civil War, slaves began to flee to Union lines in growing numbers and after the Emancipation Proclamation, it became clear that “facts on the ground” would overtake the Dred Scott decision. However, any resolution of the status of former slaves had to be resolved within the context of American federalism, because until that time citizenship was defined and protected by state law. Therefore, the resolution of the citizenship status of blacks was contingent on the status of the former Confederate states and their relationship with the nation at large.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

After the Civil War, were the Confederate states conquered lands, frontier territories, or states in good standing? Who exercised the power to define the rights of former slaves would depend upon who held the power to dictate what happened in the former Confederacy. Were the former Confederate states conquered territory? If so, then the federal government (or, in other words, northern whites and Republicans) could dictate the reconstruction of the South. Or were the former Confederate states essentially quasi-frontier territories that had to be readmitted to the union? If so, then the voters of the South would decide the course of the former Confederacy. In addition, those same voters would decide the content of citizenship in their states. Or were the former Confederate states still states in good standing that would return to their former, pre-war status as soon as southerners elected congressmen, senators, governors? If that were the case, then presumably the southern states, and the definition of citizenship that prevailed in them before the Civil War, would be restored.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Northern opinion on this question varied widely. Abraham Lincoln, before his murder, had recommended the speedy return of the southern states. Lincoln presumed that the reunion of the nation was of paramount importance. Andrew Johnson, who assumed the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination, adopted the same view of reunion, proposing to restore political rights to white southerners as soon as they pledged loyalty to the union.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay While willing to grant presidential pardons to even high-ranking Confederate officers and politicians, Johnson displayed no interest in extending citizenship to former slaves. Other northerners looked askance at Johnson’s decision to restore political power to white southerners, especially after their behavior suggested little contrition on their part. In the fall of 1865, white southerners who had regained their political rights under Johnson’s policies elected many former Confederates leaders and generals, including even the Vice President of the Confederacy, to represent their states in Congress. Northerners who had just fought against secession for four years and who had buried hundreds of thousands of wartime casualties refused to tolerate the seating of Confederates in Congress less than a year after the guns fell silent.

The issue of African American citizenship provoked equally complex competing views. White southerners had clear ideas about the social and racial order that would replace slavery; they intended to restrict the rights of citizenship to whites as much as possible. During the fall of 1865 southern state legislatures that had been organized under Johnson’s Reconstruction plan adopted oppressive laws, known as the “Black Codes,” that narrowly defined the civil rights and social and economic status of the freed people. The Codes explicitly denied blacks the right to vote, limited their freedom of movement, and criminalized behavior.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

White southerners overplayed their hand. The combination of the harsh Black Codes and the prevalence of Confederates in southern delegations to Congress in the fall of 1865 hastened the beginning of what became known as Congressional Reconstruction. Essentially, Congress, controlled by a Republican majority, used its legislative powers and control over the federal purse strings in an attempt to impose answers to the “Big Questions of Reconstruction” listed above.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The recalcitrance of white Southerners opened Republicans to extending full citizenship to the formerly enslaved. Congressional Reconstruction thus may be understood as an attempt to prevent white southerners from dictating the outcome of Reconstruction. The only consensus that existed among northern politicians during Reconstruction was that white southerners should not have a free hand, as they had in late 1865 and early 1866, to impose their will on the South. From The South As It Is: 1865-66, John Richard Dennett
Raleigh, N.C., October 5, 1865

The session [of “the colored men’s convention”] was held in the African Methodist church, a small edifice in a back street of the city. The delegates were about a hundred and twenty in number, but crowds of colored citizens were interested spectators through the four days, and the house was always filled full. . . . [T]hese men though ignorant were intelligent, and often spoke exceedingly well. “Yes,” said one of the cleverest among them—”yes, we are ignorant. . . . They say we don’t know what the word constitution means. But if we don’t know enough to know what the Constitution is, we know enough to know what justice is.”Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

White northerners gradually understood that they would need allies in the South if the region was going to be reconstructed. The majority of white southerners had already demonstrated their reactionary preferences when they voted for former Confederates and supported the Black Codes. Consequently, by 1868 many white Republicans were open to the prospect of extending full citizenship to former slaves.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
Black southerners did everything within their power to speed the evolution of northern attitudes. Within months of the end of the Civil War former slaves in the South had gathered in conventions to proclaim their vision for their region and their race. Contrasting their devotion to the Union with the treason of their white neighbors, black southerners also stressed that the reconstruction of the former Confederacy could not proceed without their participation. And in the name of justice, the sacrifice of northerners, and the nation’s revolutionary heritage, blacks demanded that the nation acknowledge their rights as citizens. Most white northerners were reticent to embrace these demands in 1865. Within two years white southern intransigence, African American appeals, and political necessity convinced many northern Republicans that extending citizenship to former slaves was a prerequisite for the restoration of the Union.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

But how could the guarantees of citizenship be extended to blacks when states had traditionally been the guarantors of rights and the former states of the Confederacy were now controlled by white southerners who championed white supremacy? The resolution of this conundrum was the Military Reconstruction Act (1867). It divided the states of the South into military districts under federal military command.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay No southern state could return to civilian rule until its voters, including black men, framed a state constitution that guaranteed black suffrage. In addition, each southern state had to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment was multi-purpose constitutional device that was intended to resolve several of the questions hanging over the nation. It ended the president’s power of granting easy pardons to Confederate leaders. Most important, it established a constitutional guarantee of basic citizenship for all Americans, including African Americans. By defining as an American citizen anyone born in the United States or naturalized here, the amendment prohibited states from depriving any person, of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” At the very least, the amendment established a national benchmark for citizenship.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

