Robert Cliquet is emeritus professor in biological anthropology and social biology in the Department of Population Studies at the Ghent University (Belgium) (1960-2001) and honorary general director of the Population and Family Study Centre (CBGS) in Brussels, a Flemish governmental scientific institute (1962-1999). Since his retirement in 1999 he has served as senior advisor to Population and Social Policy Consultants (PSPC) in Brussels and is involved in several international cooperative research projects on population policy issues funded by the European Commission.
Robert Cliquet started his university teaching at Ghent University with a course on Biology applied to the Social Sciences in the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Law. He developed this course as a general introduction to Social Biology for students in social and behavioural sciences in various departments and faculties (sociology, criminology, law, psychology, history, philosophy and ethics). The subject matter of this course focused on biosocial interactions in modern society, the content of which was recently published in an extensive treatise (Cliquet, 2010). Soon his teaching curriculum was extended to Bio-anthropology, – a course which was also conceptualised for students in social and behavioural sciences. The contents of this course focused on the study of biological sources of variation and their evolution in the human species. The subject matter of this course was published in Dutch in two volumes (Cliquet and Thienpont, 2002; 2005). In the later years of his career he was, on the basis of his research experience at CBGS, appointed to teach a course on Population and Family Sociology in the Department of Sociology.
During a few years he also taught a course on Biology and Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and Ethics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
He initiated, in cooperation with Professor Lesthaeghe from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the English language ‘Interuniversity Programme in Demography’ of the four Flemish universities (Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent and Leuven) and the CBGS, aimed at students from developing countries. During several years he taught a course on Social Biology in this programme.
Last, but not least, in 2008 and 2009, he served as visiting professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, where he taught a course on Biosocial Interactions in Modernisation.
Robert Cliquet started his research at the Ghent University on the relationship between biological variation and social differentiation. Several publications resulted from this research, but the main ones were on social stratification and biological variation (Cliquet, 1963; 1965; Cliquet and Ryelandt, 1974), and social mobility and biological variation (Cliquet, 1965; 1968).
After his appointment as one of the directors of the Belgian, bilingual governmental institute ‘Population and Family Study Centre’ (CBGS-CEPF), Cliquet’s research shifted largely to various aspects of relational and reproductive behaviour. Together with his Walloon colleague, Professor Jean Morsa, he launched the first national survey on family development in Belgium in 1966 (Cliquet, 1967; 1969). Cliquet’s work concentrated on the analysis of the survey results on fecundity and contraception (Cliquet, 1968; 1969; 1972).
After the internal federalisation of CBGS-CEPF in the beginning of the 1970s, Cliquet organised in the Flemish branch four more national surveys on family development (the so-called NEGO’s) (Cliquet et al., 1972; Cliquet and Deven, 1975; Cliquet, 1985; Cliquet et al., 1992). In cooperation with Professor Michel Thiery, he organised also, in annex to the third NEGO, a much more thorough and multidisciplinary investigation on relational and reproductive behaviour of patients at the Ghent University Obstetric Clinic (Cliquet and Balcaen, 1980; 1983). In 1991-1992, in annex to the fifth NEGO, a special survey on family development was undertaken on five ethnic population groups in Brussels (Dutch and French-speaking Belgians, other Europeans, Morrocans and Turks) (Cliquet, 1999). On all of those surveys Cliquet chaired and edited extensive monographs with his research teams (e.g. Cliquet et al., 1975; Cliquet and Schoenmaeckers, 1976; Cliquet and Balcaen, 1980; 1983; Cliquet and Callens, 1993; Cliquet, 1996). Several of these surveys were linked to international projects such as the United Nations World Fertility Survey (WFS) and the ECE Fertility and Family Survey (FFS).
Cliquet’s personal research on the basis of the CBGS family and fertility surveys focused not only on several aspects of family planning (family planning in general, contraception sterilization, abortion), but also on fecundity and fertility, more in particular family size variation and its societal implications, – a fact which apparently confused some critical minds in the country, some conservatives reproaching him to be the ‘contraception champion of Belgium’, whereas some progressists expressing their astonishment about his supposed pro-natalism.
A scientifically and politically important milestone consisted in the production of a multidisciplinary report on induced abortion in 1972, by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from CBGS and three Flemish universities (Cliquet and Thiery, 1972).
In relation to his role as Belgian governmental expert, nationally in the Belgian CBGS-CEPF (and later in the Flemish CBGS), and internationally, in the European Population Committee of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and the Commission on Population and Development of the United Nations in New York, Robert Cliquet worked and published also on issues related to international population policies (e.g. Cliquet, 1991; 1993; Cliquet and Veys, 1974; Cliquet and Van de Velde, 1984; Cliquet and Thienpont, 1994; 1995).
