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The citizenship award 2021 Goes to Jean Drèze

On Tuesday 30 November 2021, the P&V Foundation gave its 17th Citizenship Award to Jean Drèze. The Citizenship Award is awarded annually to individuals who have shown exemplary commitment to an open, democratic and tolerant society. Jean Drèze is receiving the prize for his work as a development economist and his fight for social equality in India and elsewhere. Due to the corona crisis, the official award ceremony will be postponed to a later date in 2022.


A commitment that started early

Born in 1959 in the city of Leuven (Belgium), Jean Drèze is an economist with a degree in mathematical economics (Essex) and a committed activist. His father founded the Centre for Operational Research and Econometrics in Leuven and later transferred it to the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve.

His commitment started very early, on the school benches where he was marked by the 1972 famine in the Sahel. He says: "'I got the belief in the possibility to change the world for the better from home, and that grew through high school, thanks to many conversations and actions with fellow students and good teachers.”

From Wavre to Ranchi

He has lived in India since 1979, except for his London period, when he accepted a position in 1988 at the prestigious London School of Economics to work with Amartya Sen (Nobel Prize winner in economics), whom he had met a few years earlier.

In London, he lived with squatters and campaigned for the right to housing. From this struggle came a book "No. 1 Clapham Road: The diary of a squat" published under the pseudonym, Jean Delarue. At the same time, he wrote the book "Hunger and Public Action" with Amartya Sen, which is considered an important contribution to economic thinking and to the literature on antihunger policy. Several other collaborations with Sen and other leading economists followed.

He is currently an honorary professor at the Delhi School of Economics and a visiting professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.


From research to action

Jean Drèze always lives and works in the same conditions as his respondents, so that he can truly understand them. From the age of 20, when he first moved to New Delhi to do his PhD, he adopted a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity close to the villagers. In addition to his academic work, he has been actively involved in many social movements, including the peace movement, the Right to Information campaign, and the Right to Food campaign in India. It was also Jean Drèze who conceptualised and co-drafted the first version of the National Rural Employment Act which provides for labour rights and social security.

Gie Goris, former editor-in-chief of Mo* Magazine, who will give the laudation of Jean Drèze at the award ceremony, says of him: “Jean Drèze is unable to be an outsider. Academic rigour, for him, is not about being distant or aloof, but about being immersed and engaged. He cannot be involved with slumdwellers without living in the slum, he cannot advocate action for the homeless without becoming a squatter amongst them, he cannot live in India without being involved in social action and advocacy – and he cannot advocate without being one of the billion he is advocating for.” He became an Indian citizen in 2002.

Activism as a life mission

With the Citizenship Award, we want to highlight the importance of engagement in society. Olivier Servais and Jessy Siongers, co-presidents of the P&V Foundation: "Active and exemplary citizenship is what this award wants to highlight. Thanks to the work of Jean Drèze, the lives of many Indian men and women have improved considerably. Aware that he is not seeking recognition, we want to use the Citizenship Award to draw everyone's attention to his commitment and impact. Jean Drèze has a great sense of responsibility and a need to get involved in society, grafted on the conviction that he must put his own values into practice. His life journey and his mission to fight against social inequalities are a source of inspiration for many people in Belgium and around the world.”

The Covid crisis and its devastating consequences in India prompt Jean Drèze to continue his daily fight against social inequalities. The right to education, but above all the right to health, has become fundamental in a time of global pandemic.

With the award, Jean Drèze can support a project of his choice in India in line with the mission of the P&V Foundation. He chose Mobile Creches, a pioneering organisation that works for the right of marginalised children in India to early childhood care and development. Jean Drèze: “Mobile Creches (MC) has played a leading role in the creation of worksite creches for children of construction workers, and beyond that, in the campaign for early childhood development as a right of all Indian children. We have also been comrades in the right to food campaign. MC’s work is an abiding source of inspiration.”


