Event Highlights

Winning the battle against populism

Tom Palmer: Inequality is not the issue, what bothers people is the "psychological threat to my perceived status"

The opening session on "Winning the Battle of Ideas" featured panelists Tom Palmer (Atlas Network, USA), Linda Whetstone (Network for a Free Society, UK), Ma Jun Jie (Unirule Institute of Economics, China), Raghav Bahl (The Quint, India) and was chaired by Rainer Heufers (Centre for Indonesian Policy Studies). The panelists discussed the state of liberalism today, the narratives dominating media discourse around the world and the measures all liberal minded intellectuals should take to bring liberal ideas back into the mainstream.  

Panel Discussion

Property Rights and Poverty alleviation

Ambrish Mehta: Give the poor rights and they turn rocks into a garden

The panel on "Property rights as a Human Right" featured Ambrish Mehta (Action Research in Community Health and Development, India), Sudhir Krishnaswamy (Azim Premji University), Rainer Heufers (Centre for Indonesian Policy Studies) and Akash Shrestha (Samriddhi Foundation, Nepal), and was chaired by Baladevan Rangaraju (India Institute).  The panelists spoke about their experiences in enabling property rights for the poor, about the importance of such rights for tribals living in forest lands and on how the ruling elite continually discredit the ability of poor people to take care of their own property. Senior journalist Seetha interviewed Mr. Mehta following panel about his experience working with tribals in Gujarat, which you can read here.

Panel Discussion

Creating the right narratives for liberalism

JP Narayanan:"The Public Sector is the Private Property of those in Public Office"

The stellar discussion on "How do we persuade people to embrace liberalism?" was chaired by Charu Chadha (Media 9, Nepal), and hosted distinguished speakers Ken Schoolland (International Society for Individual Liberty, USA), JP Narayan (Lok Satta Party, India), Glenn Cripe (Language of Liberty Institute, USA) and Barun Mitra (Liberty Institute, India). The panellists drew from their experiences in promoting liberalism in different parts of the world and gave stellar addresses packed with humour and wit. In fact, the primary topic of Mr Schoolland's address was the importance of humour as a tool to fight tyranny. JP Narayanan and Barun Mitra spoke of the difficulties in promoting liberal ideas within the Indian context and proposed ways to repackage the sometimes complex ideas of liberalism within an easily accessible form for the lay person. The panellists also spoke about the need for liberals to move outside of their intellectual cocoons to promote liberal ideas further, focusing on the importance of promoting the idea of "self-interest" rather than grand schemes.

Panel Discussion

Is the digital world becoming an Orwellian dystopia?

Reuben Dieckhoff: A layman today has no clue what's happening with his personal data, it's a black box!

One of the most interesting discussions at the event was the panel on "State, Private Sector and Liberty in a Digital World-Challenges for Liberals". Discussants Anja Kovacs (Internet Democracy Project, India), Julian Morris (Reason Foundation, USA), Ajay Shah (National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, India) and Saikat Datta (Centre for Internet and Society, India) exchanged arguments brimming with witty sarcasm and facts. The panellists discussed the issue of personal privacy in an online world where being anonymous is no longer an option, the complicated issue of net neutrality and future of liberalism in a digitally connected world.

Panel Discussion

Keynote address by Chandrabhan Prasad on "Economic Freedom as a Human Right

Chandrabhan Prasad: "Capitalism and caste system cannot coexist"

Noted public intellectual and Dalit activist Chandrabhan Prasad concluded day one of the Asia Liberty Forum 2017, by presenting the keynote address on "Economic freedom as Human Rights".  He spoke about the subjugation Dalits still face in rural villages, and how large scale migration to urban cities have helped them break out of these oppressive societal structures. He mentioned many instances from his life where he faced caste discrimination, and how after becoming a businessman people cared less about his caste and more about his entrepreneurial skills. He encouraged communities facing oppression worldwide to embrace capitalism as a liberating force to set them free.

Panel Discussion

"What's a winning political strategy?"

