The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here! The nominations for Students For Liberty’s prestigious Global Awards have officially been revealed.
These nine nominations across three categories stand as a testament to the extraordinary dedication and passion exhibited by these students. Each nominee represents a beacon of hope, embodying the ideals of liberty, resilience, and innovation.
Their tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to creating positive change in their communities and beyond serve as an inspiration to us all. They are the driving force behind a future shaped by courage, vision, and a relentless pursuit of liberty.
Event: Bangladesh Classical Liberal Conference
Region: South Asia
The 2023 Bangladesh Classical Liberal Conference, held at the University of Chittagong on March 14-15, was a historic milestone as the country’s first SFL Conference. SFL Bangladesh and FNF Bangladesh meticulously organized this groundbreaking event, which saw over 600 students in attendance with more than 800 registrations. The conference’s central theme centered on promoting free-market environmentalism, a concept that strongly resonated with attendees and managed to secure over $4,500 in in-kind donations.
This event attracted a diverse audience, including renowned professors who participated as speakers, panelists, and attendees. One of the most enlightening moments featured the remarkable journey of a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who went from rags to riches, providing a thought-provoking reflection on the country’s regulatory obstacles.
For a nation like Bangladesh, which has benefited from recent market-friendly policies, the conference acted as a catalyst for nurturing intellectual curiosity surrounding capitalism. It encouraged open dialogues and championed the principles of individual liberty and market-oriented environmentalism.
By emphasizing the potent connection between free markets and environmental sustainability, the event challenged conventional perspectives and sparked innovative thinking. This was especially relevant as the country debated the construction of its first Nuclear Power Plant along the banks of the River Padma.
The conference also featured a video-creation competition with 44 participants, showcasing their work on various topics, including Ayn Rand, Objectivism, free-market environmentalism, classical liberal thought, free-market capitalism, the Rule of Law, and constitutionalism.
The conference’s resounding success can be attributed to meticulous planning, comprehensive organization, and an unwavering commitment to raising awareness about free-market capitalism, despite numerous challenges faced along the way.
Event: Technology, State, and Individual Conference
In FY23, Georgian Students For Liberty organized the “Technology, State, and Individual“ conference, one of three regional conferences. This event focused on innovation, emerging technologies, and their role in advancing liberty, fostering valuable relationships in the broader Caucasus region.
Before the conference, a three-week lead-up training program, the “Bitcoin Academy,” attracted students from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan with local and international speakers. Graduates of the academy had the opportunity to attend the conference, with 86 out of 133 registrants participating, resulting in increased engagement and informed discussions. This approach led to a significant surge in recruitment, with 80 percent of ESFL LC applications coming from the Caucasus region in the following month.
The conference also played a crucial role in bringing together students from Armenia and Azerbaijan, promoting unity in a region marked by discord.
The venue, in an audiovisual museum with a groundbreaking NFT exhibition, marked a pioneering moment for SFL and Georgia as a whole. These visuals were featured in various ESFL and global SFL communications and materials.
“Technology, State, and Individual“ covered topics such as technology in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War, modern technologies in autocratic nations, decentralized society, and blockchain’s transformative potential.
The conference’s expenses were largely covered by local fundraising, with support from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and tech-oriented companies like Lamassu Industries, enhancing its impact and reach.
Event: SFL Morocco Local Conference
The Middle East and North Africa region’s inaugural conference, hosted in Morocco, exceeded all expectations and became a resounding success. Even though the region had only 10 dedicated coordinators and 22 LCs, the event witnessed an incredible turnout, with more than 130 enthusiastic student attendees, and its influence extended to over 200 individuals reached through extensive outreach efforts.
The second day of the conference marked a pivotal moment with the official launch of the MENA Free Speech Project, a dynamic initiative comprising five compelling events. The inaugural event kicked off with a spirited debate centered on the fundamental topic of free speech.
This lively debate not only captured the essence of the project but also set the stage for a series of engaging discussions in the MENA region, promising a wealth of enlightening conversations in the future. The resounding success of the conference underscored the immense potential for promoting liberty and free speech across the MENA region.
Group: Georgian Students For Liberty
In FY23, Georgian Students For Liberty continued their impressive track record, organizing three regional conferences, eight in-depth schools, and 41 local events, achieving record recruitment numbers. Their commitment extended to impactful protests, even at personal risk, leading to a reversal of government policies.
One notable event, “Technology, State, and Individual,” nominated for Event of the Year, brought together 86 attendees from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, selected after completing the Bitcoin Academy. Sponsored by partners, this conference featured speakers including Zach Harvey (Lamassu Industries), David Khosroshvili (Forbes 30 under 30, SFL alumnus), and Egor Kuroptev from Free Russia Foundation South Caucasus.
