On 30 March 2023, around 100 people gathered at the Maison Grand Place in Brussel for the third “Aletta Dialogue” after editions in
. Among the audience were more than 70 alumni of our University. Topic of discussion this time was Science Diplomacy, building relations on shared knowledge to meet EU's challenges.
Jan Molema (director of the Benelux Union, UG alumnus and president of the UG alumni chapter Brussels) opened the evening and introduced the moderator Dr. Thomas Jørgensen, Director for Policy Coordination and Foresight at the European University Association. After a brief video introduction by Dutch Ambassador to Belgium (and UG alumnus) Pieter Jan Kleiweg de Zwaan the three keynote speakers took centre stage.
Nienke Buisman, shared her ideas on science diplomacy and she also provided some examples. Nienke is Head of Unit for Global Approach & International Partnerships at DG RTD of the European Commission, who was born and raised in the province of Groningen,. For her the essence is that science can strengthen diplomacy and the other way around. She works with her team on using science as ‘soft power’ to build trust and keep a constructive dialogue in place. One example is the collaboration between the EU and the African Union (AU) in the AU-EU Innovation Agenda.
Following on from Nienke’s input our rector Prof. Cisca Wijmenga and president Prof. Jouke de Vries indicated subsequently that the UG also has a role to play in finding local solutions for global challenges by linking its strengths in several academic disciplines to each other in transdisciplinary collaboration. In science diplomacy everything revolves around people-to-people contact. At the UG we teach our students to find a joint language and to agree to disagree in constructive dialogues.
Cisca closed her contribution stating that ‘the future is Europe’ and that, in the spirit of Aletta Jacobs, we need polices to stimulate te careers of women in science and diplomacy. After the presentations a lively discussion with the audience followed. This discussion continued afterwards over dinner.
Aletta dialogues are a series of worldwide public dialogues. The theme of each dialogue will be a different topic on the crossroads of science and societal challenges. Speakers, experts from UG and local/regional experts, will introduce the theme from their perspective after which a discussion follows between the experts and the audience.
The name Aletta Dialogues pays tribute to Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929), undoubtedly one of the most important and defining people in the history of UG. She was the first woman in the Netherlands to register at a university, as a regular student and the first female doctor in the country. Furthermore, she was a champion for women’s rights like birth control and voting rights. Finally, she also travelled the world (Europe, South Africa, Egypt, Middle East, India, Japan, China and Indonesia) to fight for the position of women (esp. voting rights) and wrote letters about this that were later published. Aletta Jacobs’ pioneering spirit, fight for human rights, her international outlook, and strong link to our university make her the ideal ‘face’ for the worldwide dialogue.
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