An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Sri Lanka’s Advocata Think Tank to Host Asia Liberty Forum 2019
Sri Lanka’s Advocata Think Tank to Host Asia Liberty Forum 2019

For Asia’s freedom movement, the annual Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) is a highlight and a unique meeting and networking opportunity. This year, the mega-conference convened in Jakarta, Indonesia. The venue of next year’s Asia Liberty Forum will be Colombo, Sri Lanka’s sprawling capital – hosted by Advocata Institute, the country’s leading free market think tank. 

Advocata’s analysis of the economic situation in Sri Lanka is all but rosy: For more than a decade, Sri Lanka has seen a steady erosion of personal and economic freedoms, with a larger than life all-encompassing state being born, the group argues. “The basic public ideology is one that sees state intervention as a positive thing", says Dhananath Fernando, Chief Operating Officer of the Institute.

Advocata was set up in 2016 to challenge these notions and to infuse free-market ideas and promote economic freedom as a condition for building prosperity for all.

“Sri Lanka has long needed a forum for thinking about and advocating limited government and free markets for a free society. That is what Advocata does”, says Professor Razeen Salley of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and one of the mentors of the organization from the very beginning. And he continues: “Advocata brings together the young, dynamic and aspiring individuals who think and act against the grain for a better Sri Lanka that serves all its citizens, not just small insider elite. That marks it out from other think tanks in Sri Lanka. Advocata is an idea whose time has come.”

After having laid the groundwork, Advocata is now ready to solidify these ideas with experts and expertise from outside. “This strategic choice was the motivation behind our application to host ALF 2019”, says Mr. Fernando “This is a great chance for Sri Lankans, and especially the audience Advocata caters to, to be introduced and exposed to the best minds on free markets and economic freedom.”

At the same time, Sri Lanka’s free marketeers believe that the global meet is a fine opportunity to showcase the strength of its network to its donors and subscribers, and to create a new destination for the worldwide freedom movement to explore and engage with. “This is a great success for Sri Lanka’s freedom movement and we are looking forward to be part of it”, says the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s (FNF) Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus.

Advocata has a dedicated group of supporters and followers. They are academics, professionals, entrepreneurs. The organization is run by committed individuals with access to reputed experts and academic institutes.

The mission is clearly stated: to generate public understanding of the value of voluntary interaction through the market and to create, disseminate, and promote sound public policy proposals consistent with their vision through research, engagement with media, decision makers and the general public.

Advocata's work primarily revolves around developing and promoting free-market ideas into the public policy dialogue in Sri Lanka. Its primary research program is around State Owned Enterprise reform, with other programs focusing on barriers to entrepreneurship such as doing business reform, price controls. The institute’s most recent research and advocacy program focuses on free trade and the negative effects of protectionism.

One key to the success of the think tank are the strong international bonds: From the outset, the Atlas Network stood by the side of the Sri Lankan freedom promoters, so did the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Recently, Advocata partnered with the Fraser Institute of Canada for a well-received conference on economic freedom. All this bodes well for the Asia Liberty Forum 2019 and a great celebration of Sri Lanka’s freedom movement in Colombo next spring.