It is worth pausing for a moment and acknowledging just how extraordinary the developments in 1867—the Military Reconstruction Act and the Fourteenth Amendment—were. The United States made itself unique among modern slave societies when it gave the vote to former slaves almost immediately after emancipation. Whereas elsewhere—Jamaica, Haiti, Brazil, etc.—virtually no former slaves were enfranchised, in the United States former slaves and their former masters competed for political power two years after the abolition of slavery.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Once the franchise was extended to blacks through the Military Reconstruction Act, the political mobilization of blacks took place with lightening speed. Throughout Reconstruction, when not deterred by violence, blacks participated in extraordinary numbers in elections. Their turnout in some instances approached 90 percent. Indeed, because black political mobilization was of paramount importance to the success of the Republican Party, Republicans in Congress pushed for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. Despite some glaring loopholes that would be later exploited to restrict the right to vote, the Fifteenth Amendment expanded on the implications of the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed the right to vote to all male citizens. The crucial point is that the definition of citizenship in the United States expanded substantially during Reconstruction era and by 1870 in principle, all African American men were American citizens. (It would be another half century until comparable rights were extended to black and white women.)Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The participants in Reconstruction fully understood that contests over political and civil rights could not be isolated from the economic reconstruction of the South and the nation. For blacks, the end of slavery of course did not mean the end of work, but rather an end to forced labor. Blacks relished the prospect of receiving the benefits of their own labor. But the vast majority of blacks emerged from slavery lacking the ability to buy land and confronted by a white community opposed to extending credit to blacks or to selling them property. At the same time, that whites looked for a system of labor and the Black Codes to bind blacks to the land, as slavery had, freed people coveted land of their own and struggled to be masters of their own time and labor.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Former slave owners in the South were vigilant about protecting their interests. Before the Civil War labor was the key to wealth in the South; after the war land was the key. White landowners understood the power the new circumstances gave them, but they could not control the largest external forces that shaped the region’s economy. It was these powerful national and international forces that guaranteed the restored nation had a more unified economy than ever before.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Railroads helped open the South’s economy to national forces.Arguably railroads did as much as anything else to stitch the nation back together again. The late 1860s and 1870s were a period of breakneck railroad construction and consolidation. Although it is commonplace to dwell on the completion of a transcontinental rail line in 1869, the extensive reconstruction and expansion of southern railroads destroyed during the Civil War was of equal importance. Northern railroad companies and investors loomed large in these developments. Nothing more dramatically symbolized the emerging integrated national market than the massive regional effort on a single day in 1886 when all of the small gauge rail lines in the South were moved several inches wider and realigned with the rail lines of the North.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Country store, Jenkins County, Georgia
Country store, Jenkins County, Georgia.

Another crucial economic development of the Reconstruction era was the transformation of the southern system of credit. Prior to the Civil War, the South’s system of credit had ultimately rested on cotton and with British traders. That is, southern planters borrowed against their projected earnings in cotton. This system of credit was shattered by the Civil War, and the South became a credit poor region for decades to come. White landowners had land but no cash to pay laborers; former slaves had labor but no cash or credit to buy land. As a result, a system of sharecropping emerged in the South that enabled landowners to secure labor and workers to secure access to land. Little if any cash was exchanged in the system of sharecropping; both the landowner and the laborer received cash only at the end of the growing season when harvested cotton was sold at the market. In this new economy, the most important source of credit was the local store where agricultural supplies and food were purchased. In other words, the local merchant, not some distant British cotton trader, was the immediate source of credit. And the local merchant’s source of credit was American banks, which, as a result of Republican policies, now had to meet national standards.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In short, the South was effectively brought into a national system of credit and labor as a result of Reconstruction. “Free” labor, rather than some system of coerced labor would prevail in the region. Neither serfdom nor peasantry would replace slavery. And southern landowners and freedmen, whether they wanted to or not, were incorporated into the national credit markets.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Let us now take stock of the answers to the questions that we began with. On what terms would the nation be reunited? In short, on national terms. Property was not expropriated or redistributed in the South. Reforms that were imposed on the South—the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, for example—applied to the entire nation.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

What implications did the Civil War have for citizenship? The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments represented stunning expansions of the rights of citizenship to former slaves. Even during the depths of the Jim Crow era in the early twentieth century, white supremacists never succeeded in returning citizenship to its pre-Civil War boundaries. African Americans especially insisted that they may have been deprived of their rights after the Civil War but they had neither surrendered nor lost their claim to those rights.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

What would be the future of the restored nation’s economy? In simplest terms, Abraham Lincoln’s famous observation that a house divided cannot stand was translated into policy. However impoverished and credit starved, the former Confederacy was integrated back into the national economy, laying the foundation for the future emergence of the most dynamic industrial economy in the world. African Americans would not be enslaved or assigned to a separate economic status. But nor would African Americans as a group be provided with any resources with which to compete.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Guiding Student Discussion

