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Berlin Demography Days 2024: Overcoming Crises. Shaping Policy for an Uncertain Future


Berlin Demography Days Logo

Tuesday, 23 January 2024 - Thursday, 25 January 2024

Deutsche Version

The Berlin Demography Days is a forum for different perspectives on current challenges of societal change. It provides a place for stakeholders from science, politics, civil society, business and the media to come together to discuss the future of our population that will radically change in the next decades.

The theme of this year's event is Overcoming Crises – Shaping Policy for an Uncertain Future. The discussions are aimed equally at an international audience, decision-makers who are confronted with the challenges of crisis prevention and crisis management, and researchers who contribute evidence.

See who is speaking: List of experts

The three-day event will be held online – with the exception of the first evening panel, which will take place as a hybrid event both online and in-person.

Participation is free of charge, however, it is necessary to pre-register. The event will be held in German and English, with simultaneous translation provided.

See the programme below for Day 1: Understanding | Day 2: Responding | Day 3: Preparing


A rolling wave in bright blue


The challenge

To many, our current world appears to be in never-ending crisis. Examples are the consequences of COVID-19, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the increasing turbulence of the global economic system. We are witnessing the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers, globally, since World War II. A changing planetary climate is creating further burdens for people in Europe and around the world.

Fears about the future have increased, especially among the younger generation. In such situations, decision-makers in government, civil society and business have to make decisions under a high degree of uncertainty. Often in crisis situations, however, they can only respond to people’s most basic needs.

To better manage future crises, we must create a new framework for forward-looking crisis prevention. Demographic research can play an important role in this process: it evaluates data on the population, compares them across time and space, and describes longer-term trends in cohorts as well as across the individual life course. The resulting evidence can help us better understand the impact of past and present crises on societies.

The transdisciplinary dialogue between politics, business, science and society is crucial here: the aim is to pool findings from different perspectives and thus create new knowledge together – knowledge that can then be used by all societal actors in their different sectors. Interdisciplinary discussion spaces such as the "Berlin Demography Days" make a decisive contribution to this dialogue.



Each of the three days focuses on a different facet of the conference topic: Overcoming Crises. The afternoon sessions on each day will consist of one-hour panels ("Policy Dialogue"). Each day will conclude with an evening podium discussion ("Policy Horizon"). 

All times are Central European Time (CET).


Day 1 | 23. January 2024 | Understanding Crisis Management

Societal shocks require rapid and decisive action on one hand, and prudent risk assessment on the other. On the first day, this "paradox" of crisis management will be examined using past and present crises as examples. The experts will analyse and discuss the following questions: How can cooperation be improved between actors from politics, civil society, the private sector, academia and the media? How can demographic research support effective crisis management?

Afternoon panels

12:00-12:15: Welcome | Video Greetings from the Organizers

12:15-13:15: Our Successes, Our Failures: COVID-19 Management Put to the Test | Policy Dialogue

Four years after the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, opinions on crisis management and responses still vary widely. The evidence that is now available allows for a sober assessment. In particular, to what extent could scientific findings have helped interventions reach more people? Could social sciences have better assessed the consequences of certain measures, such as the closing of schools? Did crisis responses focus too much on regional or even local areas?

13:30-14:30: Will Artificial Intelligence Help Us Better Prepare for Crises? | Policy Dialogue

Humans may understand things better than computers, but computers process them faster. In a crisis situation, this gain in time can save lives. In the COVID 19 pandemic, the use of machine learning saved valuable time by helping with the analysis of the structure of the virus. But A.I. also poses challenges. What is the role of evidence, information, and data in the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence?

14:45-15:45: Who Can Cope, Who Can't? The Impact of Crises on Heterogeneous Societies | Policy Dialogue

Some population groups are able to respond flexibly to crises. Others have to cope with restrictions, resulting e.g. in immediate needs for food and water, physical and mental health issues, job losses, and other socio-economic disadvantages. Anticipating which groups will be most affected by future crises can help design policies that aim to leave no one behind. What are the different effects of mental health responses by population group? How does age affect coping with a crisis? How do refugee and immigrant communities respond to entry restrictions or short-term border closures?

16:00-17:00: Step Back to See the Whole Picture: Historical Perspectives on Crises | Policy Dialogue

In this panel, we look at crises in history, of different duration and speed. How did people react to crises in the past, how did they anticipate them? For example, which demographic challenges arose during the migration of peoples in the first millennium? What did crisis management look like during the plague and Spanish flu? Which coping strategies existed during the "Little Ice Age"?

Hybrid evening event

17:30: Registration (for participants attending in person)

18:00: Cultural Performance

18:10-18:25: Welcome

18:25-19:45: Escaping the Crisis Paradox Together | Policy Horizon

In a sudden crisis, decision-makers must act quickly – but never in a rush: a paradoxical situation, in which many actors retreat to their area of expertise, just when cooperation is needed most. How can science, politics, business, the media and civil society work better together to manage a crisis, and what are potential obstacles to such cooperation? What lessons have we learned from the crises of recent years, and what is the role of population science in addressing future crises? How can science advise policy and policy makers in the future?

19:45-20:00: European Demographer Awards 2023 | Award Ceremony

20:00-21:00: Reception for all in-person participants


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Day 2 | 24 January 2024 | Global Crises – Local Responses

Pandemics, violent conflicts, global climate change and demographic change all have far-reaching and worldwide impacts. How can such crises best be managed on a regional or local level? What can we learn from each other? When is cooperation across regions and at higher levels necessary, and how can it be made more efficient?

