Speech by Jacques Vallin at the Plenary Session, European Population Conference, Helsinki, June 2001


Mr Chairman, Dear Colleagues, Dear friends,


I am honoured and very pleased to inform all of you, on behalf of the Council of the International union for the Scientific Study of population, that the 2001 IUSSP prize has been attributed to one of our eminent European colleagues and friends: Dirk van de Kaa.


We hoped to take the opportunity of this European Conference to give him personally the medal with all you around, during a ceremonious but pleasant laureate session. unfortunately, Dirk was not able to join us in Helsinki and this will be done later in a special ceremony in Den Hagen, in mid July.


With your permission, Mr Chairman, I'd like to tell the audience just a few words on our laureate.


Of course, most of you know very well the brilliant career and the high qualities of Dirk van de Kaa and the prize which he'll receive is certainly not a surprise.


Dirk did a lot to develop demographic research. He did a lot, first, in his own country, the Netherlands, founding the NIDI, the National Interuniversity Demographic Institute, an institute which he directed himself for 16 years. As Evert van Imhoff wrote in his letter to nominate him: "he developed NIDI from scratch into a solid centre of demographic expertise and at the same time he developed the field of demography in the Netherlands from 'insignificant' into serious business, promoting an open minded and interdisciplinary approach to population issues".


But Dirk also developed population research very much at the international level. Of course, he was very active inside the IUSSP itself: member of the Council for 8 years, he also participated in several scientific committees and even in the finance committee!


But he also played a major role in at least two crucial institutions. First, the World fertility Survey, of which he was the project director for two years, and, second, over all, the EAPS, which he co-founded with my good friend Guillaume Wunsch and of which he was the first President.


Through these prominent activities but also through his well known and very appreciated publications , Dirk van de Kaa developed a broad vision of demography, trying and succeeding to launch bridges between disciplines, to give projects international dimension, and to discover new seeds to grow new ideas. Among thousands of other things, let me only mention the famous idea of a "second demographic transition" he put on the table with his friend Ron Lesthaeghe. Is there or not a second transition? The new generations will have time to discuss the matter for long but the matter is there!


To briefly conclude, what we can wish to Dirk van de Kaa when giving the 2001 IUSSP prize, what we can wish not only to him but also to all of us and especially to the youngest ones, is that he continues on the way he already traced, to celebrate "The Joy of Demography… and other disciplines". His recent paper "Toward a new European transition project", published on the European Journal of Population, is the proof, if necessary, that even retired for several years, he has still a lot of thing to produce, a lot of seeds to give us to fertilise the field of our researches.


On behalf of the union, on behalf of all of you, I am glad to present him all our congratulations.


Jacques Vallin

Vice-president of the IUSSP