Innovation is Liberating

FNF SEEAsia Region releases 2019 report
SEEAsia Annual Report 2019

How to define “Innovation” in one word? “Liberating”, says Taiwan`s Digital Minister Audrey Tang. Innovation represents something new, and like everything novel, it generates excitement. But innovation is hard work. It comes with anxiety. Taiwan´s government has led the way, introducing political innovation anchored on radical transparency. According to Tang, reshaping mindsets was the most tedious task of the process.

Innovation was FNF’s theme for 2019. We strive to be a creative innovation platform for the promotion of freedom. It was a year to present approaches to modern-day issues like disinformation and climate change. Our office in Myanmar started a television series to fight fake news. We designed a card game on media and information literacy in Thailand. Both projects got nominated for the Democracy Innovation Award at the World Forum for Democracy in France. In Indonesia, the young generation is leading the campaign against carbon emissions through vlogs, which they learned to produce at workshops organized by FNF Jakarta. In Korea, we looked at how Smart City concepts could respect data privacy. 

Politically, in Southeast and East Asia, the year was a mixed bag. Indonesia had yet another free, peaceful and fair election, its 5th in a row. Malaysia´s transition to a more democratic state is, albeit slow, on its way. Vietnam signed a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. In 2019, Thais could finally cast ballots again, but the election was not fair. In Hong Kong, freedom is threatened. We saw a clampdown on human rights and media freedom in the Philippines. Space for civil society is shrinking. Myanmar had to answer to allegations of genocide at the International Court of Justice. All this amidst a looming Chinese hegemony, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Our highlight of 2019 was the launch of our Global Innovation Hub in Hong Kong in July. German Free Democratic Party (FDP) Chairman Christian Lindner attended the event. In his speech, he recognized Asia as the world´s most dynamic region. “Hong Kong is the right place for innovation. We can benefit from this dynamism,” Lindner said.

To quote Gerhard Gschwandtner, a sales guru: “Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity.” As populists and authoritarians employ technology to sow confusion and fear, we must respond inventively to counter their schemes. FNF, as a political foundation, introduces new platforms and tools for learning and engagement. 

On to 2020, which started with a bang: The Taiwanese gave President Tsai and her DPP another term. Voters resisted populism and embraced Taiwan´s democracy and its open society. Vietnam, which, unfortunately, limits reform to the economy, chairs ASEAN and is a member of the UN Security Council this year.

This 2020, FNF and its partners will continue to come up with creative programs that defend, strengthen, and increase freedom. We will focus on countering disinformation and on promoting media freedom. The values that sustain liberal democracy must be upheld.


Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff

Head, FNF Southeast & East Asia