Speech by Jacques Vallin at the Award Ceremony, Durban, December 7 1999

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Speech by Jacques Vallin at the Award Ceremony, Durban; December 7 1999

My dear Paulina,

Yesterday morning you asked us, before delivering the very first scientific contribution to the Conference, to keep one minute of silence in memory of Bill Brass. At the time of handing over, in name of the President and the Council of the International Union of the Scientific Study of Population, the 1999 Award of the Union, I cannot help extending this homage to this great man, not so much because he himself has been president of the IUSSP, but above all because of his outstanding contribution to the development of demographic science in Africa. Without doubt he, more than anybody else, has undertaken the forming of the generation of African seniors of whom you are a member, and in whose track the young generations of demographers of the continent are developing now. The Union has the intention to pay a lasting homage to Bill Brass by founding a new award, the William Brass award, which will reward each year the best contribution to one of the seminars of the Union by a young researcher. But, at this moment, it is not a beginner whom we intend to distinguish, but a brilliant senior!


durban02.jpg (60383 bytes)Yesterday, Borbor Kandeh has recalled that the first African conference was organised in Accra in 1971 by the IUSSP, and the second, in Dakar in 1988, by the IUSSP together with the Union for the Study of African Population. The third one, this year in Durban, is organised by the UAP, together with, among others, the IUSSP. It is the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, much more balanced and very promising. Our president, José Alberto Magno de Carvalho, who, unfortunately was not able to come to Durban and therefore asked me to replace him for this ceremony, has also requested me to take advantage of this occasion to clearly state the firm intention of the Council to co-operate with the UAP on an equal base. And, from this point of view, the third African Population Conference has given us great joy. Indeed, if this is an indicator of the new capacities of the UAP, as its President, my friend Mumpasi Lututala has said, we have nothing to fear, equality will not be a holy wish: it is already proved by the facts.


The fact that the IUSSP Council has chosen you, Paulina Makinwa , to receive the Union's 1999 award, is also an indicator of this equal capacity, not only between the UAP and the IUSSP, but also between the African scientific community and the ones in other continents. Only progress accomplished since Accra! And you, my dear Paulina, are the living witness of it.


Indeed; since the Union has created this award, to honour those among its members who have contributed in particular to the development of demographic science and, in one way or another, have showed the way to the young generations, colleagues from Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia, have been rewarded. But none from Africa! The fact that this gap can be filled today is also a strong sign that from now on Africans are fully present in the international community of demographers. I am happy that we can make this important gesture, at the occasion of the third African Conference, where, precisely, the UAP demonstrates brilliantly its full capacity to energise this community of African demographers.


But why exactly you, Paulina Makinwa? First, because, as the rules stipulate, the Council has received a proposal in that sense, coming from the Union's members. But, above all, because, of all the candidates presented for this 1999 award, you were simply the best. For several reasons, of which I will only mention a few.


In the first place: you have given so much of your time, of your dynamism, of your know how to the IUSSP. It has been 15 years exactly that you are taking part in scientific commissions of the Union, first those on migration, from 1986 till 1989, next in the two commissions on gender that followed since 1990. And God knows that the Union's commissions have plenty of work on hand!


durban07.jpg (93527 bytes)I must admit that in your case it has been a record. Usually at the end of their mandate, commissions are completely renewed, regarding their themes as well as their members. I could not say how many members have been sitting on three commissions....... but, three without discontinuity, that is extremely exceptional.


In fact, this is not by chance. Your scientific activity has made of you an element one cannot bypass.


From your Ph.D in Population Science that you obtained in Harvard in 1976 till your actual post at the head of the Division of Nutritional Safety and Sustainable Development of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, you have constantly situated your research on population at the centre of the big economic and social issues with which African societies are confronted. Your very first article, published in 1975 in "Policy Sciences and Population", edited by Ilchman, Laswell, Montgomery and Werner, dealt with "Government Policies and Interest in Nigerian migrations", and this was the start of a long row of publications on migrations. So it is not astonishing that you were invited to sit on the Union's commission, dealing with this subject.


But soon you were also interested in problems of gender and in their role in the evolution of demographic behaviour. Notably at the Conference of Asker in 1988 you presented a remarkable paper about "female household heads and economic migration" which was later published by Oxford University Press in the volume "Women's Position and Demographic Changes", edited by Nora Federici, Karen Mason and Solvi Sogner. And eight years later, after having written a series of other articles on the subject, you yourself edited, in co-operation with Magritt Jensen, a IUSSP volume: "Women's Position and Demographic Change in Sub-Saharan Africa". Evidently I will not cite all your publications, that would take too long. But everybody will have understood that that was another reason for the choice of the Council.


There is a third one as well. Beside your scientific work, properly speaking, and even without taking into account your important teaching activity at the University of Benin, you have also contributed a lot to stimulate demographic research in your country, not only as president of the Population Association of Nigeria, from 1987 till 1995, but also by taking on heavy administrative duties, first as head of the Centre of social, cultural and environmental research at the University of Benin, later at the Population Unity of the Nigerian Institute of economic and social research.


And finally, being aware right from the beginning of the political importance of scientific work, you did not hesitate to move on and let the Federal Ministry of Health benefit directly from your know how by taking up the post, in 1995 - 1997, of Technical Consultant in population and development matters, which led you eventually to where you now are, at the head of de Division for Nutritional Safety and Sustainable Development of the ECA.


So many reasons that made you the best candidate for the 1999 IUSSP Award. So many reasons that make me happy and proud of having the honour to hand it out to you, today, in name of the IUSSP Council and in place of its President.


But, my dear Paulina, we have a little additional surprise for you. I would say a big surprise! Which will add an immeasurable splendour to the event: you will not receive this medal and accompanying certificate from me, but from his Excellency the Prime Minister of Tchad, my colleague and old friend, Ouaïdou Nassour, who has given us the great honour to assist at this ceremony and so invigorating this event, for which I thank him warmly.


But first, I will call upon Mumpasi Lututala, President of the UAP, who wishes also to say a few words, next on Wolfgang Lutz, Secretary General and Treasurer of the IUSSP, who, by speaking in English, will rebalance the session.


Jacques Vallin
Vice-President of the IUSSP