Matt Kibbe: Technology equalises power of communication and lowers the role of money

Day two of Asia Liberty Forum began with a stimulating discussion on "What's a winning political strategy?" featuring Rajesh Jain (Free a Billion, India), Matt Kibbe (Free the People, USA), Wan Saiful Wan Jan (Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Malaysia) and chaired by Praveen Chakravarty (IDFC Institute, India). The panelists discussed the state of world politics and growth of populism around the world. The panel explored reasons for populist ideas finding acceptance in mainstream discourse, and the steps liberals could take to counter this spread of populist narratives.

Panel Discussion

Launch of the "Report on Budget Private Schools in India"

The Report on Budget Private Schools in India, 2016-17, is Centre for Civil Society's pioneering initiative for furthering a research and evidence-driven dialogue on the role of the BPS sector in educating the country's children. We released the first edition of the report in front of prominent educationists, practitioners and investors in education from India and abroad. The keynote address was delivered by Dr Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Prominent Educationist and Professor of Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, London University. This was followed by a panel discussion on the role of BPS in meeting the goal of providing an education of choice for all in India. Chaired by Gopal Jain (Gaja Capital, India), the panel saw a vibrant dialogue between Brajesh Mishra (Varthana, India), Neil D'Souza (Zaya Learning Labs, India),Parth J Shah (Centre for Civil Society, India) and Geeta Gandhi Kingdon (Institute of Education, UK).

Panel Discussion

Centre for Civil Society wins the prestigious Asia Liberty Award

We are proud to be the recipient of the prestigious Asia Liberty Award 2017! An initiative of the Atlas Network, the award recognises our work in promoting and protecting livelihood freedom, through Jeevika, our Law, Liberty & Livelihood Campaign. Conceived against a backdrop of debilitating statist regulations that blight the lives of the nation's poor, Jeevika strives to de-regulate and open markets, and promote livelihood opportunities for them. Through research and documentation, stakeholder engagement, effective advocacy, litigation and legal action, Jeevika seeks to further India's movement for economic liberalisation, promoting reforms for transforming the lives of small entrepreneurs–hawkers, cycle rickshaw pullers and small shop owners–who continue to drive the country's economic growth.

Panel Discussion

Tricia Yeoh wins the Think Tank Shark Tank Competition

The winner of the 2017 Asia Think Tank Shark Tank competition was Tricia Yeoh (Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Malaysia) for her project on a strategy to end price controls on small businesses in Malaysia.

"My pitch was about the story of Selva, a small sundry shop owner in a small town near Kuantan, the state capital of Pahang, Malaysia," Yeoh said. "His shop was raided in October 2016 because he was selling some laundry detergent at $2.65 instead of the $2.45 that the government said he should be selling it at, so just 20 cents difference. And then the government asked him to fill out some complicated forms, but he's not highly educated, so he couldn't fill out those forms. So, then the government charged him in court for failure to comply with the information request, and he had to pay $2,000. There are many others like him who are being charged in court and fined a lot of money. So, our campaign, #FreeMyBusiness, aims to change this and break down barriers to prosperity."

Panel Discussion

"The Landscape of Freedom in India"

Amit Varma: "A party on the campaign trail is like a guy wooing a woman. Governance is what happens after the marriage."

Bastiat award-winning journalist, blogger and author Amit Varma delivered the concluding keynote address, speaking about the woes the liberal community is facing world over and the difficulty they have in building an effective narrative. Focusing on the issues within India, he criticised demonetisation as a blatant violation of Human Rights and appealed to the liberal right to not be wooed by the economically illiberal campaigns of the current regime. He concluded his address on a positive note, by presenting the opportunities that the demographic shift within India offers and ways in which the liberal community can capitalise on this socio-political space.

Panel Discussion

#AsiaLF17 goes viral!

For the first time ever, the Asia Liberty Forum was broadcast to an online audience through a live-stream on Facebook and Twitter, drawing thousands of viewers from across the world. A range of online activities were announced during the conference and a special 'Social Media Awards' segment presented the most Social Media savvy delegates with awards for their contribution in spreading the ideas presented at #AsiaLF17 to a much wider audience online.

Panel Discussion