Free Societies

Atlas Network Announces Winner and Finalists for 2024 Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award

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The Lebanese Institute for Market Studies has been named the recipient of the 2024 Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award. The award is offered to the top freedom champion in the region, and Atlas Network also recognizes Mauritania’s Freedom and Citizenship Association and Students For Liberty Middle East & North Africa. All three finalists for the award fought tirelessly to contribute to economic freedom and human progress through innovation over the last year—from commercial tax reform and government subsidy elimination to press freedom.

From 2020 to 2023, the Lebanese Institute for Market Studies engaged in a relentless advocacy campaign that successfully terminated the detrimental Central Bank Subsidy Program. The campaign systematically dismantled a multitude of subsidies that had tripled the size of Lebanon’s public sector, stifled private-sector activity, disrupted the country’s pricing system, and led to shortages of food, gas, diesel, medicine, and other basic necessities. With the removal of numerous subsidies, goods can now flow more freely, meaning the Lebanese people can now better access gas to fill their tanks, find diesel to heat their homes, and obtain essential food and medication that were previously in shortage. Overcoming various fuel shortages and power outages due to the subsidies, Lebanese businesses have also gained access to a new supply of electricity—previously limited by the lack of fuel—that facilitates commuting to workplaces and transporting of critical merchandise.

More information about the other two finalists can be found here:

Freedom and Citizenship Association (Mauritania)

The Freedom and Citizenship Association launched a new project, “Economic Freedom Audit of Mauritania,” evaluating the country’s current public policy environment in collaboration with the Canada-based Fraser Institute. Through the audit, the Freedom and Citizenship Association assessed the Mauritanian economy from top to bottom, identifying the most severe policy challenges. The organization then embarked on a public advocacy and awareness campaign to educate people about the issues the audit found to be most significant—from discriminatory practices against women seeking commercial loans to high municipal commercial taxation and the country’s onerous business registration process.

Students For Liberty Middle East & North Africa

Students For Liberty Middle East & North Africa aims to bring liberty to 23 countries in the region, launching a new project—“Echoes of the Spring”—to build on the Arab Spring and promote free speech across national borders. Producing videos on free speech that have garnered over 500,000 views, training hundreds of student leaders as local coordinators, and hosting several events to promote liberty, the organization has fostered open, respectful dialogue in countries that have long lacked such spaces. “Echoes of the Spring” uses Socratic discussions, debates, and other communication methods—virtual and in-person—to train students on spreading ideas like economic freedom and business friendliness, even in difficult environments.

The Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award is part of the “Templeton Freedom Award” prize program sponsored by Templeton Religion Trust—named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The program also sponsors awards in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Its grand prize, the Templeton Freedom Award, is presented annually at Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner in New York City. In 2024, the prize program will award $270,000 in grants to high-achieving organizations that make innovative contributions to economic freedom and human progress.

“Atlas Network’s partners in the Middle East and North Africa are working for freedom on multiple fronts, advancing principles of classical liberalism where they are threatened most,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “In 2024, we are proud to honor the Lebanese Institute for Market Studies as the recipient of our Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award, after the organization spent years getting rid of government subsidies that led to shortages of food, gas, medicine, and other basic essentials. The organization proved that freedom is our best bet for lifting people out of poverty, and we have additional case studies from Mauritania and other countries in the region. Atlas Network partners like the Freedom and Citizenship Association as well as Students For Liberty Middle East & North Africa have been similarly instrumental in championing freedom, and we will continue to recognize think tanks that do such heavy lifting on the ground.”