Since his retirement, Robert Cliquet has mainly been involved in several international research projects on population policy issues, such as integrated demographic policies, population policy acceptance, and female migrants, financed by the European Commission (e.g. Avramov and Cliquet, 2003; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008). At the same time he published his major treatise on social biology (Cliquet, 2010). In the last years he was working, together with Dragana Avramov, on a book “Evolution Science and Ethics in the Third Millennium. Challenges and Choices for Humankind”, which was published by Springer International Publishing early in 2018.
Research and publication management
Probably because of his own interdisciplinary background, Robert Cliquet tried to compose the research team at CBGS in a multidisciplinary way. Contrary to many other population institutes, at home or abroad, which are mainly composed of demographers and sociologists, CBGS housed researchers from different scientific fields, – psychology, social biology, sexology, economy, law, ethics, geography, social gerontology, and obviously sociology and demography. At the same time, it was endeavoured to recruit researchers from different universities, so as to guarantee a pluralist composition of the research group, – an important and delicate matter in the pillarized ideological climate in Belgium/Flanders.
Another main goal consisted of devising a research programme which covered a broad variety of politically relevant subjects, although this was constrained by the size of the research team that could be assembled on the basis of the available financial resources. (At its apogee, the Flemish branch of the Centre had 35 researchers, 30 of which were recruited on temporary contract basis). Thus, the CBGS programme included topics such as partnership (including some aspects of sexual behaviour), fecundity and fertility, contraception and abortion, gender relations and in particular female labour participation, family and welfare policy, various categories of problem families, migrants, ageing, and obviously demographic trends and population policy.
Systematically a small part of the research budget was spent on international cooperation, – cf. the CBGS contribution to the Interuniversity Programme on Demography, the active participation of CBGS researchers to international scientific events, the organisation of own international workshops (e.g. Cliquet and Deven, 1986; Cliquet and VandenBoer, 1989; Chamie and Cliquet, 1999; Cliquet and Nizamudin, 1999; Avramov and Cliquet, 2005).
Before the formal reorganisation of the Flemish CBGS in the beginning of the 1980s, efforts were made to establish cooperation with specialised Flemish university research institutes, both in the field of research projects and publications. Also the Flemish Interuniversity Programme in Demography emerged from that endeavour.
In order to avoid unnecessary Flemish-Walloon competitive tensions, Robert Cliquet succeeded in internally federalising the national CBGS-CEPF, even before legal measures were taken in the framework of the State reform. The main component of this federalizing strategy consisted of the splitting of the original bilingual (Dutch-French) publications series of CBGS-CEPF and in developing a diversity of publications in the Flemish branch (CBGS), – a journal, a monograph series, a technical series, and a monograph series in English language. A major component of this publication policy consisted of the establishment of a cooperation with the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) in the Hague (The Netherlands). From 1970 onward CBGS and NIDI published jointly the journal Bevolking en Gezin (Population and Family) and from 1976 followed an English language monograph series Population and Family in the Low Countries (NIDI/CBGS Publications). From 1995 onward this English language monograph series was broadened to the current European Studies of Population.
Cliquet’s research activities and publications at CBGS influenced the policy discourse on population and family matters in Belgium/Flanders. For instance, the conclusions of his first large scale study on contraceptive behaviour in Belgium (Cliquet, 1969) were used by the government as preambule for the repeal of the 1923 law forbidding information and sale of contraceptives in 1973.
As a member of the State Committee on the Ethical problems (i.e. abortion) in 1975-1976 he made, on the basis of the extensive CBGS report on induced abortion (Cliquet and Thiery, 1972), a proposal to the Committee to adopt an ‘educational approach’ to this problem. His proposal became in the end the majority report of the Committee. In 1990 this proposal became the basis for the abortion law in Belgium.
As governmental representative for Belgium in the European Population Committee of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Robert Cliquet was member of or chaired several expert groups on issues such as fertility, parental responsibilities, sexual relations, and the demographic future of Europe (e.g. Cliquet, 1991; 1993). Between 2000 and 2002 he chaired the European Population Committee of the Council of Europe and succeeded in preserving the Committee’s existence and activities.
As governmental representative for Belgium in the Commission on Population and Development of the United Nations in New York, Robert Cliquet was actively involved in the preparation of the United Nations World Population Conferences in Bucharest 1974 (Cliquet and Veys, 1974), Mexico City 1984 (Cliquet and Vandevelde, 1984), and Cairo 1994 (Cliquet and Thienpont, 1994; 1995). In the last Prepcom of the Cairo Conference in 1993 Cliquet served as spokesman of the EU delegation. In 1999 he acted as chairman of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development.
- Name: CLIQUET, Robert, Louis, Rachel
- Address: Maria-Louizasquare, 33, B2, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
- Tel/Fax: 32-(0)2-230.02.24
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Sex: Male
- Married to Dragana Avramov, father of three children and one stepchild
- Nationality: Belgian