The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index® is the world’s leading source for original, independent data on the rule of law. Covering 128 countries and jurisdictions, the Index relies on national surveys of more than 130,000 households and 4,000 legal practitioners and experts to measure how the rule of law is experienced and perceived worldwide.
More countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for a third year in a row, continuing a negative slide toward weakening and stagnating rule of law around the world. The majority of countries showing deteriorating rule of law in the 2020 Index also declined in the previous year, demonstrating a persistent downward trend. This was particularly pronounced in the Index factor measuring Constraints on Government Powers.
The declines were widespread and seen in all corners of the world. In every region, a majority of countries slipped backward or remained unchanged in their overall rule of law performance since the 2019 WJP Rule of Law Index.
At a global level, countries experienced the biggest declines over the past year in the areas of Fundamental Rights (54 declined, 29 improved), Constraints on Government Powers (52 declined, 28 improved), and Absence of Corruption (51 declined, 26 improved). This is not a new pattern; WJP data shows the same three factors were the largest decliners over a five-year time horizon as well. Fundamental Rights showed the most backsliding with 67 countries dropping in score since 2015.
Civil Justice showed the most positive movement over the previous year, with 47 countries improving versus 41 declining. Since 2015, Regulatory Enforcement has improved the most, with 65 countries improving versus 29 declining.
Denmark, Norway, and Finland topped the WJP Rule of Law Index rankings in 2020. Venezuela, Cambodia, and DR Congo had the lowest overall rule of law scores—the same as in 2019.
Countries in the top ten of the Index in overall rule of law score remain unchanged since our last report in 2019. This year, for the first time, the United States fell out of the top 20 countries, replaced by Spain. France fell from #17 to #20, with Singapore trading places with United Kingdom, moving from #13 to #12.
Countries with the strongest improvement in rule of law were Ethiopia (5.6% increase in score, driven primarily by gains in Constraints on Government Powers and Fundamental Rights) and Malaysia (5.1%, driven primarily by gains in Constraints on Government Powers, Fundamental Rights, and Regulatory Enforcement).
The most downward movement in the rule of law was seen in Cameroon (-4.4%, driven primarily by falling scores in Order and Security and Fundamental Rights) and Iran (-4.2%, driven primarily by falling scores in Criminal Justice).
Over the last five years, countries experiencing the largest average annual percentage drop in the rule of law were Egypt (-4.6 %), Venezuela (-3.9%), Cambodia (-3.0%), Philippines (-2.5%), Cameroon (-2.4%), Hungary (-2.1%), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (-2.1%).
The single biggest decline by factor over the past five years was Egypt’s and Poland’s score for Constraints on Government Powers, with an average annual decline of -8.5% and -6.8%, respectively.
Countries leading their regions in overall rule of law scores were: Nepal (South Asia), Georgia (Eastern Europe and Central Asia); Namibia (Sub-Saharan Africa); Uruguay (Latin America and the Caribbean); United Arab Emirates (Middle East and North Africa); New Zealand (East Asia and Pacific), and Denmark (Western Europe and North America, defined as EU + EFTA + North America).