Possible student perceptions of Reconstruction Aside from the challenge of organizing the complex events of the Reconstruction era into a narrative accessible to students, the biggest challenge is to help students understand what was possible and what was not possible after the Civil War. Students, for example, may be inclined to believe that white Americans were never committed to racial equality in the first place so Reconstruction was doomed to failure.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Some students may fixate on northern white hypocrisy; many white Republicans pressured southern voters to pass the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments even while they opposed its passage in the North. Yet others may emphasize that citizenship rights for blacks were hollow because blacks had no economic resources; blacks in postwar America could not easily escape an economic system that was slavery by another name. Each of these positions is worth discussion, but each tends to flatten out the motivations and behavior of the actors in the drama of Reconstruction. And virtually all of these interpretations presumed that the outcome of Reconstruction was both inevitable and wholly outside the hands of African Americans.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Ask students to design their own version of Reconstruction. One approach that I have adopted in hopes of countering these tendencies is to ask students to state their “first principles” that they think Reconstruction should have pursued and established. If your students are like mine, many will propose that Reconstruction should have guaranteed equal rights for all Americans. I then ask them to define what those rights should have been. At this point, even students who are in broad agreement about the principle of equal rights for all Americans may differ on the specific content of those rights. For example, some may stress economic equality whereas others may emphasize equality of opportunity. In any case, the next step is to ask the students to think about how they would have turned their principle into policy. Those students who may have stressed economic equality may then sketch out a plan for “forty acres and mule” for each former slave.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Those who stress the need for equal opportunity may sketch out the need for public education for freed people and other southerners. I next ask students where the requisite resources for these policies would come from. For example, where would the federal government have gotten the land and money to provide former slaves with land and livestock? If the federal government had expropriated land and resources from former slave masters, what consequences would that policy have had for private property elsewhere in the United States? (If the government could take lake and property from former slave masters, would it then have had precedent to later take land and property from former slaves?) What would the consequences of this policy have been for the production of cotton, the nation’s most important export? In response to students who propose universal public education, I ask them about the funding for these new schools. Who would pay for them? If taxes needed to be raised, what and whom should have been taxed? Should the schools have been integrated? If so, how would the resistance of white southerners to integrated schools be overcome? If not, would separate schools for blacks and white have legitimized segregation?Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Through this exercise, students gain a better sense of how all of the facets of Reconstruction were interrelated and how any broad principle was shaped by the circumstances, constraints, and traditions of the age. Equally important, students will better appreciate how astute African Americans were in pursuing their goals during the Reconstruction era. They recognized that the Civil War had ended slavery and destroyed the antebellum South, but it had not created a clean slate on which they had a free hand to write their future. Instead, black Americans were constantly gauging what was possible and who they might ally with to translate their long-suppressed hopes into a secure and rewarding future in American society.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The role of African Americans in Reconstruction The search by African Americans for allies during Reconstruction is the focus of another worthwhile exercise. It is essential for students to understand that African Americans were active participants in Reconstruction. They were not the dupes of northern politicians. Nor were they cowed by southern whites. This said, African Americans never had decisive control over Reconstruction. Whatever their goals, they needed allies. With that fundamental reality in mind, Ask students to identify the major stakeholders in Reconstruction. I ask students to draw up a list of the groups in American society who had a major stake/role in Reconstruction. Typically, students will identify the major actors as white northerners, white southerners and blacks. I then press the students to break those groups down further. Were all white northerners alike in their attitudes toward blacks? Were all white southerners? And were there any sub-groups of African Americans that should be distinguished? After this revision, my students typically distinguish between pro- and anti-black white northerners, elite white southerners, middling white southerners, blacks who were free before the Civil War, and recently freed slaves.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Once we have identified the actors in Reconstruction, we then systematically work thorough this list and consider what interests each of these groups might have shared. Put another way, on what grounds could each (any) of these groups found common cause with African Americans? Take middling whites for example. Many students may wonder why poor white southerners did not forge an alliance with former slaves. After all, they had poverty in common. Some students might suggest that poor whites refused to acknowledge their common condition with African Americans because of racism; a poor white man, in short, may have been poor but he could insist that at least he was a member of the “superior” white race.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay I also point out that poor whites and poor blacks may both have been poor, but they were poor in very different ways so that they were at best tentative allies. Poor whites typically were land poor; that is, they owned land but usually not the other resources that would have allowed them to exploit their land intensively. Black southerners were poor and landless; most had no significant holding of land to exploit. Consequently, when blacks called for expanded social services such as schools to meet their needs, they were implicitly calling for additional taxes to fund the services. What would be taxed to fund these new schools and services? In the nineteenth century, tangible property, and specifically land, was the principal taxed property. Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Taxes on the land of poor whites, then, helped to underwrite new schools in the Reconstruction South. These taxes, in the end, drove a wedge between poor whites and African Americans and ensured that black southerners could not take for granted the support of poor white southerners who bridled at paying taxes on their land to fund new schools. Or take the example of white northerners. Even some white Republicans who were unsettled by calls for racial equality could be allies of former slaves. Republicans believed that without the support of black voters in the South their party might surrender national power to the Democratic Party. Expediency alone, then, coaxed some white Republicans to support political rights for blacks. But as soon as the Republican Party garnered a sufficient national majority so that the support of southern blacks was no longer essential, these same northern Republicans urged the party to jettison its pledge to defend African American rights.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

This exercise helps students see African Americans as actors in Reconstruction, but actors constrained by the actions of other actors. This exercise turns Reconstruction into a dynamic process of contestation, negotiation, and compromise, which, of course, is precisely what Reconstruction was.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

What resources did the formerly enslaved bring to freedom? Finally, another possible approach is to focus students’ attention on the resources that African Americans could tap as they made the transition from slavery to freedom. I ask students to consider the needs that African Americans, as free Americans, had in 1865 and the resources they had at their disposal to allow them to survive as free Americans.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay This exercise prompts students to consider the resources and institutions that blacks already possessed in 1865 as well as those that blacks would subsequently need to build. In other words, many slaves possessed skills (some could read, some were skilled artisans) and had built institutions (particularly religious institutions) that were foundations for black communities after emancipation. Taking these into account, students can then consider what additional resources former slaves needed and how they might have acquired these resources. This approach to Reconstruction inevitably leads to discussion of the possibilities and limits of black self-help as well as the prospects for meaningful assistance to blacks from white Americans. It also often leads to valuable discussions of the merits and drawbacks of the racially exclusive institutions that emerged during Reconstruction, such as schools and churches. Students gain a better appreciation, for example, of why blacks preferred schools taught by black teachers and black denominations even while students also recognize the subsequent vulnerability of these institutions.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Historians Debate

