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Laudatio uitgesproken door prof. dr. Fons Van Dyck

Good morning to you all. Let’s start my introduction with a small test. Here’s the question: in the last 20 years the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has: answer a) almost doubled; answer b) remained more or less the same; or answer c) almost halved. All right, let’s make up your mind for a moment.

The right answer is c: the world population living in extreme poverty has almost halved over the last 20 years. If you got the answer wrong, do not feel ashamed: most of us get the answer wrong when it comes to global trends about poverty, health and the increase of the world population. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess most journalists, Nobel laureates, investment bankers, and yes, even most of us, academics. But if you got the answer right, you might have read “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think”, the 2018 bestselling book authored by Hans Rosling, his son Ola Rosling and his daughter in law Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In their book and in Hans Rosling’s many conferences around the world, he clearly demonstrates that most people think the world is worse off than it is in reality. Perceptions seem to dominate the facts.

Hans Rosling was a Swedish doctor and a professional of international health at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the director on the Gapminder Foundation. Rosling’s research amongst others focused on the link between economic development, agriculture, poverty and health in Africa, Latin America and Asia. He was a consultant to the World Health Organization, UNICEF and many aid organizations around the globe. He also founded Médecins Sans Frontières in Sweden in the 1990s. Ola and Anna continue the work of Hans Rosling and we are very happy to have you here with us today. Especially in a world in which fake news dominates headline news almost every day, it is good to have the Roslings with us as a dismantler of common myths. The Roslings are true ambassadors of a live attitude of possibilism, the conviction that we can make the world a better place through science and knowledge.