2023 Leaders on the Frontlines Awards

The 2023 Leaders on the Frontlines Awards was held on October 12 at the historic Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco’s iconic Merchant Exchange Building to celebrate emerging and veteran leaders.  


This year’s Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Leadership Award went to Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Chiang Khong Conservation Group in Thailand, who mobilized communities, recruited government leaders, and succeeded in halting destructive blasting and damming projects that threatened the Mekong River and its communities. The Asia Foundation centers its work on partnering with civil society organizations like these that can accurately investigate the impacts of development on the ground. The award was presented by Phyllis Tien, professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and chief of Infectious Diseases at San Francisco Veterans Affairs, on behalf of her late father, who was the chancellor of UC Berkeley and chair of The Asia Foundation’s Board of Trustees.   

The Asia Foundation also honored Nancy Pelosi, speaker emerita of the United States House of Representatives, with its Lifetime Leadership Award for her work with global partners to create a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable world. Pelosi has long placed solving the climate crisis and creating a clean energy economy at the center of her work.   

The event introduced the 2023 Asia Foundation Development Fellows, who are honing their leadership skills through an intensive yearlong program preparing them to address critical issues in Asia and the Pacific. Special guest Charlotte Pera, vice president and deputy CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, shared her insights with these future leaders from her long career focused on clean energy and climate solutions.    

The Leaders on the Frontlines Awards underscore the Foundation’s commitment to cultivating the next generation of leaders. Proceeds from the event will support The Asia Foundation’s Leadership & Exchanges program. The Foundation’s diverse leadership initiatives offer emerging leaders from Asia and the Pacific the chance to enhance their skills and deepen their understanding of regional challenges.