No era of American history has produced hotter scholarly debates than Reconstruction. Historians may have written more about the Civil War but they have argued louder and longer about Reconstruction. With a few notable exceptions, however, most of the scholarship on Reconstruction from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s ignored or denied the prominent role of African Americans in the era’s events. Blacks were rendered as the pawns and playthings of whites, whether they be white northerners or southerners. The most notable exception to this willful silence about blacks and Reconstruction was W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935). Du Bois dissented from the then current interpretation of Reconstruction as a failed experiment in social engineering by placing the former slaves and the battle over the control of their labor at the center of his story.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay For him, Reconstruction was a failure not because blacks were unworthy of it but because white southerners and their northern allies sabotaged it. Not until the 1960s did a new generation of professional historians begin to reach similar conclusions. Spurred on by the civil rights struggle, which was commonly referred to as the “Second Reconstruction,” historians systematically studied all phases of Reconstruction. In the process, they fundamentally revised the portrait of African Americans. John Hope Franklin, in Reconstruction, Kenneth Stampp, in Era of Reconstruction, and others recast African Americans and their Republican allies as principled and progressive minded. By the 1970s, a subsequent wave of scholarship began to revise the largely positive take on the Reconstruction offered by Franklin, Stampp, et. al. Now Reconstruction was seen as an era marked by muddled policies, inadequate resources, and faltering commitment. William Gillette’s Retreat from Reconstruction (1979) was the fullest expression of this interpretation. Eric Foner’s Reconstruction synthesized the previous quarter century of scholarship on the period and offered the richest account yet of the role of African Americans in shaping Reconstruction. Foner also placed the accomplishments of Reconstruction in a comparative framework and concluded that the rights that the former slaves acquired during the era were exceptional when compared to those in any other post-emancipation society in the western hemisphere. Reconstruction may have left the former slaves with “nothing but freedom” but that freedom, Foner stressed, was written into the Constitution and was never completely compromised.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Since the publication of Foner’s work, most scholarship on Reconstruction has been devoted to topics that had previously been ignored by scholars. For example, the roles of black women, the struggle to develop a system of labor to replace slavery, and the emergence of black institutions have all been the focus of recent scholarly monographs.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Two recent works that build on these works and suggest new directions for scholarship on Reconstruction are Heather Cox Richardson’s West From Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (2007) and Steve Hahn’s A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South, From Slavery to the Great Migration. Richardson highlights the importance of the Trans-Mississippi West in the political machinations and economic visions of the architects of Reconstruction while Hahn highlights the shared ideological values and cultural resources that sustained southern blacks in their struggle for economic and political power in the postbellum South.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Slave resistance began in British North America almost as soon as the first slaves arrived in the Chesapeake in the early seventeenth century. As one scholar has put it, “slaves ‘naturally’ resisted their enslavement because slavery was fundamentally unnatural.”1 Forms varied, but the common denominator in all acts of resistance was an attempt to claim some measure of freedom against an institution that defined people fundamentally as property.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Perhaps the most common forms of resistance were those that took place in the work environment. After all, slavery was ultimately about coerced labor, and the enslaved struggled daily to define the terms of their work. Over the years, customary rights emerged in most fields of production. These customs dictated work routines, distribution of rations, general rules of comportment, and so on.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay If slave masters increased workloads, provided meager rations, or punished too severely, slaves registered their displeasure by slowing work, feigning illness, breaking tools, or sabotaging production. These everyday forms of resistance vexed slave masters, but there was little they could do to stop them without risking more widespread breaks in production. In this way, the enslaved often negotiated the basic terms of their daily routines. Of course, masters also stood to benefit from these negotiations, as contented slaves worked harder, increasing output and efficiency.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Another common form of slave resistance was theft. Slaves pilfered fruits, vegetables, livestock, tobacco, liquor, and money from their masters. The theft of foodstuffs was especially common and was justified on several grounds. First, slave rations were often woefully inadequate in providing the nutrition and calories necessary to support the daily exertions of plantation labor. Hungry slaves reasoned that the master’s abundance should be shared with those who produced it.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Second, slaves recognized the inherent contradiction of the master’s “theft” accusations. How could slaves, who were themselves the master’s property, “steal” anything that the master owned? After all, the master’s ownership claims over the slave meant that he owned everything that the slave “owned.” When a slave staked claim to a master’s chicken, he merely transferred it to his stomach, or as Frederick Douglass put it, the slave was simply “taking [the master’s] meat out of one tub and putting it in another.”2

In addition to everyday forms of resistance, slaves sometimes staked more direct and overt claims to freedom. The most common form of overt resistance was flight. As early as 1640, slaves in Maryland and Virginia absconded from their enslavement, a trend that would grow into the thousands, and, eventually, tens of thousands by the time of the Civil War.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay During the early years of slavery, runaways tended to consist mostly of African-born males. Since African-born men were in the numerical majority through much of the eighteenth century, this should not surprise us. For the most part, these men did not speak English and were unfamiliar with the geographic terrain of North America. Their attempts to escape slavery, despite these handicaps, are a testament to the rejection of their servile condition. If caught, runaways faced certain punishment—whipping, branding, and even the severing of the Achilles tendon.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Those lucky enough to evade detection sought sanctuary in a variety of safe havens—Native American communities, marshy lowlands like the Great Dismal Swamp along the Virginia/North Carolina coastal border, and, eventually, Canada and the free states of the American North. By the nineteenth century, the North was a particularly attractive destination for acculturated, American-born slaves.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Networks of free blacks and sympathetic whites often helped ferry slaves to freedom via the so-called Underground Railroad, a chain of safe houses that stretched from the American South to free states in the North. Men continued to be predominant among runaways, although women, and even entire families were increasingly likely to test their chances in the flight for freedom. As the Civil War unfolded, many slaves abandoned their masters’ plantations, sometimes joining the Union army in what many perceived to be a war to end slavery forever.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The most spectacular, and perhaps best-known, forms of resistance were organized, armed rebellions. Between 1691 and 1865, at least nine slave revolts erupted in what would eventually become the United States. The most prominent of these occurred in New York City (1712), Stono, South Carolina (1739), New Orleans (1811), and Southampton, Virginia (Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion). Numerous other conspiracies were thwarted before they could be fully realized, including Gabriel Prosser’s (Richmond, VA, 1800) and Denmark Vesey’s (Charleston, SC, 1822). Slaves commandeered weapons, burned and looted properties, and even killed their masters and other whites, but whites were quick to exact a brutal revenge. In the bloodiest American revolt, Nat Turner and several hundred comrades killed sixty whites. Over 100 enslaved were killed, either in the combat or as retribution for the uprising. Another thirteen slaves were hanged, along with three free blacks. If the measure of a revolt’s success was the overthrow of slavery, then none of these revolts succeeded.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Ultimately, the only rebellion that succeeded in overthrowing slavery in the Americas was the Haitian Revolution. Slave rebellions in colonial America and the United States never achieved such widespread success; however, the importance of rebellion cannot be overstated. The constant specter of physical violence reminded whites that slavery would never go unchallenged; the possibility of “another Haiti” loomed large, especially in the nineteenth-century American South.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Guiding Student Discussion

