The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index® is the world’s leading source for original, independent data on the rule of law. Covering 139 countries and jurisdictions, the Index relies on national surveys of more than 138,000 households and 4,200 legal practitioners and experts to measure how the rule of law is experienced and perceived worldwide.
Deterioration in rule of law is spreading worldwide
More countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for the fourth consecutive year. In a year dominated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, 74.2% of surveyed countries experienced declines in rule of law performance, while only 25.8% improved. The 74.2% of countries that experienced declines this year account for 84.7% of the world’s population, or approximately 6.5 billion people.
The declines were widespread and seen in all corners of the world. For the second year in a row, in every region, a majority of countries slipped backward or remained unchanged in their overall rule of law performance.
Constraints on government powers fell and civic spaces diminished amid the pandemic
During the last year, 70% of countries covered by the Index declined in Constraints on Government Powers. This decline was the most pronounced in three regions: South Asia; the Middle East and North Africa; and the EU, EFTA, and North America.
Over the past year, 82% of countries in the Index experienced a decline in at least one dimension of civic space (civic participation, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of assembly and association).
Discrimination and justice delays increased during COVID-19
During 2020, 67% of countries covered by the Index experienced declines in the indicators that evaluate equal treatment and absence of discrimination. This decline was the most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East and North Africa.
Over the past year, 94% of countries in the Index experienced increased delays in administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings. In nearly two-thirds of countries, civil justice systems exhibited increased delays.
Rankings and progress across countries
The 2021 edition of the WJP Rule of Law Index includes 11 new countries: Cyprus, Haiti, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Paraguay, Republic of the Congo, Slovak Republic, and Sudan. The Index also covers the entire European Union for the first time.
Denmark, Norway, and Finland topped the WJP Rule of Law Index rankings in 2021. Venezuela, RB; Cambodia; and Democratic Republic of the Congo had the lowest overall rule of law scores—the same as in 2020.
Countries with the strongest improvement in rule of law were Uzbekistan (4.1% increase in score, driven primarily by gains in Constraints on Government Powers and Absence of Corruption) and Moldova (3.2%, driven primarily by gains in Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Access to Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice).
The biggest decline in the rule of law was seen in Belarus (-7.5%, driven primarily by falling scores in Constraints on Government Powers and Fundamental Rights) and Myanmar (-6.3%, also driven primarily by falling scores in Constraints on Government Powers and Fundamental Rights).
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