1989 is remembered, among other things, as the year the Berlin wall came down. It was the year the Cold War ended, the year of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and the year of the Baltic Way for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. 1989 was a year that marked a transformation for the world.
Will 2011 be remembered as the same kind of transformational year that 1989 is remembered as?
This question continued to circulate the panel of speakers at Freedom House's (FH) presentation about the Arab Spring last week. Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research at FH, stated that he has every reason to hope this will be the case. He cited Tunisia and Egypt as two cases that support his hope. Until 2011, Tunisia was regarded as one of the least free countries in one of the worst regions and now the country has moved up from FH's Not Free category to the Partly Free category, holding the same ranking as Colombia and the Philippines. The FH rankings take into account the political rights and civil liberties of a country in addition to their status as an electoral democracy. Despite the complexities Egypt faces, Mr. Puddington noted the positive improvements in freedom of expression, the new elections and their constitution-in-progress as reasons to believe it is experiencing positive change.