An excellent starting point for any discussion of slave resistance is a simple definition. For students (and many scholars), the term “slave resistance” often conjures notions of enslaved peoples on the barricades, taking up arms against their masters in rebellious acts of violence. In the contemporary imagination, it is comforting to think that the enslaved frequently exacted some measure of revenge against the unspeakable horrors that they suffered. Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Award-winning historical novels highlight the Nat Turner rebellion and the Haitian Revolution.3 Similarly, Hollywood celebrates the victories of the Amistad Africans and Toussaint L’Ouverture in Haiti.4 Students will likely begin to define resistance by these historical markers, but they should be pushed beyond slave revolts. To be sure, organized physical violence was one aspect of resistance, and these episodes deserve an important place in the curriculum. Remind them, however, that organized, armed violence was a relatively rare occurrence during the 350-year history of slavery in the United States. Why were armed rebellions so infrequent?Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Slave masters monopolized armed power, severely restricting slaves’ access to weapons. Slave masters also closely monitored their slaves’ activities, limiting their movement and freedom of association. Under these circumstances, organization and planning were next to impossible. On those rare occasions when the enslaved escaped their masters’ purview, they faced yet other mechanisms of white control—militias, local patrols, and vigilantes. Rebels who avoided the net of surveillance and enacted their conspiracies were always dealt with in brutal fashion.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Public hangings and decapitation were common punishments. Other rebels were gibbeted alive, burned alive, or broken on the wheel. In all of these instances, punishment was meant to demonstrate the totalizing effects of white supremacy, terrorizing those who remained enslaved. Remarkably, some slaves still embarked on what they must have known were suicide missions. Were the men and women who confronted their masters with violence so desperate that they preferred death to living in slavery? Or, did they really believe that they could be the exception and overthrow white supremacy? These are important questions to consider.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

These questions also begin to point students toward the psychology of enslavement, an important and often neglected aspect of the institution and responses to it. Psychologically, how did the majority of slaves interpret the institution? (And for that matter, how did whites?) If hardened firebrands like Nat Turner represented one response, then the broken, submissive “Sambo” probably represented another.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Slavery impacted negatively on all slaves, but it did not impact all of them equally. The enslaved possessed the range of weaknesses and frailties common to all people. To deny that some suffered deep psychological wounds would be to deny their very humanity, reinforcing the master’s belief that slaves were little affected by the institution’s daily violence. In fact, the vast majority of enslaved probably fell between the two psychological extremes of “Nat” and “Sambo,” coping with the horrors and indignities of slavery as best they could, building lives within the corrosive confines of the institution. For this majority of slaves, resistance took a variety of forms.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

If organized physical violence was not the solution for most slaves, then how did the majority find ways to address their condition? If they have not already done so, students will usually recognize that running away was the most common way of overtly rejecting slavery. By the nineteenth century, running away to the North offered the virtue of a tenuous freedom; however, failed runaways also met with serious reprisals.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Most did not try to escape. For those who remained enslaved, resistance took on more familiar everyday forms. When discussing everyday forms of resistance, challenge students to think about whether strategies like work slowdowns, breaking tools, or even petty theft were actually “resistance.” Here, it is important to distinguish between those acts that were aimed at ending one’s enslavement—running away, rebellion, etc.—versus those that were intended to improve one’s daily condition inside the institution. Ask students: Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay When the enslaved slowed their work or broke tools, were they resisting the overall institution of slavery or just the work of slavery? Can these be distinguished? Remind students that slave masters sometimes begrudgingly tolerated these everyday forms of resistance and even responded positively to slave workplace demands. Why? These negotiated compromises provided slaves with incentives to work, ultimately bolstering the institution. For slave masters, acknowledging these small pin pricks of resistance were a small price to pay in order to secure the survival of the overall institution.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Some students likely will not buy the argument that everyday forms of resistance reinforced the institution. Encourage them to unravel exactly why they think this. The best students will recognize that even the smallest acts of resistance pushed the boundaries of freedom, slowly eroding the institution.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay Smile at them and then turn to an even more obvious example. What about theft? Of course, stealing from the master MUST have been resistance. But what if a starving slave’s stolen food provided the sustenance that allowed him to work another day? Didn’t this actually reinforce the institution? Even some of the enslaved seemed to acknowledge that this was the case. As Frederick Douglass noted, stealing was simply “taking meat out of one tub and putting it in another.” When slaves rationalized theft in these terms, weren’t they adopting the master’s definition of them as property? Or were they cleverly manipulating the contradictions inherent to the institution?Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Finally, as one last consideration of everyday forms of resistance, you might ask your students whether cultural forms like the speaking of African languages, the formation of families, or the practice of religion constituted resistance to slavery. Embedded in each of these were the potential for overt forms of resistance. For instance, those speaking African languages might plan conspiracies or revolts in those languages, thereby hiding their intentions from whites.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay The formation of families defied notions of property, sometimes making it difficult for masters to sell husbands, wives, and children, who vehemently protested separation from their loved ones. And religion could be used to justify liberation from the “sorcery” or “sin” of enslavement. Some slave masters recognized the potential dangers in these cultural expressions and attempted to curb their practices. Others viewed African and African-American cultural practices as vital ways of appeasing slaves so they would be more efficient workers. Did the master have to prohibit a particular cultural form in order for its practice to be considered resistant? Or were all cultural expressions a form of resistance? Certainly there is an argument to be made that any assertion of humanity in an institution that defined one as non-human was an expression of resistance.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay At the same time, slaves were ultimately human beings and expressed themselves naturally as such, even within the confines of slavery. To suggest that slaves were always on the barricades, consciously resisting at every turn, risks reinforcing the master’s assertions that slaves were less than human.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Students probably will end up disagreeing about the precise definition of slave resistance. Considerations of whether certain behaviors were resistant or not will continuously run into conceptual dead ends. Ultimately, students will turn to the instructor to place some closure on these debates.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay In concluding this discussion there are two key points that must be emphasized: 1) the distinction between forms of resistance that rejected the institution of slavery (rebellion, running away) and forms of resistance that took place within the institution (everyday forms); and 2) the recognition that the very definition of slavery (“property”) meant that almost any action or behavior on the parts of slaves could potentially be interpreted as resistance.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

