Munich, 17 February, 2023 - David Miliband and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, with analytical support from Eurasia Group, today publish the world's first Atlas of Impunity, at the Munich Security Conference, a comprehensive index which tracks the abuse of power across five key societal dimensions – unaccountable governance, abuse of human rights, conflict, economic exploitation, and environmental degradation
The inaugural Atlas defines impunity as the exercise of power without checks and balances. The Atlas is built on 67 statistical indicators drawn from 29 validated sources. The data underpinning the Atlas is curated from universal, independent and credible sets with annually updated statistics. The Atlas is designed to spark vigorous debate on the rise of unaccountable power worldwide.
Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen top this year's list with the highest impunity score, with Finland, Denmark, and Sweden ranking with the lowest impunity scores.
Rather than pitting democracies against autocracies, the Atlas of Impunity uses the analytical framing of impunity versus accountability, which is nuanced and comprehensive enough to capture the multidimensional and interconnected nature of global challenges. This lens also highlights the ways in which impunity undermines democratic societies and accountability manifests in nondemocratic systems. Variations in impunity ultimately come down to politics, leadership and policy choices.
Key takeaways from the inaugural Atlas include:
- The US is closer to the median than top performers, though it ranks much better than Russia or China. The surprising US result reflects a weaker performance on the conflict and violence and human rights indicators. More broadly, none of the “great” powers do great.
- The legacies of colonialism and the slave trade are correlated with higher impunity scores. Nearly all the 20 countries with the highest levels of impunity according to the Atlas are former colonies or affected by colonialism. Similarly, about one-third of the 30 worst-ranked countries were affected by the slave trade. But some countries that have suffered from the historical legacy of slavery and colonization, such as Ghana and Senegal, score well on the Atlas. This indicates that impunity scores are informed by circumstance but dictated by policy choices. In fact, on the abuse of human rights dimension, Senegal ranks better than the US.
- Environmental degradation is where impunity continues to thrive even among otherwise accountable societies. Canada, which is one of the best-performing countries on the Atlas and traditionally scores well on similar indices, is only moderately better than the mean in terms of environmental degradation. India, China, Russia and the US—all among the largest greenhouse gas emitters globally—place 20th, 70th, 78th and 101st, respectively. Norway, New Zealand, Singapore and Israel are all countries whose environmental rankings are notably worse than their overall rankings.
- Violence against women and gender-based discrimination codified in law or by societal norms is a global problem. This type of impunity negatively affects the human rights and conflict and violence scores of theocracies such as Afghanistan. But it also affects some liberal democracies, states in conflict such as Syria and peaceful countries including South Korea.
- Human rights are being abused and accountability is falling even within democracies. India, Israel, Malaysia, the US and India are all democratic countries that perform well on the unaccountable governance dimension but substantially worse on the abuse of human rights. Singapore ranks better on accountable governance than several democratic countries including Italy. Weaker democracies such as Mexico, Kenya and Ukraine scored on par with non-democratic countries including Jordan and the UAE.
David Miliband, former UK foreign secretary and co-chair of the Atlas of Impunity Advisory Council, said: “Impunity is the growing instinct of choice in the global order. It represents a dangerous world view that laws and norms are for suckers. The Atlas of Impunity provides for the first time independent, credible and verifiable data across five dimensions of the abuse of power. Democracy versus autocracy and other popular paradigms are not sufficient to explain the widespread abuse of power even within powerful democracies, nor its international repercussions. The lens of impunity and accountability captures the multidimensional nature of global challenges and the shirking of public responsibility. Impunity thrives in darkness; this Atlas is a tool to shine a light on the abuse of power, and prompt a debate about what to do about it.”
Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group said: “A world where might makes right—where the powerful are above the law—is a world where impunity thrives. This issue cuts across political systems and development levels, ailing wealthy and developing countries, liberal democracies and repressive theocracies. It is pernicious, undermining the social contract and threatening the fabric of our civil societies. And it is about more than elections, crime, and violence, extending to human rights, economic fairness, and environmental practices. The Atlas of Impunity gives us a tool to measure, analyze, and compare cross-country impunity globally for the first time, allowing citizens and activists to speak truth to power and hold leaders more accountable.”
Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said: “We hear a lot about the battle between democracies and autocracies these days. And the difference between these systems is real and important. But international politics doesn't neatly divide this way. It does when it comes to the degrees of impunity and accountability among countries. And this Atlas provides a new way to understand how nations behave in the world across a set of important dimensions—including governance, environment, economy, human rights and conflict.”
Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundations, said: “Impunity and accountability are not ivory tower issues—they are very real, very present concerns for people across the globe. Unchecked power will not resolve the confluence of crisis facing the world today. This work for the first time captures essential data on the interconnected nature of impunity as well as the domestic, inward-facing indicators that are vital in understanding the power governments wield beyond their borders. This report serves as a reality check for governments that fail to serve their people and highlights the accountability mechanisms that democracies need. I hope it fuels more of the conversations and decisions that are necessary more than ever today in the fight against authoritarianism.”
To accompany the release of the inaugural Atlas, media are invited to watch the launch here: http://www.securityconference.org/live
Find the full report at http://www.atlasofimpunity.com
FOR REQUESTS ON THE INDEX, METHODOLOGY AND ANALYSIS:
Eurasia Group [email protected]
For interview requests for David Miliband: Chiara Trincia ([email protected]
For interview requests for Ian Bremmer: Katharine Starr ([email protected]
For interview requests for Ivo Daalder: Taylor Barton ([email protected]
For interview requests for Mark Malloch-Brown: Juliette Delay ([email protected]
The Atlas scores 197 countries and territories on a 0-5 scale across the five arenas of impunity. Higher overall scores denote greater impunity, with the Atlas ranking the worst performers at the top of the table. 34 of the countries or territories do not have sufficient data for a full score.
The Atlas is chaired by an external, independent global advisory board composed of human rights experts and activists, former diplomats, and former government officials with a range of regional and policy perspectives. The Atlas was made possible through a grant from the Open Society Foundations.
About Eurasia Group
Eurasia Group is the world's leading global political risk company. Its expertise includes developed and developing countries in every region of the world, specific economic sectors, and the business and investment playing fields of the future. With best-in-class advisory and consulting offerings, and GZERO Media, the Eurasia Group umbrella provides the marketplace with a complete political risk solution. "Politics first” grounds the firm's work: It is the lens through which Eurasia Group views the world, and it is committed to analysis that is free of political bias and the influence of private interests.
About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Founded in 1922, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing knowledge and engagement in global affairs. Our in-depth analysis and expert-led research influence policy conversations and inform the insights we share with our growing community. Through accessible content and open dialogue of diverse, fact-based perspectives, we empower more people to help shape our global future. Learn more at http://www.globalaffairs.org.
About the Open Society Foundations
The Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, are the world's largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. For more visit our website at opensocietyfoundations.org.