Past Winners

2018 - Las Damas de Blanco, Cuban human rights group

The Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) have a simple message: The political prisoners of Cuba are our sons, brothers, and our husbands. They must not be forgotten.

2016 - Flemming Rose, Danish journalist and author

Flemming Rose sparked worldwide controversy when he commissioned and published 12 cartoons meant to depict the prophet Muhammad. The illustrations, intended to draw attention to the issue of self-censorship and the threat that intimidation poses to free speech, provoked deadly chaos in the Islamic world and put Rose in the center of a global debate about the limits to free speech in the 21st century.

2014 - Leszek Balcerowicz, former deputy prime minister and finance minister of Poland

Leszek Balcerowicz has been widely credited with the economic transformation of Poland. He liberalized the prices of most consumer goods and initiated sound fiscal and monetary measures designed to balance the budget and end hyperinflation.

2012 - Mao Yushi, Chinese Economist

Mao Yushi is one of China's most outspoken and influential activists for individual rights and free markets. Before economic reform began in China in 1978, he had been an engineer and during his lifetime has faced severe punishment, exile, and near starvation for remarks critical of a command-based economy and society.

2010 - Akbar Ganji, Iranian writer and journalist

Akbar Ganji is an Iranian writer and journalist who spent 6 years in a Tehran prison for advocating a secular democracy and exposing government involvement in the assassination of individuals who opposed Iran's theocratic regime.

2008 - Yon Goicoechea, leader of the student-led movement in Venezuela

Yon Goicoechea Lara is a pivotal force behind Venezuela's non-violent pro-democracy Student Movement. The 23-year-old Venezuelan law student is a passionate opponent of the erosion of human and civil rights under the government of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and an organizer of massive student marches that have captured the world's attention.

2006 - Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia

In only two years in office, he negotiated the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonian soil and introduced the kroon, one of Eastern Europe's most stable currencies. He also instituted a flat tax rate, a move which has been widely copied—even in Russia. Under Laar, Estonia removed price controls, discounted useless regulations, and saw the largest real per capita income of any of the former Communist states.

2004 - Hernando de Soto, Peruvian economist

Beginning in his native Peru, de Soto has focused on a revolutionary concept that is having repercussions throughout the world's poor countries: the lack of formal property rights as the source of poverty in poor countries. His decades of pioneering work, for presidents and in the streets on behalf of property rights for the poor, have led to global acclaim.

2002 - Peter Bauer, the late British economist

At the beginning of the 21st century, the most heartening trend in the world economy is the collapse of central planning and the global spread of markets. This has had profound implications both for prosperity and for the entrenchment of constitutional government. Peter Bauer, retired Emeritus Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, both heralded and aided those triumphs, and his work has been vindicated by them.