Rule of Law plunges worldwide but New Zealand keeps high rank

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Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, October 15, 2021

And tops the East Asia and Pacific Region

Almost 85% of the world, accounting for about 6.5 billion people, lives in a declined state of Rule of Law and the situation continues to deteriorate, a global report has revealed.

According to the World Justice Project (WJP) Index 2021 released today, October 15, 2021, 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) and 94% of countries in the Index experienced increased delays in administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings.

The WJP Project, based in Washington DC evaluates annually the Rule of Law in 139 countries or jurisdictions and the 2021 Report was the first after the Covid-19 was declared as a pandemic in March 2020.

It defines the Rule of Law as a durable system of laws, institutions, norms, and community commitment that delivers: accountability, just laws, open government, and accessible justice.

New Zealand ranks high

The Index ranked countries on a scale of 0.90 (the highest) to 0.27 (the lowest) based on adherence to Rule of Law.

While most countries have been witnessing a negative trend in their Rule of Law status, New Zealand has maintained its high status, ranking 7th out of 139 countries across the world.

New Zealand was also ranked on top of 15 countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region.

Denmark and Norway were ranked Number 1 and 2 with an overall score of 0.90, followed by Finland (0.88), Sweden (.86), Germany (0.84) and Netherlands and New Zealand (0.83).

At the end of Index are Venezuela at 139th place with an overall score of 0.27, preceded by Cambodia (138, with a score of 0.32), Congo (137), Egypt (136), Cameroon (135) and Afghanistan (134), all with a score of 0.35.

Australia scored 0.79 to be ranked 13th, India, with a score of 0.50 was ranked 79th, while China scored 0.47 was placed 98th on the Index.

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 backwards or remained unchanged in their overall rule of law performance.

Top in East Asia and Pacific

New Zealand ranked Number 1 out of 15 in the East Asia and Pacific region, followed by Australia and Japan. The three countries with the lowest scores in the region were the Philippines, Myanmar, and Cambodia, which was ranked 138 out of 139 countries globally. Eleven out of 15 countries declined in East Asia and the Pacific, of which five countries had also declined in the previous year.

New Zealand’s overall Rule Of Law score increased by less than 1% in this year’s Index. Apart from retaining its position as in the previous year, it was ranked 7th out of 46 countries that were considered as ‘high-income countries.’

About the Rule of Law Index

The WJP Rule of Law Index is a quantitative assessment tool designed to offer a detailed and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the Rule of Law in practice.

The WJP Rule of Law Index is based on national surveys of more than 138,000 households and 4200 legal practitioners and experts around the world. The WJP’s framework for the Rule of Law covers eight factors including Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

Data from the WJP Rule of Law Index is used as an indicator of political and legal freedom in the Basel AML Index, a money laundering risk assessment tool developed by the Basel Institute on Governance.

WJP Co-Founder and Chief Executive Bill Neukom said that the Index shows negative trends worsening during the pandemic period, and that deterioration in Rule of Law is spreading worldwide.

“Areas of greatest decline globally include constraints on government powers, civic space, timeliness of justice, and absence of discrimination. With negative trends in so many countries, this year’s WJP Rule of Law Index should be a wake-up call for us all,” he said.

Describing Rule of Law as the very foundation of communities of justice, opportunity and peace, Mr Neukom said that reinforcing that foundation should be a top priority for the coming period of recovery from the pandemic.

The Index, with its Annual Report is considered as current and reliable information to policy makers, civil society organisations, academics, citizens and legal professionals, among others, and is intended to encourage policy reforms, guide programme development and inform research to strengthen the Rule of Law.

How countries are rated

The countries with the biggest improvement in Rule of Law in the past year were Uzbekistan (4.1%), Moldova (3.2%), and Mongolia (2.0%). The countries with the biggest decline in Rule of Law in the past year were Belarus (-7.5%) and Myanmar (-6.3%). Nigeria, Nicaragua, Kyrgyz Republic, and Argentina tie for the third biggest decline (-3.7%).

High income countries and jurisdictions: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; Austria; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; Canada; Chile; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hong Kong SAR, China; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Korea, Rep.; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Mauritius; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Panama; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Singapore; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; St. Kitts and Nevis; Sweden; Trinidad and Tobago; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay.

Importance of WJP

The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organisation working to create knowledge, build awareness, and stimulate action to advance the rule of law worldwide. Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small.

It underpins development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights, and it is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace.

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