As a group, slaves constantly pushed their masters and overseers to grant them greater freedoms. This was only natural. When masters refused, slaves punctuated everyday forms of resistance with more overt expressions like running away or rebellion. The threat of flight or violence always hung over the institution, despite the infrequency of such acts. Ultimately, the moral bankruptcy of slavery meant that even the smallest, most mundane acts could be considered resistant, but the enslaved did not live in a constantly reactionary state, awaiting their white masters before determining their next resistant move. The vast majority coped, endured, and lived their lives, avoiding the slings and arrows of white power as best they could.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Historians Debate

The study of slave resistance gained its contemporary impetus from works published in the 1940s and 1950s. Herbert Aptheker’s path breaking American Negro Slave Revolts (1943) argued that the brutality of slavery provoked more than 200 rebellions and conspiracies in British North America and the United States. Aptheker, who never held a permanent academic position in the United States, was rejected by many as a radical communist. Though he may have exaggerated the number of uprisings, Aptheker’s work squarely challenged the prevailing sentiment in the American academic establishment that slaves responded to their inhumane treatment in a passive fashion. Widely criticized at the time of its publication, the work is now acknowledged as the platform upon which all other studies of slave resistance have been built.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The idea of slaves as submissive and content dated as far back as Ulrich B. Phillips’, American Negro Slavery (1918) but persisted well into the 1950s, culminating with Stanley Elkins’ Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (1959). In this work, Elkins concluded that the majority of American slaves adopted the “Sambo” personality—docile, submissive, child-like, loyal, and utterly dependent on their masters. Elkins did not argue that slaves were naturally this way; rather, he argued that the institution of slavery transformed their personalities in much the same way as occurred among prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

By the late 1960s and 1970s, a number of scholars began assaulting the Sambo monolith. John Blassingame’s The Slave Community (1972) identified a range of personality types among slaves, noting that Sambo and Nat [Turner] were stereotypes so contrary to one another “that the legitimacy of each as a representation of typical slave behavior is limited.”5 Other authors focused more directly on rebellion, including John Lofton, Insurrection in South Carolina: The Turbulent World of Denmark Vesey (1964), Eugene Genovese, From Rebellion to Revolution: Afro-American Slave Revolts in the Making of the New World (1968), and William Styron’s fictional account, The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), which provoked a strong critique from scholars who accused Styron of sanitizing slavery and portraying Turner as sexually depraved. These critiques can be found in John Henrik Clarke, ed., William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Scholars Respond (1968).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

For a detailed history of runaway slaves, see John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (2000). Also see the remarkable story of Shadrach Minkins, who ran away from slavery in Virginia, only to be captured in Boston in 1851 under the Fugitive Slave Law. Before his case could be heard, a group of black citizens invaded the court room and stole Minkins to freedom in Canada, where he helped establish a community for runaway slaves in Montreal. See Gary Collison, Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen (1998).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Some of best work on slave resistance in recent years focuses on the African backgrounds of the enslaved. Through language, kinship, religion, and so on, Africans recreated aspects of their pasts in North America. Some of these forms were expressed as resistance—through “sorcery,” Islam, running away, and even suicide. For the best works on African forms of resistance in North America, see Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (1987), Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (1998), and Walter C. Rucker, The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture and Identity Formation in Early America (2005).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Most scholars now accept that the enslaved “naturally” resisted slavery. That being the case, it is impossible to be exhaustive in describing the numerous approaches and contributions to studies of slave resistance. This overview only barely scratches the surface; students are encouraged to consult more specific works through the bibliographies of the works listed here, as well as through general bibliographies of slavery.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Like tulip enthusiasts awaiting the verdict of Punxsutawney Phil, high school juniors get atwitter this time of year when the Common Application releases its essay prompts. And, like the predictions of the groundhog, the prompts typically mean little

This year’s prompts, released last week, mean less than ever before. That’s a good thing.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Become a founding member
Responding to a survey of students, member colleges, and other constituents, the Common App revived the option for “topic of your choice.”

I have long advocated for this reversion to sanity — see my blog from December 2013. After years of pressuring kids into answering only questions sanctioned by the Common App bureaucracy, the organization has finally acknowledged the true purpose of essays: they are opportunities for introspection and personal expression.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Students are not being deposed in court or interrogated by the INS. They are introducing themselves, showing off whatever accomplishments, insights, and personal traits they see fit.

