On September 29–30, 2022, 147 Atlas Network partners, academics, economists, journalists, students, and many other proponents of the freedom movement from 22 countries gathered in Manila, Philippines, for the annual Asia Liberty Forum, co-hosted by the Foundation for Economic Freedom. Through panel discussions, break-out sessions, the Asia Liberty Awards Dinner, and other events, attendees heard from leaders from across the continent about the challenges and opportunities ahead for liberal democracy. Keep reading to hear some of the highlights from this two-day event.
After welcoming remarks from Dr. Tom Palmer (Atlas Network, United States) and Roberto de Ocampo (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), Asia Liberty Forum 2022 opened with cornerstone talks, anchoring the tone and themes of this year’s event. Dhananath Fernando (Advocata Institute, Sri Lanka), Lakshmi Sampath Goyal (Centre for Civil Society, India), Charina Ubarra (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), Yuna Jung (Freedom Speakers International, South Korea), and Jordan Williams (New Zealand Taxpayers Alliance, New Zealand) each spoke on what freedom means to them and how we can create a freer, more inclusive Asia. Dr. Palmer also took the opportunity to announce that Dhananath Fernando has joined Atlas Network’s Center for Asia and Oceania as a senior fellow.
Concurrent breakout sessions followed. The first, “Labor Markets & Migration Restrictions—Implications for Asia’s Economies,” was moderated by Dr. Vicente Paqueo (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), and speakers included Jazreen Jefri (IDEAS, Malaysia) and attorney Eirene Aguila (educator and attorney, Philippines). The second session, “Reaching Larger Audiences,” discussed how think tanks and nonprofits can scale up their marketing strategies. The session was moderated by Lindy Arsenault (Atlas Network, United States), and speakers included Basanta Adhikari (Bikalpa - an Alternative, Nepal) and Khalid Ramizy (Afghanistan Economic & Legal Studies Organization, Afghanistan). The speakers addressed how visual media can be used to amplify freedom and counter populism, and the current state of information flow into Afghanistan.
During lunch, Professor Victor Andres Manhit (Stratbase, Philippines) and Simon Lee (unsubject.me, Hong Kong) joined Dr. Tom Palmer on stage to discuss “Liberty and Self-Determination vs. Statist Autocracies” and how authoritarian states present a threat to liberal values in other countries.
Following lunch, another set of concurrent sessions let attendees choose between a panel discussion and an Atlas Network Academy workshop. The first session centered around women’s economic rights in Asia and was moderated by Dr. Ayemen Fatima (Students for Liberty, India). Speakers included Sumhiya Sallay (Advocata Institute, Sri Lanka), Anu Maria Francis (Centre for Public Policy Research, India), and Sarvnipur Kaur (Trayas Foundation, India). The speakers highlighted areas of both policy and culture in Asia that continue to present a barrier to women’s economic rights, and described some of the work that Atlas Network partners are doing to promote women’s freedom and autonomy in the region.
Atlas Network Academy hosted the alternate session: strategic planning breakout groups, facilitated by Sam Druzbik (Atlas Network, United States). The three breakout groups included: 1) Creating a new strategic plan using a SWOT analysis with Sujan Regmi (Pokhara Research Centre, Nepal); 2) Marketing your plan externally using the Target Audience Matrix with Anthea Haryoko (Center for Indonesian Policy Studies, Indonesia); and 3) Getting stakeholder buy-in using the “architect, translator, doer” model with Jordan Williams (New Zealand Taxpayers Union, New Zealand).
After a short break, attendees launched into another set of concurrent breakout sessions. The first, titled “Dignity, Work, and Innovation” was moderated by Jack Shannon (Atlas Network, United States), and featured speakers Lakshmi Goyal, Muhammad Sulaiman (National Influencers, Pakistan), and Anthea Haryoko. The alternate session was titled, “The Food Shortage Crisis and Increasing Protectionism in Asia,” and was moderated by Prashant Narang (Centre for Civil Society, India). Speakers included Dr. Krisna Gupta (CIPS, Indonesia), Dr. John Tey (IDEAS, Malaysia), and Christopher Illagan (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines).
The first day concluded with the celebration of the Asia Liberty Awards Dinner. Romeo Bernardo (vice-chairman, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines) hosted the keynote interview with Dr. Raul Fabella (Filipino economist and professor emeritus at University of Philippines, Philippines). The interview revolved around the concepts of freedom, growth, and inclusion in an age of inequality.
Following dinner, Atlas Network’s Dr. Tom Palmer and COO Dr. Lyall Swim welcomed onto the stage representatives from the three finalists for the 2022 Asia Liberty Award: Advocata Institute (Sri Lanka), Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (Afghanistan), and Foundation for Economic Freedom (Philippines). Advocata Institute was named the winner of this year’s award for their impact promoting free-market reforms as a means to alleviate Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis.
The second day of the Asia Liberty Forum began with a panel discussion on “The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework & the Advancement of Freedom in Asia,” moderated by Dr. Lyall Swim. Panelists included Philip Thompson (Tholos Foundation, United States), Dr. Ashish Bharadwaj (Jindal Global University, India), and Richard Heydarian (University of the Philippines, Philippines). They focused on the potential offered by more open trade and a greater investment in increased prosperity across the region.
After breakfast, the first round of concurrent sessions began. George Katigbak (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines) moderated the first session, titled, “Towards Secured Property Rights and Increased Investments in the Philippines.” Speakers included Calixto Chikiamco (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), Susan Bulan (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), and Erwin Tiamson (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines). The alternate session was a discussion between Prashant Narang (Centre for Civil Society, India) and Philip Thompson (International Property Rights Alliance, United States) on “Index Findings and Prosperity in Asia.”
Two more concurrent breakouts opened before lunch. In the first, Khalid Ramizy (Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization, Afghanistan) and Yuna Jung (Freedom Speakers International, South Korea) discussed their personal experiences escaping authoritarian regimes in Afghanistan and North Korea, respectively. In the alternate session, Dr. Sandesh Dass Shrestha (Bikalpa - an Alternative, Nepal) led a discussion on social media, disinformation, and the threat to freedom of speech with panelists Jonathan Ayling (Free Speech Union, New Zealand), Attorney Jose Jesus Disini (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), and Adinda Tenriangke Muchtar (The Indonesian Institute, Indonesia).
The Think Tank Shark Tank lunch closed the 2022 Asia Liberty Forum on a high note, with a panel of judges for the competition that included Guillermo Choa (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), Bernadine Siy (Foundation for Economic Freedom, Philippines), and Kris Mauren (Acton Institute, United States). Ancella Christy (Center for Indonesia Policy Studies) began the competition by pitching “DigiWeek 2023—Building Consumer Trust in The Digital Sphere.” Next, Anu Maria Francis (Centre for Public Policy Research) pitched “Women & Jobs in Kerala’s Hospitality Industry: End Employment Bias.” Finally, Ali Salman (Policy Research Institute of Market Economy) rounded out the competition with a pitch for “Trade Openness & Food Security: A Case Study of Sugar Market in Pakistan.” After much deliberation, the judges awarded the US$10,000 prize to Francis and her bid to increase women’s economic participation and choice in India. The project will seek to end the state of Kerala’s arbitrary rules against women serving alcohol, which have an outsized impact on women’s employment prospects due to the region’s significant hospitality market.
Asia Liberty Forum was the fourth and final Regional Liberty Forum of 2022, rounding out a full year of celebrating, exchanging ideas, and sharing strategies within our ever-growing network. Head over to our social media feeds to get more highlights from Manila, and we hope to see you soon at our biggest event of the year: Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2022 in New York City! If you haven't done so already, be sure to register today!