March 7, 2019 Print

Over 270 people gathered in Colombo, Sri Lanka for Asia Liberty Forum 2019 from Feb. 28th – Mar. 1st. Our local co-host Advocata Institute helped put together this event, which focused on how a rich history of liberty helped reduce poverty in the region, and how to continue this legacy for the future.


Razeen Sally, advisor to the Advocata Institute during opening remarks as AsiaLF19.

In opening remarks, Razeen Sally, an advisor to the Advocata Institute stated that, “No one has benefited from these ideas of economic liberty as much as the asian region.” This comment references the dramatic reduction of extreme poverty in Asia during past years. Recent growth stems from this long history of liberty in the region that originated in Sumeria in 2350 B.C. This civilization already had protections on private property and limits on the state. These ideas spread and went on to influence pro-individual ideas throughout asia. Following on the heels on Sally’s comments, Roy Spencer of Conscious Capitalism focused on the benefits capitalism brings to society. He acknowledged that capitalism has problems but that those problems should not overshadow the fact that it “is also the greatest idea that humanity has ever had, [and] it allows people to escape poverty.”


Roy Spencer of Conscious Capitalism during his Cornerstone Talk at AsiaLF19.

Continuing this legacy of freedom will not happen passively, and our partners in the region are working hard to build upon past progress. One example of this is Singapore, which is consistently ranked as one of the most economically free countries in the world.

“You can’t just look at formal institutions in a country,” said Bryan Cheang from the Adam Smith Centre in Singapore. “You also have to look at customs and norms that influence behavior. Singapore has strong legal property rights, but 90-95 percent of the land is owned by the state.” Understanding these niche areas for improving liberty is how Atlas Network partners are going to continue being the driving force for change in Asia.


Bryan Cheang of the Adam Smith Centre during his Cornerstone Talk at AsiaLF19.

One such partner is the co-host for the event, the Advocata Institute. Last year, Atlas Network wrote about the organization’s success in reducing tariffs on feminine hygiene products. Instead of resting on these laurels, during crowdsource liberty Advocata Institute sought advice on their future plans to continue reducing tariffs in the country. Crowdsource Liberty is a tradition of regional liberty forums, where participants pitch their projects to an audience and then the audience has the opportunity to offer feedback and advice in order to help bring the ideas to fruition.


Dhananath Fernando of the Advocata Institute at AsiaLF19.

No liberty forum would be complete without awards, and #AsiaLF19 was no different. The Mannkal Economic Education Foundation won the 2019 Asia Student Outreach Award for it’s redesigned Leadership Development Program (LDP). The new LDP prioritizes the discussion of the philosophy of liberty and its real-life implications through intense discussions and international travel.


Anthea Haryoko of CIPS after winning Think Tank Shark Tank at AsiaLF19.

The Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) beat out two other organizations in order to win $10,000 in Think Tank Shark Tank with their project to lift the current alcohol ban in Indonesia. “The Think Tank Shark Tank grant to support our study on the devastating effects of banning alcohol towards public health and safety gives us renewed strength in CIPS’ efforts to defend individual freedom in Indonesia,” says Anthea Haryoko, head of external relations for the CIPS.


Basanta Adhikari of Bikalpa accepts the 2019 Asia Liberty Award during AsiaLF19.

Lastly, Bikalpa, An Alternative won Atlas Network’s 2019 Asia Liberty Award for its success in promoting the ideas of freedom throughout Nepal with its series of compelling and popular video series, which reveals the destructive results of big government while highlighting the positive impacts of free enterprise through an extremely popular and effective medium.


Dancers perform a traditional Sri Lankan dance during the AsiaLF19 awards dinner.

Through efforts such as these, liberty will continue to grow and provide opportunity for people in the region. Atlas Network hopes to celebrate even more success during next year’s #AsiaLF20 held in Hong Kong.