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Good Reads: Was 2011 a banner year for human rights?

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Scan the headlines and you might feel like the world is going down the tubes. War, famine, power struggles, economic collapse, climate change – none of these problems seem to be going away, and some problems seem to be getting worse by the day.

But in at least one area – human rights – there seems to be some major progress, both because of citizen activism from below and political leadership from above.

Three major dictatorships have fallen across North Africa – in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya – at least partly at the hands of their own people. Citizen protests spread as far away as Bahrain and Yemen, Malawi and Swaziland, and while Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has held onto power through a brutal repression that has killed thousands of Syrians, it has come at the cost of his country’s economic and political isolation.

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