Ever since 1930, Belgian cooperative insurer and member of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), P&V Assurances, has spent part of its profits on social work in Belgium.
In 1997, P&V's social commitment included a series of actions designed to combat the marginalisation of young people. In time this led to the creation of the Foundation P&V in 2000 with the aim of nurturing a sense of social responsibility in young people and active participation in the building of an inclusive society. In order to give a European dimension to its actions, the Foundation P&V also co-founded the body known as PEFONDES (European Network of the Foundations for Social Economy).
The actions and operations of the Foundation are based around four principles, inspired by values associated with the social economy: solidarity, empowerment, citizenship and participation. P&V Assurances remains the main sponsor of the P&V Foundation, however, the Foundation operates in total independence. The P&V Foundation was recognised as a foundation for public utility in 2006.
In 2005, Foundation P&V launched the Citizenship Award which is awarded yearly to Belgian or international people, initiatives or organisations who invest in the building of an open, democratic, tolerant and inclusive society, in an exemplary way.
Since 2015, the Citizenship Award has aimed to highlight that it is possible to be an exemplary citizen in societal institutions, such as government administrations, scientific organisations, business enterprises, the media, etc. In 2016, the award put the spotlight on the public sector and in 2017, it has turned its focus to the academic world.
This year’s recipient has been announced as Paul Collier (pictured), an internationally-recognised academic luminary who specialises in development and migration issues. This jury felt that Collier combines excellent academic work with a strong, pragmatic commitment to more equality and social justice in the world.
Sir Paul Collier (1949) is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. He was the director of the Development Research Group of the World Bank from 1998 to 2003. He was also an adviser to the IMF. Collier was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008, and knighted in 2014 for services to promoting research and policy change in Africa.
Collier has conducted important scientific work studying global poverty, the development of societies and economies in Africa, the effects of globalisation, the causes and consequences of mass migration, etc. He has also shown a very high level of social engagement in at least three areas: economic development in Africa, the fight against poverty and refugee issues. He was one of the first economists to tackle migration problems from an economic point of view. He has written numerous important books, such as The Bottom Billion (2007) and, more recently, Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (2017), which he wrote together with Alexander Betts.
The Foundation P&V says it has awarded its Citizenship Prize to Paul Collier because it shares the spirit and values of his work. The jury appreciates Collier's nuanced analysis of the civil war in Syria and the refugee crisis and the necessary solutions between "the heartless head and the headless heart", as he puts it, and his call for more solidarity among countries and for more refugee autonomy.
Collier’s great contribution to research and development has been strengthened by numerous opinion pieces and press articles and his appeals to members of government, foundations and world leaders in Davos to help refugees in a more structural way. He played a decisive role in the creation of a fund to provide 200,000 jobs to Syrian refugees in Jordan and the establishment of development zones where refugees can lead full lives with opportunities for economic self-reliance.
His new book, which is due to be published next year, discusses the subject of ‘catching-up’. It deals with how Western societies should address the fears of those people who are left behind. Those fears are being caused by two new divides: the growing gap between thriving cities and broken provincial towns, and the divide between the highly-educated and the poorly educated which is gaining in importance.
The Foundation said: “Paul Collier's academic excellence, value-driven focus and pragmatism in the pursuit of concrete, practical results makes him a highly suitable candidate for winning our Citizenship Award. His way of helping people is not based on charity, but is geared towards self-reliance, empowerment and the creation of opportunities for sustainable development and good governance”.
Photo credit: John Cairns (reproduced with permission)