The Tbilisi Regional Conference, later in the year, received 406 applications, with 130 students selected to attend. Impressively, the event drew over 1500 online viewers. Notable local politicians like Zurab Japaridze and Giga Bokeria, along with their student speaker, Ivane Nachkebia, contributed to its success.
Additionally, the team hosted the Ayn Rand Conference, bringing together 110 attendees at a cost of only $250, thanks to sponsorship from the Prometheus Foundation, an initiative negotiated by the local team.
The team’s influence extended to shaping the country’s political direction, especially in its relationship with Russia. Their involvement in recording Learn Liberty videos at the Russian border, a risky region, gained significant attention and remains one of the most-watched short videos on Learn Liberty. They also co-facilitated the LIBERTY exhibition in partnership with the Tbilisi Collective at LibertyCon Europe 2023.
Their most impactful contribution lay in their involvement in the #NoRussianLaw campaign. In early March 2023, Georgian Students For Liberty took to the streets to vehemently oppose a Russia-inspired proposed law, “On Transparency of Foreign Influence.”
This controversial bill triggered a significant domestic political crisis and threatened the nation’s aspirations for stronger European bonds. Undeterred, the students faced off against a brutal police force, enduring tear gas, water cannons, and excessive pepper spray. They not only protested but also provided support to fellow demonstrators, distributing SFL-branded protest materials, resulting in the withdrawal of the proposed law.
Group: EsLibertad Argentina
In FY23, EsLibertad groups across the globe delivered commendable performances, but Argentina’s stood out as truly remarkable. The group faced a series of pre-existing challenges, including a sharp decline in recruitment numbers during previous years.
This prior decline was attributed to enduring some of the world’s lengthiest and most stringent COVID-19 restrictions, political upheaval that had divided the youth along partisan lines, and a deteriorating economic crisis that discouraged young people from participating in volunteer programs. However, these adversities created a fertile ground for the emergence of strong and determined leadership.
These resolute leaders took deliberate steps to rejuvenate the Argentine group, successfully transforming it into a consistently high-performing entity marked by steady improvement and progress.
Notably, they initiated a long-anticipated expansion into provinces beyond the capital, nurturing the growth of top leaders across the entire region. Additionally, they successfully hosted multiple LibertyCon events, marking a significant milestone in their transformative journey.
The accomplishments of the Argentine group are not only promising but also serve as a testament to the resilience and determination of EsLibertad groups in the face of challenging times. They have exemplified how effective leadership and unwavering commitment can turn adversity into opportunities for growth and success.
Group: SFL Peshawar, Pakistan
Region: South Asia
In the heart of Students For Liberty’s Khyber region, a small yet determined group, SFL Peshawar, has emerged as a shining example of effective grassroots activism and fundraising for liberty. SFL Peshawar, with its unwavering commitment to fostering freedom in the tough geographical region that is located within Pakistan’s northwestern border with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, has organized 30+ events with 650+ participants in the last FY and produced 3 SFL Prometheus Fellows.
One of the standout achievements of SFL Peshawar was its successful organization of the ‘KP Business Plan Competition’ for the second time at the University of Peshawar in Nov 2022. This Shark Tank-like competition, hosted by the National Influencers in partnership with SFL Pakistan, provided a unique opportunity for aspiring student entrepreneurs in the province to showcase their innovative ideas and receive valuable feedback from industry experts.
The winners take home a small start-up grant which can only be redeemed if they register and set up a for-profit business entity. All three winning teams from its first leg (October 2021) have already clocked in profit and established sustainable business entities in Peshawar, Pakistan, within a year. See success story videos 1, 2, and 3. The event fundraises 5000+ USD from local businesses and foundations each year and attracts 80+ carefully screened participants.
The group’s efforts have played a pivotal role in spreading awareness and empowering individuals to embrace personal freedom, free markets, and limited government and have not gone unnoticed by local media houses. As a direct result, SASFL received 330+ applications to the Local Coordinator Program during FY23.
Student: Ethan Yang
Region: North America
Ethan Yang’s recent accomplishments gained national attention, starting with a federal judge’s preliminary injunction on Independence Day 2023, which halted efforts by the Biden administration to stifle criticism of COVID-19 lockdowns. His involvement in obtaining evidence through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request exposed the administration’s attempt to silence critics.
This wasn’t the first time Ethan Yang made headlines. In June 2022, he conducted eight interviews on NTD, garnering over 100k views on YouTube and a substantial TV audience. His expertise in the Chinese economy has led to a co-authored book on the topic with AIER.
Since 2020, he’s published over 100 op-eds in various outlets and hosted 19 podcasts for AIER as well as two episodes of the new SFL Banter Podcast. This fiscal year, he became a Google Public Policy Fellow & Law Clerk, a full member of the Journal of Law, Economics & Policy, and interned for a D.C. consultancy focused on Indo-Pacific trends.
