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VUB awards honorary doctorate to Dr. Emma Bonino and the inhabitants of Lampedusa

Doctor Honoris Causa Day on Wedensday November 29th


The Vrije Universiteit Brussel will celebrate on Wednesday, November 29th two honorary doctorates: the Italian politician Dr. Emma Bonino and the inhabitants of the isle of Lampedusa. Doctor Pietro Bartolo will accept the honorary doctorate in name of the entire island population. The ceremony will take place in Studio 4 at Flagey (Belvédèrestraat 27 Elsene). The press conference will start at 1:00pm in the Salon Diongre at Flagey. We would like to cordially invite you to the ceremony. The complete program you’ll find on the website: http://www.vub.ac.be/sites/vub/files/nieuws/users/khardie/final_programme_dhc_day_external.pdf.


Emma Bonino (1948) is one the most significant figures of liberal radicalism in the modern history of Italy. In 1994 Bonino became a European commissioner. In that role she was charged with the domain of refugee policy. Between 2006 and 2008 she was Secretary of Trade in the Prodi government and between 2008 and 2014 she was vice-chairwoman of the Italian Senate. Further, she played an instrumental role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.


Emma Bonino is an activist. During her political career she carried out multiple hunger strikes, among others for the legalisation of abortion and euthanasia. She campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty and is the founder of No Peace Without Justice, an organisation that strives for the eradication of genital mutilation in women. She has always been a strong proponent of gender equality.


“It is clear that Emma Bonino’s ideals are closely linked to those of VUB”, says proxima and vice-rector International Policy professor Sonja Snacken. VUB wants to honor Emma Bonino for her determined efforts in relation to migration and refugees. Still today she is very committed to the refugee problem.

The honorary doctorate for Emma Bonino seamlessly ties into the honorary doctorate for the inhabitants of Lampedusa. Over the course of the past two decades approximately 400.000 refugees have landed on the island, and thousands of drowned men, women and children washed up on its shores. This has a massive impact on the lives of the Lampedusa citizens. As island dwellers and fishermen they have always had a tradition of solidarity and helping one another. Those values are now applied to the refugees landing on Lampedusa.


One of the most visible individuals in this story is dr. Pietro Bartolo. From the onset he has been active in providing first aid for the refugees. And towards the rest of Europe he has always defended the charity and helpfulness of Lampedusans. Dr. Bartolo will receive the honorary doctorate in name of the inhabitants of Lampedusa.


The ceremony is part of the event: "Engaging Values, Education and Responsibilities (EVER): Refugees and Migration - The Role of Higher Education". The theme deals with refugees and people in conflict situations and the role higher education institutions can play in the integration process and the research into the relationship between refugees and migration. The conference starts at 9:00am and continues throughout the day with debates, films and the presentation of the renewed VUB student-refugee program and the project of Arabic language lessons in Brussels, including the ceremony at 1:00pm.


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