Download the booklet on the Award Winner 2021




Knack, Jeroen Zuallaert, " Jean Drèze: Er is geen enkele reden waarom zo veel Indiërs honger moeten lijden ",p.8 01/12/2021,p.8

Le Soir, Vanessa Dougnac, "Jean Drèze, prix de la Citoyenneté: «Nous devons dépasser notre mode de pensée égoïste»" 01/12/2021, p. 16

Le Soir, Vanessa Dougnac, "Les Racines élémentaires de Jean Drèze: «J’ai été attiré hors des sentiers battus, d’abord par l’Inde à deux repries» " 04/12/2021, p. 2

De Morgen, Jan Stevens, "Jean Drèze: econoom, mens van goede wil en winnaar Burgerschapsprijs 2021. "Ik voelde me gelukkiger,daar in de sloppenwijk"" 24/12/2021 p.12



MO*-Topeconoom Jean Drèze: ‘Solidariteit is geen eenrichtingsverkeer’ - 01/12/2021
RTL Info - L'économiste Jean Drèze remporte le prix de la Citoyenneté -  01/12/2021
DH Les Sports+ ( - L'économiste Jean Drèze remporte le prix de la Citoyenneté -  01/12/2021
La Libre - L'économiste belge Jean Drèze remporte le prix de la Citoyenneté -  01/12/2021
BX1-  L'économiste Jean Drèze remporte le prix de la Citoyenneté -  01/12/2021


Do we still meet or do we live mostly in our own bubbles? In recent years, we have seen a growing gap in society, especially depending on the level and type of education. We don't live in the same neighborhoods, we don't go to the same sports clubs or schools, we don't meet in the same places, and our priorities and interests are different.

All of this has negative consequences for social cohesion and the possibility of building a society in which everyone can find themselves. According to some, the current coronavirus crisis threatens with polarization. The crisis can accentuate the divisions between groups. It is therefore important, in the post-Corona era, to work on these cleavages and the contributor to bridge the gaps in society.

During the coronavirus crisis, the personal growth and identity development of young people was also put under pressure. Indeed, one of the negative consequences of confinement and online education has been the reduction in social interaction and the increase in boredom, loneliness and mental problems among young people. Research shows that social contact and support can be important factors in resilience and recovery after a crisis.

With its new multi-year project Connecting You (th), the P&V Foundation wants to combine the need for social contacts and exchanges of young people with the societal need for diversified contacts, meetings and mutual understanding. In this way, it is possible to promote not only mental well-being, but also societal well-being and cohesion in society.

The project will consist of 2 components: a call for projects and a youth forum. 

Call for projects

The P&V Foundation will launch its new call for projects ‘Connecting you (th). Overcoming social divides’.  Submit your application before november 30th. You can download theapplication form available in French and Dutch or contact the Foundation team: Saskia De Groof and Dunia Oumazza  

Youth Forum

As part of its new Connecting You(th) call for projects, the P&V Foundation initiates a youth forum, so as to offer twenty young people aged 16 to 23 the opportunity to gain experience in active citizenship. 


  • The youngsters will be between 17 and 23 years old and the group will be composed in the most diverse way possible. Anyone can apply.
  • The forum began with an opening weekend in October 2021 and will end in May 2023.
  • During this period, the young people meet physically four times and organize several digital meetings. They sit on the jury for our call for projects, also carry out project visits and actively participate in the project's closing event.

 Phase I: From 22 to 24 October

Many speakers came to present tools to young people. A total of 2 working days and sessions on citizenship, the future of young people, the entrepreneurial spirit ...

The objective of the first meeting was to forge links, to get to know each other and to learn to debate in a benevolent environment. Through the visualization and facilitation of Visuality, the young people shared ideas in an informal atmosphere. They had the opportunity to meet academics, social entrepreneurs and coaches. All the sessions aimed to provide them with tools to debate and make decisions. They are now ready to actively participate as a jury in the Connecting Youth call for projects.


Discover the program for the first weekend here.

More information: You can download the informative document available in French and Dutch or contact the Foundation team: Saskia De Groof and Dunia Oumazza  


Youth Forum programme FR NL pour site.pdf (Version 1.0)

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Connecting Youth - note informative FR (1).pdf (Version 1.0)

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