Opening day of the 30th annual Fórum da Liberdade held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, April 10-11, 2017.
What began as a modest attempt to create a new dialogue in an otherwise closed and illiberal Brazilian state in 1988 has become a treasured cultural icon and international fixture – Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE)’s annual Fórum da Liberdade has been described as “the Super Bowl of liberalism.” With its audience growing larger each year, Fórum da Liberdade provides a unique opportunity for business leaders, students, academics, politicians, and former heads of state from Latin America and beyond to come together to discuss policy and principles. In 2017 the big event spanned six days of events, attracted 6,372 participants, disseminated 5,240 books, amassed tens of thousands of online views, and garnered hundreds of media mentions.
“Fórum da Liberdade is so much more than an event: it is Brazil’s chance to flourish and empower liberty culture from within, creating a thriving atmosphere that proposes alternatives to develop a society with more prosperity and freedom,” said Júlio César Bratz Lamb, president of IEE.
Fórum da Liberdade began as a group of entrepreneurs wishing to change the country, and in its 30 years it has evolved into the authority for free-market thought leadership in the country, influencing government policy in Brazil through its advice to political leaders, training of business leaders, and support to the emergence of new classical liberal organizations in the country. IEE’s Fórum da Liberdade brings the ideas of a free society to the mainstream of Latin American culture.
A New Agenda for Brazil
In mid-1984, a group of young classical liberal entrepreneurs, disillusioned with the dictatorial regime ruling over Brazil, came together to create Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE). It was developed to foster a culture of commitment to the democratic ideal of individual freedoms under the rule of law in the country’s budding business leaders. Since it seeks to cultivate the talents of young entrepreneurs, IEE’s members are younger than 35 yet hold key leadership positions throughout Brazil’s private industry. Nearly one thousand entrepreneurs have passed through its ranks, receiving training on the ideas of classical liberalism and going on to advocate on behalf of those beliefs.
IEE’s principal initiative is its Fórum da Liberdade, first held in 1988 – the same year that Brazil adopted a new constitution that decentralized some of its authority and allowed for greater flexibility for municipal governments to collaborate with civil society organizations to introduce reforms. The 30th edition of Fórum da Liberdade occurred this year in April. And it has come a long way since initially hosting a modest audience of 200 in an auditorium back in 1988; the event has evolved to host more than 6,000 attendees in a convention center, becoming the largest event in Latin America for the promotion of the ideas of a free society – each year organizing around a different theme, with this year’s theme being “The Future of Democracy.” It sought to examine the implications that the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff held for the future of Brazil’s democracy. In addition to size, it has grown in scope: Fórum da Liberdade has expanded from originally focusing on public policy impacting only Brazil to become the largest forum to discuss political, social, and economic issues impacting Latin America more generally.
Fórum da Liberdade is often the first exposure many attendees receive to the ideas of classical liberalism and connects the classical liberal movement of Latin America. Typical schedules of the event include presentations from thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists, hosting five Nobel Prize laureates and seven former heads of state as speakers since the inaugural Fórum da Liberdade. These include José María Aznar, Jorge Batlle, Gary Becker, James Buchanan, John Bruton, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Vicente Fox, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Douglass North.
More than a Conference
The event itself provides a platform for the launch of several ventures and partnerships – notably book launches – with 35,000 books distributed during the forum throughout the years. Its public profile has grown proportionately with its success: the most recent iteration of Fórum da Liberdade received 269 media appearances in the top media outlets of Brazil. More than 30,000 people watched the Fórum’s events online and more than 150,000 viewed its produced materials online. The Fórum was covered in more than 100 written articles, TV, and radio appearances. Two prominent Brazilian YouTuber vloggers also covered the event. One of them, Arthur Moledo do Val, posted a video in his channel, Mamãe Falei, that in 13 days after the event had amassed 79,629 views. The most influential economic magazine in Brazil, Exame, published an 8-page feature on the most recent Fórum da Liberdade titled, “The Chance of the Liberals”.
"Many factors have contributed to Brazil's encouraging turn toward the rule of law and limited government,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “One is certainly the IEE's remarkable Fórum da Liberdade, which has kept classical liberal ideas in prominent public discussions for three decades."
The biggest indicator of Fórum da Liberdade’s success has been the noticeable shift in public opinion in Brazil. The massive media coverage it has received over the years has introduced classical liberalism to audiences who had never before heard of such ideas. There has even been a considerable change in political discourse as many high-profile Brazilian politicians have responded to the changing public opinion. Some political parties have even begun to contemplate possible plans for reducing the size of government and restoring economic growth. Principles underlying a free and open society have thrust themselves into the mainstream in Latin America as a direct result of Fórum da Liberdade.
About the Templeton Freedom Award and the additional 2017 finalists:
Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Freedom Dinner on Nov. 8 in New York City at the historic Capitale. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize, and five additional finalists will receive $25,000 prizes. In addition to IEE, the other finalists for the 2017 Templeton Freedom Award are:
- Beacon Center of Tennessee, based in Nashville, Tenn., for its Tackle the Hall Tax campaign
- Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), based in Norcross, Ga., for its Prisoner Reentry Initiative
- IMANI Center for Policy and Education, based in Accra, Ghana, for its IMANIFesto
- Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (IMCO), based in Mexico City, Mexico, for its anticorruption reform initiative for Mexico, 3for3
- Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (MLI), based in Ottawa, Canada, for its Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project
For media inquiries about the 2017 Templeton Freedom Award, contact Daniel Anthony at Daniel.Anthony@AtlasNetwork.org or (202) 449-8441.