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The 17th Citizenship Award goes to Jean Drèze for his work as a development economist and his fight for social equality in India and elsewhere. He is a passionate advocate of research for action: economic research that wants to improve the world.
Born in 1959 in the city of Leuven, Jean Drèze is an Indian economist and activist of Belgian origin. He has worked on several development issues facing India such as hunger, famine, gender inequality, social security, child health and education.
His co-authors include Nobel laureate in economics Amartya Sen, with whom he wrote on famine, Nicholas Stern, with whom he wrote on reforming policies when market prices are distorted, and Nobel laureate in economics Angus Deaton. He is currently Honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics and Visiting Professor in the Department of Economics at Ranchi University in India.
The combination of extensive fieldwork, qualitative analysis of daily life and poverty, with quantitative work, makes his work distinctive within economics. Jean Drèze still lives and works under the same conditions as his respondents as to be able to really understand them. When he was 20 years old, when he first came to New Delhi to complete his PhD, he adopted a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity as close as possible to the villagers.
Drèze is known for his commitment to social justice, both in India and internationally. Besides his outstanding academic work, he has been actively involved in many social movements, including the peace movement, the Right to Information Campaign which led to the Right to Information Act in India, and the right to food campaign in India. Actions that have effectively led to change and have lasting impact. He is also known as one of the architects of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which guarantees labour rights and social security, although his contribution is overrated according to Drèze. This marks his modesty, according to others.
Jean Drèze has a great sense of responsibility and need to get involved in society, grafted onto the belief that he must put his own values into practice. More than a vision for the future, his journey and life mission to fight against social inequalities are inspiring for many people in Belgium and around the world.
Exemplary citizenship is what this award wants to highlight. Jean Drèzes commitment has improved the lives of many Indian men and women. With regard to his commitment against division, exclusion and polarization, he perfectly embodies the values defended by our Foundation: solidarity, emancipation, citizenship and participation. Jean Drèze was given the opportunity to support a project that is in line with the mission and values of our foundation. He chose Mobile Creches.