February 12, 2018 Print

#AsiaLF18 discusses technology, property rights, and doing business in region

More than 250 people from 30 countries gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia from February 10-11 for Asia Liberty Forum 2018. Hosted by Atlas Network with local co-host the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS), the conference featured several thought-provoking breakout sessions examining the trajectory of liberty, property rights, and technology in the region and speeches by prominent business, think tank, and civil society leaders. Atlas Network would like to thank the support of the Smith Family Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Freda Utley Foundation, and other generous supporters for making Asia Liberty Forum 2018 possible.

Cornerstone Talks

After an Atlas Network tradition of speed networking, the conference opened with the first round of Cornerstone Talks, delivered by Hizkia Respatiadi (CIPS, Indonesia), who spoke of “CIPS’ Campaign for Affordable Food in Indonesia;” Razeen Sally (National University of Singapore, Singapore) who spoke on “Freedom in Sri Lanka;” Eunhee Park (Teach North Korean Refugees, South Korea), who spoke on the “Joy of Freedom;” Amartuvshin Dorj (Mises Institute-Mongolia, Mongolia), who spoke on the Mises Institute in Mongolia; Barun Mitra (Liberty Institute, India), who spoke on the “Revival of Liberalism;” and Nila Tanzil (Rainbow Reading Gardens, Indonesia), who spoke about building children’s libraries in remote areas of Eastern Indonesia.

From left to right: Amartuvshin Dorj (Mises Institute-Mongolia, Mongolia), Hizkia Respatiadi (CIPS, Indonesia), Eunhee Park (Teach North Korean Refugees, South Korea), Nila Tanzil (Rainbow Reading Gardens, Indonesia), moderator Terry Kibbe (Free the People, USA), Barun Mitra (Liberty Institute, India), and Razeen Sally (National University of Singapore, Singapore).

The second round of Cornerstone Talks occurred on the second day of the conference, focusing on education policy and the future of learning. Rainer Heufers (CIPS, Indonesia) spoke on Edtech solutions and the future of learning; Neil D’Souza (Zaya Learning Labs, India) spoke on introducing education technology in low-cost Indian private schools; Khalid Ramizy (Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization – AELSO, Afghanistan) spoke on education policy reforms in Afghanistan; and Rohan Joshi (independent consultant, India) spoke on scaling up quality education in low fee private schools in South Asia.

Rainer Heufers delivers his Cornerstone Talk on the future of learning.

Featured Guests

Following the first round of Cornerstone Talks was a keynote address on economic cooperation in South Asia by Suraj Vaidya, president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and chairman of Samriddhi Foundation (Nepal). Vaidya spoke to the economic potential of the region, saying that Asia is poised to thrive in the 21st century.

Suraj Vaidya, president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and chairman of Samriddhi Foundation (Nepal) delivers a keynote address on economic cooperation in South Asia.

“We haven’t had a war in Asia since this bloc was formed,” said Vaidya. “Many of us believe this millennium belongs to Asia.”

Guest of honor Chatib Basri, former minister of finance for Indonesia, delivered another keynote address titled “Policy Reforms in an Imperfect World.” He spoke of the difficulty in realizing good reform in a politically hostile atmosphere.

“Bad times make good policy and good times make bad policy,” said Basri. “If you want to introduce reform, wait for bad times. Then the politicians will listen to you … we failed to explain the benefits of free trade to the people. The success of Asia was the success story of globalization.”

Chatib Basri, former minister of finance for Indonesia, delivers a keynote address titled “Policy Reforms in an Imperfect World.”

Basri also spoke to the need of proposing reforms that are actually possible to implement in one’s own system. “If your institutions are still like Jurassic World, don’t expect it to follow recommendations made in Star Wars.”

Crowdsource Liberty

Another hallmark of Atlas Network’s regional liberty forums is its Crowdsource Liberty session, where participants of Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy receive feedback and insight for their projects from think tank leaders from across the region. The participants in the Crowdsource Liberty session at Asia Liberty Forum were attendees of Atlas Network’s Lessons in Effective Fundraising training that preceded the forum.

An Atlas Network favorite, Crowdsource Liberty courts the expertise and insight from forum attendees to help the projects of other think tanks.

Basanta Adhikari of Bikalpa, an Alternative presents his project’s takeaways from the Crowdsource Liberty session.

Elevator Pitch Competition

The culmination of Atlas Network’s Lessons in Effective Fundraising training was the Elevator Pitch competition, where participants of the training are given just 60 seconds to persuade the audience of the importance of their work. The audience selected Ma Junjie, acting director and project researcher at Unirule Institute of Economics, as the winner of the $250 prize.

Ma Junjie delivers his winning Elevator Pitch on the role of Chinese civil society.

Think Tank Shark Tank – Asia Competition

The winner of this year’s Think Tank Shark Tank – Asia competition was Dhananath Fernando, chief operating officer at Advocata Institute (Sri Lanka), for his Removing Protectionism Taxes in Construction Industry project pitch. Fernando won $10,000 in seed funding for his organization’s project.

Dhananath Fernando presents Advocata Institute’s project pitch: “Removing Protectionism Taxes in Construction Industry” in Sri Lanka.

"[My project will focus on] removing protectionism taxes in the construction industry ... helping 10 million Sri Lankans to materialise the dream of building a house," said Fernando.

