11/28/2012 03:50 pm ET

Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers List Hails 2012's Free Speech Advocates

As December approaches, the time has come for 2012's end-of-the-year lists, and on Monday, Foreign Policy delivered the first food for thought by publishing its annual Top 100 Global Thinkers List.

A surprising duo spearheaded the magazine's pick for 2012; whereas Egyptian writer Alaa al-Aswany and Arab revolutionaries topped 2011's list, Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and longtime general Thein Sein took the top places in this year's rankings.

Explaining its decision, the magazine argues:

It's particularly inspiring to have settled on a most heroic and unlikely pair as our top honorees for 2012: Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein, the once-jailed dissident and the longtime general who joined hands to open up one of the world's most repressive dictatorships. It's also testament to the notion that individuals and their ideas can truly change the world, a theme that resonates in ways large and small throughout this year's list, from digital-age visionaries like Sebastian Thrun (whose robot cars may just make him the Henry Ford of a new era) to rare political leaders like Malawian President Joyce Banda, who is imagining a new Africa freed from toxic corruption.

According to Foreign Policy, this year's list "is all about the perils and possibilities of free speech in this globalized age." A prime example: Malala Yousufzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who, at No. 6, edged out the most powerful man in the world, U.S. President Barack Obama, No. 7 on the list.

Yousufzai, a student and activist for girls' education, was gunned down by members of the Taliban in October 2012. According to the Associated Press, the Taliban claimed it had targeted the girl because she was a fierce critic of the group and promoted "Western thinking."

While he attack sparked global outrage, calls of praise for "Malala" and her outspoken advocacy for women's rights reverberated around the world. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the assault "heinous and cowardly act," the AP reported, and Hillary Clinton said the "attack reminds us of the challenges that girls face, whether it is poverty or marginalization or even violence just for speaking out for their basic rights."

Lauding the girl for her activism, former Prime Minister of the U.K. Gordon Brown wrote of Malala while she was recovering in a British hospital:

This weekend when she stood up for the first time since being laid low by the dreadful attack, the world witnessed her standing up for 32 million girls around the world who are denied daily their right to go to a classroom and learn.

Take a look at Foreign Policy's full list here.