January 29, 2018 Print

The finalists for the 2018 Asia Liberty Award are Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (AELSO, Afghanistan), for its Silk Road Station project; Samriddhi Foundation (Nepal), for its Reform Circle project; and Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR, South Korea), for its Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center.

Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (Afghanistan)

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 Silk Road website also has had 25,000-32,000 visitors. 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.

“AELSO and Silk Road Station are working in Afghanistan to promote the values of individual freedom and of the responsibility of civil society for the creation and sustenance of the institutions of limited government, the rule of law, and the other institutional foundations of free societies,” said AELSO General Director Khalid Ramizy. “That includes strengthening the institutions of a free-market economy such as clear definition of and respect for property, and promoting freedom of expression, toleration, human rights, and civil peace.”

Samriddhi Foundation (Nepal)

The Reform Circle project consisted of a series of roundtable discussions among politicians, policymakers, and business leaders across party lines. These informal, confidential meetings allow for members of the “Reform Circle” to candidly debate the implications of key policy reforms. The organization has forged relationships with key decision makers, who often request Samriddhi’s input on relevant topics. Samriddhi’s strategic involvement in the Reform Circle has allowed the organization to propose free market solutions to Nepal’s economic issues to political leaders and members of the business community. For instance, Samriddhi played a role in simplifying the process of creating a company in Nepal [https://www.atlasnetwork.org/news/article/slashing-business-registration-requirements-in-nepal]. Additionally, by bringing together major leaders at a public forum broadcast nationwide with unprecedented success, the Reform Circle brought a months-long conflict at the India-Nepal border to an end.

“With the recent switch from a unitary government to a federal republic, most of the political decision makers have been busy with their political agendas in office, with the economy taking a backseat even though it was one of the major contributing factors of this political shift,” said Akash Shrestha, research coordinator at Samriddhi.

“Under such circumstances, the Reform Circle ensures that political decision makers are brought to a table that puts the economy first,” Shrestha continued. “One of priorities for the members of the Circle is to focus on marginal economic reforms rather than engaging in big policy reform discussions that require a long-term deliberation and active involvement of the top-tier leadership of the political parties. The Circle takes an approach of building an alliance across multiple parties and multiple sectors. The alliance ensures that ideas are owned by the entire team and that they are priority issues no matter who is in power.”

Teach North Korean Refugees (South Korea)

The Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center began as a one-time effort to connect North Korean refugees with volunteer tutors. Almost five years later, more than 300 North Korean refugees have passed through the Center, and many of them have continued to engage with TNKR as volunteers. The program has inspired refugees to share their stories, and a number of these individuals have become prominent spokespeople for the North Korean refugee experience. They include Yeonmi Park, Sungju Lee, Jang Jin-Sung, and Cherie Yang.

“There are many incredible organizations doing great work in Asia, so it is a real honor to be a finalist for the Asia Liberty Award,” said TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue. “It validates the hard work of more than 700 volunteer tutors and coaches who have given so much of their time to help North Korean refugees adjust to living outside of North Korea. Every day, refugees tell us how much they appreciate that TNKR’s learner-centered approach gives them the freedom to choose their own language helpers and to choose their own path of study as they adjust to living as free people."


Atlas Network selects winners for the Regional Liberty Awards from each of the following world regions: Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East & North Africa. The 2018 Asia Liberty Award will be awarded during the 2018 Asia Liberty Forum on Feb. 10-11, 2018, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The winner will receive USD$3,000 and each runner up will receive USD$1,000.