Countries at the Crossroads is an annual survey of the comparative evolution of government performance with respect to four aspects of democratic governance. Freedom House, an independent US organisation that supports the expansion of freedom around the world, analyses 70 strategically important countries worldwide that are at the crossroads in determining their political future.
The survey makes in-depth comparative assessments with the help of prominent scholars and analysts to author the quantitative rating in the following four key areas of democractic governance:
- Government Accountability: Free and fair electoral laws and elections : Effective and accountable government; Civic engagement and civic monitoring ; Media independence and freedom of expression;
- Civil Liberties: Protection from state terror, unjustified imprisonment, and torture; Gender equity ; Rights of ethnic, religious, and other distinct groups; Freedom of conscience and belief;
Freedom of association and assembly;
- Rule of Law: Independent judiciary; Primacy of rule of law in civil and criminal matters; Accountability of security forces and military to civilian authorities; Protection of property rights
- Anticorruption and Transparency efforts: Environment to protect against corruption; Procedures and systems to enforce anticorruption laws; Enforcement of anticorruption norms, standards, and protections; Governmental transparency.
Countries at the Crossroads is based on on a set of 75 questions divided into the above mentioned core categories and 17 subcatagories. A full list of survey questions can be found here. For all countries in the study, Freedom House, in consultation with the report authors and academic advisers, provided detailed numerical ratings. Authors produced a first round of ratings by assigning scores on a scale of 0-7 for each of the 75 methodology questions, where 0 represents weakest performance and 7 represents strongest performance. The scores were then aggregated into 17 subcategories and 4 main thematic areas. Regional advisers and Freedom House staff systematically reviewed all country ratings on a comparative basis to ensure accuracy and fairness. In addition to numerical ratings, a narrative report of approximately 7,000 words was produced for each country in the analysis.
The 2011 edition of the Countries at the Crossroads report analyzes the performance of 35 countries, including six in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The countries’ scores cover the period from April 2007 through December 2010, and generally indicate grim and deteriorating conditions in the run-up to the Arab Spring.
Overall country declines exceeded improvements in both number and degree in this year’s report, with widespread efforts by governments around the world to restrict freedom of expression—two out of every three countries with previous data declined in this subcategory. The free and fair electoral laws and elections subcategory was also hit hard, as 17 countries with previous data declined in this area.
The report found that countries in the MENA region face grave challenges to successful democratic transition due to government institutions that have been seriously undermined under current and previous authoritarian regimes. It predicts that failure to institute thoroughgoing reforms in areas such as rule of law, accountability of the army and security services to civilian authorities, protection from state abuse, and official corruption could lead to the ascendance of forces hostile to freedom, and autocratic rule is likely to be maintained, or reasserted in the case of those countries that have seen uprisings.
Venezuela, along with Syria, underwent the sharpest decline in the rule of law category, according to the report. China showed significant signs of deteriorating governance, with particularly notable declines in the areas of civil society, media freedom, and the rule of law. Additionally, Greece and Italy, analyzed for the first time in Crossroads, faced deep challenges related to corruption, bloated and inefficient civil services, and excessive bureaucratic regulations. 
- Freedomhouse (2011), “Countries at the Crossroads 2011: Methodology Questions”. Retrieved from: http://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/CAC2011methodology.pdf
- Tucker,Vanessa and Walker, Christopher (2011), “Overview Essay:After the Arab Spring”, Freedom House. Retrieved on 25 January 2012 from:http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/booklet_0.pdf