Ashoka Fellow
Sri Lanka
Fellow Since 2005
This description of Basil Fernando's work was prepared when Basil Fernando was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
Most Asian nations struggle along the road to democracy. Beyond the obvious billboards—such as eloquent constitutions and periodic elections—there are few signs of progress towards basic human rights and the rule of law. The courts, police, and state bureaucracies, all vital to democracy, are commonly undermined by political influence and corruption, and corroded by the same prejudices that afflict society at large. Citizens, not states, are leading the search for fundamental rights and freedoms. For the past decade, Basil Fernando has brought new ideas and clarity to the field of human rights work. From South Korea to Pakistan, Basil has linked people of a dozen countries to campaigns for systemic legal reform. In many ways, Basil's life personifies the democratic journey: he was born in a poor Sri Lankan fishing village; he overcame the strictures of caste and class to become a firebrand human rights attorney; he fled danger where democracy crumbled and sought sanctuary where it flourished; and, today, he has emerged as leading creative force for social change.
The New Idea
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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