As Scott Anderson, the Common App’s director for access and education, explains in an insightful blog, the prompts are meant as provocations, not questions. The reinstatement of the free response eliminates the charade of tweaking an essay just so to fit one of the six prompts or, worse, abandoning a favored topic for fear of incurring the wrath of the Common App.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

(Anderson’s candor is a welcome deviation from the kack-handed obfuscation and scolding that has come out of the Common App ever since the disastrous debut of its new version.)

Of course, there’s no wrath to fear. Readers don’t work for the Common App. They work for the colleges. And colleges are just along for the ride with the Common App. Most readers probably don’t even notice what prompt a student is answering.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

With that said, it’s always fun to deconstruct — as I did the last time the prompts, and the time before that (here and here) — so let’s take a look at what the Common App has in store this year. Here are the prompts as posted by the Common App, with changes in italics:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

Indeed, what’s to change? This has been by far the most popular prompt of the past few years. It invites anecdotes, and it was a reasonable proxy for “topic of your choice.”

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The sermonizing in the first sentence drives me nuts. With that said, the Common App smartly expanded this prompt to de-emphasize the idea of failure.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Students sometimes used to put their essays through self-defeating contortions in order to invoke failure. Some went so far as to describe overwhelming successes — like prize-winning science fair projects — as “failures.” I mean, even if you’ve cured cancer, if you seem disappointed, you aren’t going to seem like a very strong college applicant.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

I’ve always liked this prompt but rarely seen it used. Rebellion isn’t as cool as it used to be, especially among dutiful high school students. I submit, though, that argument is the soul of both personality and critical thinking.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

Wordy as it is, I like this prompt too. It invites students to revel in their nerdiness. And conflict is the soul of story-telling. Can you discuss that dilemma in the context of Kant’s Categorial Imperative? All the better.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

This prompt still unnerves me, but it’s better than the previous version, which referred to “your transition from childhood to adulthood.” The people least qualified to discuss adulthood are people who are not yet adults. It’s still a perilous invitation for self-congratulation and melodrama.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

English teachers beg their students to avoid clichés, and yet here we have: “lose all track of time.” What does that even mean? What if I lose just some track of time? What if I really like an idea but can still look out the window to see whether it’s day or night. “…concept you find engaging” would have sufficed. And, “…do you turn to” reeks of melodrama, as if the student is on the run from the mob. How about, “How do you learn more?”

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Hallelujah. At least one thing in the world makes sense.

Now that you’re fired up and brimming with ideas, slow your roll.

Students should be patient. They should stockpile ideas. They should stir up memories. They should develop their ideas and opinions. They should embrace the learning and experiences that they’ll meet in the coming months. They can take notes in Moleskins and phones. But, as I have previously advised — and as Anderson does in his blog — February is no time to write college essays.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The WHO Constitution (1946) envisages “…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.”
Understanding health as a human right creates a legal obligation on states to ensure access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality as well as to providing for the underlying determinants of health, such as safe and potable water, sanitation, food, housing, health-related information and education, and gender equality.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay
A States’ obligation to support the right to health – including through the allocation of “maximum available resources” to progressively realise this goal – is reviewed through various international human rights mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review, or the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In many cases, the right to health has been adopted into domestic law or Constitutional law.
A rights-based approach to health requires that health policy and programmes must prioritize the needs of those furthest behind first towards greater equity, a principle that has been echoed in the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Universal Health Coverage. (1)
The right to health must be enjoyed without discrimination on the grounds of race, age, ethnicity or any other status. Non-discrimination and equality requires states to take steps to redress any discriminatory law, practice or policy.
Another feature of rights-based approaches is meaningful participation. Participation means ensuring that national stakeholders – including non-state actors such as non-governmental organizations – are meaningfully involved in all phases of programming: assessment, analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
“The right to the highest attainable standard of health” implies a clear set of legal obligations on states to ensure appropriate conditions for the enjoyment of health for all people without discrimination.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The right to health is one of a set of internationally agreed human rights standards, and is inseparable or ‘indivisible’ from these other rights. This means achieving the right to health is both central to, and dependent upon, the realisation of other human rights, to food, housing, work, education, information, and participation.

The right to health, as with other rights, includes both freedoms and entitlements:

Freedoms include the right to control one’s health and body (for example, sexual and reproductive rights) and to be free from interference (for example, free from torture and non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation).Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Entitlements include the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.

Focus on disadvantaged populations
Disadvantage and marginalization serve to exclude certain populations in societies from enjoying good health. Three of the world’s most fatal communicable diseases – malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis – disproportionately affect the world’s poorest populations, and in many cases are compounded and exacerbated by other inequalities and inequities including gender, age, sexual orientation or gender identity and migration status. Conversely the burden of non-communicable diseases – often perceived as affecting high-income countries – is increasing disproportionately among lower-income countries and populations, and is largely associated with lifestyle and behaviour factors as well as environmental determinants, such as safe housing, water and sanitation that are inextricably linked to human rights.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

A focus on disadvantage also reveals evidence of those who are exposed to greater rates of ill-health and face significant obstacles to accessing quality and affordable healthcare, including indigenous populations. While data collection systems are often ill-equipped to capture data on these groups, reports show that these populations have higher mortality and morbidity rates, due to noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory disease. These populations may also be the subject of laws and policies that further compound their marginalization and make it harder for them to access healthcare prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and care services.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Violations of human rights in health
Violations or lack of attention to human rights can have serious health consequences. Overt or implicit discrimination in the delivery of health services – both within the health workforce and between health workers and service users – acts as a powerful barrier to health services, and contributes to poor quality care.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Mental ill-health often leads to a denial of dignity and autonomy, including forced treatment or institutionalization, and disregard of individual legal capacity to make decisions. Paradoxically, mental health is still given inadequate attention in public health, in spite of the high levels of violence, poverty and social exclusion that contribute to worse mental and physical health outcomes for people with mental health disorders.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Violations of human rights not only contribute to and exacerbate poor health, but for many, including people with disabilities, indigenous populations, women living with HIV, sex workers, people who use drugs, transgender and intersex people, the health care setting presents a risk of heightened exposure to human rights abuses – including coercive or forced treatment and procedures.