The other two Think Tank Shark Tank – Asia contestants were Rofi Uddarojat, co-founder of SuaraKebebasan.org (Indonesia) for his “Liberating Entrepreneurship in Indonesian Transportation” project and Sarwagya Raj Pandey, research and advocacy officer at Bikalpa, an Alternative (Nepal) for his “Advancing Liberty through Alternative Journalism” project.

The five judges of the Think Tank Shark Tank – Asia competition were Terry Kibbe (Free the People, USA), Chatib Basri (former minister of finance, Indonesia), Siegfried Herzog (Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom), Linda Whetstone (Atlas Network, USA), and Razeen Sally (National University of Singapore, Singapore).

The judges of the 2018 Think Tank Shark Tank – Asia competition. From left to right: Terry Kibbe, Chatib Basri, Siegfried Herzog, Linda Whetstone, and Razeen Sally.

Asia Liberty Award

The winner of the $3,000 Asia Liberty Award was Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization for its Silk Road Station project. Accepting the award was Khalid Ramizy, general director of AELSO.

The Silk Road Station project is the online radio and television-broadcasting wing of AELSO. The radio station has served Afghan youth and many others throughout the country and region as an arena for the exchange and promotion of classical liberal ideas, such as market economy, rule of law, freedom of expression, and the connection between Islam and a free society. As of February 2017, there are between 900-1100 daily listeners. An estimated 330,000 total listeners have tuned into the radio programs. The station even reaches listeners in Europe and the United States. The project has been particularly influential on women’s issues and combining religion with a liberal culture. It has also started multiple roundtables, seminars, and debates.

Khalid Ramizy of Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (AELSO) accepts the 2018 Asia Liberty Award from Atlas Network Board Chair Linda Whetstone for his organization’s Silk Road Station.

“I and my all colleagues are really grateful and admire the great work of Atlas Network for strengthening the freedom movement across the world – and especially in Afghanistan, which could use more freedom and prosperity than any other country in the world,” said Ramizy.

The other two finalists for the Asia Liberty Award were Samriddhi Foundationfor its Reform Circle project and Teach North Korean Refugees for its Global Education Center, each earning $1,000.

Breakout Sessions

Among the many panels and other breakout sessions, a standout was the “Ease of Doing Business Index” session, featuring Parth Shah (Centre for Civil Society, India), Novani Karina Saputri (CIPS, Indonesia), and Deependra Chaulagain (Samriddhi Foundation, Nepal).

Parth Shah of Centre for Civil Society (CCS) answers a question about ease of doing business in India.

“The ease of doing business is not just about business,” said Shah. “It is about building a more peaceful world … There are many groups interested in this cause of doing business … something we can do better in the future is to build stronger coalitions to improve our efforts.”

Chaulagain discussed the bureaucratic jungle he and Samriddhi have encountered in Nepal when trying to introduce reform: “We realized there are 17 ministries involved in reforming just one indicator [of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index].”

The “Technological Solutions for the Protection of Property Rights” session was moderated by Barun Mitra (Liberty Institute, India) and featured former 2014 Think Tank Shark Tank winner Baladevan Rangaraju (India Institute, India) and Ambrish Mehta (Action Research in Community Health and Development, India).

Baladevan Rangaraju discusses using blockchain technology to secure property rights at Asia Liberty Forum 2018.

Mehta discussed using GPS technology to map and document property rights in India. Rangaraju spoke about the public adoption of blockchain technology in order to secure and safeguard property rights, arguing that since records using the technology cannot be erased, a system utilizing it would better protect people’s property rights than current systems, which can be manipulated and exploited.

“Adopting blockchain does not give governments any more power than what they already have,” said Rangaraju. “Blockchain removes the ability to fudge information and eradicate records.”

In the “Let’s Talk Business!” session sponsored by Acton Institute, experienced think tank and business leaders examined whether grants and donations are really the only way to achieve to fundraise. In sharing their experiences in what has and has not worked, the panelists provided insight to the budding think tank professionals in attendance.

Ayesha Bilal of Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME, Pakistan) shares PRIME’s experience with a subscription-based research publication in the “Let’s Talk Business!” session at Asia Liberty Forum 2018.

Asia Freedom Dinner

Gus Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Supreme Council (the world’s largest Muslim organization) gave the keynote address at the Asia Freedom Dinner to conclude the programming of Asia Liberty Forum 2018. At a time when Indonesia's historically peaceful Muslim community is being challenged by various elements, Yahya sounded a call for unity. His broad message addressed not only the challenge of taking on contemporary "Islamist radicalism and extremism" but the history of enmity between the various regions of the world. 

“We are all facing these problems, yet we hold together,” said Yahya. “Why? Because we have a vision of something [worth] holding together – human civilization.

Gus Yahya, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Supreme Council, delivers the keynote address at Asia Freedom Dinner.

Asia Freedom Dinner also hosted the launch of CIPS’ new book, “12 Indonesian Dreams,” which catalogs the stories of 12 women who were former migrant workers and have since come back to Indonesia to become successful entrepreneurs.

CIPS General Manager Sara Sihaloho presents the book “12 Indonesian Dreams” to two of the women featured in the book.

Asia Liberty Forum 2019

#AsiaLF19 will be traveling to Colombo, Sri Lanka in February 2019, where it will be co-hosted by Advocata Institute.

CIPS staff and volunteers at Asia Freedom Dinner.