Over the past five years, Ethan held various positions within SFL, from Northeast Regional Director and Mid Atlantic Regional Coordinator to Prometheus Fellow and House Coordinator for Bastiat (Politics, Policy & Law) in FY22.
In his role as House Coordinator, he organized a gathering of over 40 young interns and employees from various pro-liberty organizations in D.C., creating a regular meeting point for allies under 30. He also facilitated internships for four fellow SFL members at AIER and one at ALEC.
Prior to 2022, during his long tenure as LC, Regional Director, and Regional Coordinator, Ethan formed an undergraduate chapter at Trinity College, recruited more than 10 people, made New England into the strongest region in SFL (2020) and founded the Mark Twain Center for the Study of Human Freedom, a student-led, faculty supported think tank.
He also organized three Regional Conferences, one in NYC and Boston respectively as well as one “technically” illegal one in Connecticut during the COVID lockdowns.
During this time, Ethan hosted various virtual speaker events, placed second at the first-ever Liberty Lab, clerked for the Pacific Legal Foundation, interned at CATO, was a KAP fellow and summer intern, and presented research at the Association for Private Enterprise Education & Public Choice Society.
Ethan’s contributions extend to being a top recruiter for SFL, a conference organizer, the founder of his student think tank and podcast, a nationwide show host for AIER, a TV personality, and a fellow at Google and AIER. His dedication to making a difference is evident across a wide spectrum of activities, leading by example.
Student: Nicola Aguilla
Nicola Aguilla is an enthusiastic volunteer in Northern Brazil. He excels as an event organizer, efficiently handling logistics and transportation during the North Regional Training in 2022. Nicola’s contributions extend beyond event coordination; he actively promotes monthly gatherings, community projects, and introduced the Cabano of the Year award to recognize outstanding volunteers in the region.
Furthermore, Nicola is dedicated to educating youth on citizenship principles, environmental issues, basic sanitation, and entrepreneurship. He organizes lectures, documentary screenings, and supports the extractivist and fishing community of Marajó Island by sharing knowledge about product cultivation and processing.
Nicola’s remarkable efforts have a profound impact on the lives of many in Northern Brazil. Operating in Belém, where pro-freedom activists and organizations are scarce, presents unique challenges. SFLB stands as one of the few active institutions in the region dedicated to advancing liberty, as public policies often fall short, particularly for vulnerable populations.
Here are some of Nicola’s key achievements:
Student: Štěpán Kovář
At just 21 years old, Štěpán Kovář, a math and IT major hailing from Prague, Czechia, holds the distinction of being our youngest Regional Coordinator in Europe. Impressively, he spearheads one of our largest regional teams in Central Europe, with a current roster of 36 Local Coordinators. Štěpán is also actively involved in the Prometheus Fellowship.
Under Štěpán’s leadership as both a National Coordinator and later Regional Coordinator, the Czech team burgeoned from six active volunteers to 21 by the end of FY23. In this fiscal year alone, Štěpán orchestrated 13 local events in Prague, in addition to a regional conference and oversight of a similar number of events in Brno. Impressively, videos on the Czech SFL YouTube channel, recorded by Štěpán, amassed over 6000 views in FY23.
The FY23 regional conference, “Legalize It!” held in Prague, was spearheaded by Štěpán and drew over 160 attendees, with 48 percent of those having never heard of SFL before. The conference featured prominent speakers, including government experts and leaders in cannabis legalization.
Moreover, Štěpán’s creation, the “End the Drug War” booklet designed for the conference, has garnered a second edition sponsorship from a partner involved in harm reduction.
Štěpán’s focus on his team’s growth is evident; by the end of FY23, five out of the top 10 European Coordinators on the leaderboard hailed from his region. He actively fostered interaction among teams in the region by organizing the largest Central European Coordinator Retreat. This retreat included students from Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, boasting 28 attending Coordinators and featuring training sessions led by students and alumni.
Štěpán’s passion lies in Bitcoin and AI. He initiated the Bitcoin Activism Project in FY23, dedicated to raising awareness about issues with the current monetary system and providing educational opportunities.
His efforts involved an eye-catching projection on the Czech National Bank, an information campaign highlighting Bitcoin’s advantages, creative tablings, and more. Štěpán also added a lightning network donation method to the SFL CZ website and secured partnerships with organizations for donations.
Moreover, Štěpán partnered with local Czech organizations to aid Ukraine, delivering over $800k worth of assistance. He established a partnership with the Director of Ukrainian Students For Freedom, paving the way for the first SFL/USF conference in Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine in July 2023.
Now, with the nominees for our Global Awards known, the stage is set for the ultimate moment — the announcement of the winners will take place at LibertyCon International, in Washington, D.C. from February 2-4, 2024. Stay tuned for the grand reveal as these exceptional individuals, champions of liberty, claim their well-deserved recognition.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.