Human rights-based approaches
A human rights-based approach to health provides a set of clear principles for setting and evaluating health policy and service delivery, targeting discriminatory practices and unjust power relations that are at the heart of inequitable health outcomes.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In pursuing a rights-based approach, health policy, strategies and programmes should be designed explicitly to improve the enjoyment of all people to the right to health, with a focus on the furthest behind first. The core principles and standards of a rights-based approach are detailed below.

Core principles of human rights
States and other duty-bearers are answerable for the observance of human rights. However, there is also a growing movement recognising the importance of other non-state actors such as businesses in the respect and protection of human rights. (2)

Equality and non-discrimination
The principle of non-discrimination seeks ‘…to guarantee that human rights are exercised without discrimination of any kind based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political, or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status such as disability, age, marital and family status, sexual orientation and gender identity, health status, place of residence, economic and social situation’.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Any discrimination, for example in access to health care, as well as in means and entitlements for achieving this access, is prohibited on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, physical or mental disability, health status (including HIV/AIDS), sexual orientation ,and civil, political, social or other status, which has the intention or effect of impairing the equal enjoyment or exercise of the right to health.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

The principle of non-discrimination and equality requires WHO to address discrimination in guidance, policies, and practices, such as relating to the distribution and provision of resources and health services. Non-discrimination and equality are key measures required to address the social determinants affecting the enjoyment of the right to health. Functioning national health information systems and availability of disaggregated data are essential to be able to identify the most vulnerable groups and diverse needs.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Participation requires ensuring that all concerned stakeholders including non-state actors have ownership and control over development processes in all phases of the programming cycle: assessment, analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Participation goes well beyond consultation or a technical addition to project design; it should include explicit strategies to empower citizens, especially the most marginalized, so that their expectations are recognised by the State.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Participation is important to accountability as it provides “…checks and balances which do not allow unitary leadership to exercise power in an arbitrary manner”.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Universal, indivisible and interdependent
Human rights are universal and inalienable. They apply equally, to all people, everywhere, without distinction. Human Rights standards – to food, health, education, to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment – are also interrelated. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Core elements of a right to health
Progressive realization using maximum available resources
No matter what level of resources they have at their disposal, progressive realisation requires that governments take immediate steps within their means towards the fulfilment of these rights. Regardless of resource capacity, the elimination of discrimination and improvements in the legal and juridical systems must be acted upon with immediate effect.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

States should not allow the existing protection of economic, social, and cultural rights to deteriorate unless there are strong justifications for a retrogressive measure. For example, introducing school fees in secondary education which had formerly been free of charge would constitute a deliberate retrogressive measure. To justify it, a State would have to demonstrate that it adopted the measure only after carefully considering all the options, assessing the impact and fully using its maximum available resources.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Core components of the right to health
The right to health (Article 12) was defined in General Comment 14 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – a committee of Independent Experts, responsible for overseeing adherence to the Covenant. (4) The right includes the following core components:Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Refers to the need for a sufficient quantity of functioning public health and health care facilities, goods and services, as well as programmes for all. Availability can be measured through the analysis of disaggregated data to different and multiple stratifiers including by age, sex, location and socio-economic status and qualitative surveys to understand coverage gaps and health workforce coverage

Requires that health facilities, goods, and services must be accessible to everyone. Accessibility has four overlapping dimensions:Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

physical accessibility
economical accessibility (affordability)
information accessibility.
Assessing accessibility may require analysis of barriers – physical financial or otherwise – that exist, and how they may affect the most vulnerable, and call for the establishment or application of clear norms and standards in both law and policy to address these barriers, as well as robust monitoring systems of health-related information and whether this information is reaching all populations.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Relates to respect for medical ethics, culturally appropriate, and sensitivity to gender. Acceptability requires that health facilities, goods, services and programmes are people-centred and cater for the specific needs of diverse population groups and in accordance with international standards of medical ethics for confidentiality and informed consent.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Facilities, goods, and services must be scientifically and medically approved. Quality is a key component of Universal Health Coverage, and includes the experience as well as the perception of health care. Quality health services should be:Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

Safe – avoiding injuries to people for whom the care is intended;
Effective – providing evidence-based healthcare services to those who need them;
People-centred – providing care that responds to individual preferences, needs and values;
Timely – reducing waiting times and sometimes harmful delays.
Equitable – providing care that does not vary in quality on account of gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and socio-economic status;
Integrated – providing care that makes available the full range of health services throughout the life course;
Efficient – maximizing the benefit of available resources and avoiding waste
WHO response
WHO has made a commitment to mainstream human rights into healthcare programmes and policies on national and regional levels by looking at underlying determinants of health as part of a comprehensive approach to health and human rights.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

In addition, WHO has been actively strengthening its role in providing technical, intellectual, and political leadership on the right to health including:Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

strengthening the capacity of WHO and its Member States to integrate a human rights-based approach to health;
advancing the right to health in international law and international development processes; and
advocating for health-related human rights, including the right to health.
Addressing the needs and rights of individuals at different stages across the life course requires taking a comprehensive approach within the broader context of promoting human rights, gender equality, and equity.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay

As such, WHO promotes a concise and unifying framework that builds on existing approaches in gender, equity, and human rights to generate more accurate and robust solutions to health inequities. The integrated nature of the framework is an opportunity to build on foundational strengths and complementarities between these approaches to create a cohesive and efficient approach to promote health and well-being for all.Freedom Returns to Common Application Essay