Given the diversity of decision-making levels and different conditions on the ground, there is no panacea or one-size-fits-all remedy for successful crisis management that can be transferred to other contexts. Rather, a variety of more or less successful and more or less coordinated strategies exists – from the local to the global level. How can we nevertheless learn from each other? To do this, we will focus on one of the following crises in each panel: COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and aspects of demographic change. The focus will be on best practice examples of crisis responses at local and regional contexts. Are these responses tailored to individual populations? How transferable are they to other regions and contexts, and what role do political, socioeconomic and cultural factors play in shaping crisis responses?

Afternoon panels

13:00-13:15: Welcome

13:15-14:15: The Pandemic and Access to Information | Policy Dialogue

Accessibility to information was a key issue during the pandemic. People learned about terms like "incidence", "hospitalization", and "excess mortality", and faced the challenge of understanding statistics. The internet and digital tools were an important medium, but misinformation also circulated. How can the circulation of information be improved in future crises?

14:30-15:30: Adapting to Climate Change: Local Role Models | Policy Dialogue

The effects of the climate crisis are being felt around the world, for example in the form of more frequent natural disasters and increasingly severe weather phenomena. While populations in one place struggle with the consequences of drought, desertification or wildfires, elsewhere they have to cope with rising sea levels or the consequences of devastating storm surges and floods. In order to better assess the respective vulnerabilities of population groups to these climate impacts, we must acquire an understanding of the respective demographic circumstances down to the individual or local level.

15:45-16:45: We are Aging – Now and Later: Health Care in the Face of Demographic Change | Policy Dialogue

In the foreseeable future, most people may have decades ahead of them after the age of retirement. How can we ensure that people can live active and healthy lives into old age, and that they can contribute to and participate in society? This panel takes a comparative perspective and looks at different approaches in various countries.

Evening event

17.30-18:30 War and Health | Policy Horizon

In our second evening podium we will look at the effects of violent conflict on physical and mental health. For example, what do we know about the demographic impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine? What health policy measures are needed for people displaced by war and violence?


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Day 3 | 25 January 2024 | How We Can Better Prepare For Crises

Getting ahead of the wave: How can we use population data and demographic research findings to strengthen crisis resilience of society, its institutions and individuals? How can specific groups of the population be made more resilient, especially those who are "vulnerable"? How can we better prepare welfare state institutions for crises? And how can we face future crises with a new narrative that motivates us to also see them as opportunities?

Afternoon panels

13:00-13:15 | Welcome

13:15-14:15: Building Back Better: After the "Shock" and Beyond | Policy Dialogue

This panel will discuss examples of the transition from immediate crises management to long-term strategies to managing similar situations. How can we predict which populations will be best or worst able to adapt? What are the lessons from this year's earthquake disaster in Turkey and northern Syria or the destructive fires on Maui? What can we expect from migration forecasting and scenario building?

14:30-15:30: Visionary Institutions for Crisis Prevention | Policy Dialogue

In crisis situations, government stakeholders must make decisions about institutions such as health care with a high degree of uncertainty. How adaptable are our institutions in crisis situations? Do we need "crisis ministries"? Are youth policy frameworks at the UN or global level helpful in crisis situations? Do global discussion forums (such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the World Economic Forum, and the Munich Security Conference) help prepare for the future? What institutional gaps need to be filled?

15:45-16:45: Fostering a Future with Intergenerational Solidarity | Policy Dialogue

Rather than in terms of an impending socio-political "tsunami," we should see demographic change as an opportunity for collective action. This panel is about reinterpreting the crisis narrative of the "aging society".  Instead of "boomers versus zoomers", it should be all for each other! Solidarity between generations can increase crisis resilience. Take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example: older people were more physically at risk to the virus, but may had more experience with crises that helped them cope better mentally than many younger people. In turn, by severely limiting their mobility, younger people also helped reduce the vulnerability of older people to the virus. What examples are there of narratives of solidarity and of such "crisis learning" between generations?

Evening event

17:00 -18:00 A World Without Crises: is it Possible? | Policy Horizon

Is there reason for optimism in view of the crises of recent years, or is such an attitude naïve at a time when extreme health situations such as COVID-19, climate change and a war in Ukraine determine our daily lives? Such "shocks" will continue to occur in the future, and even then most will be unpredictable. The closing event is dedicated to a vision of a world "beyond crisis thinking".


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as of September 2023

Arnstein Aassve, Bocconi University, Milan / Head of the EU-funded research project “Towards a Resilient Future of Europe” (FutuRes)

Mumuni Abu, Demographer and Senior Lecturer at the Regional Institute for Population Studies at the University of Ghana

Bruno Arpino, Professor of Social Statistics at the University of Padua, winner of the European Demographer Award 2019

Andreas Backhaus, German Federal Institute for Population Research (BIB)

Lorence Kabasele Birungi, President of AfriYAN for Eastern and Southern Africa and of the UNFPA-DRC Youth Advisory Panel

Pearl Dykstra, Professor of Empirical Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Scientific Director of ODISSEI, the Open Data Infrastructure for Social Science and Economics Innovations

Andreas Eckert (tbc), Chair of Förderfonds Wissenschaft, Berlin

Andreas Edel, Executive Secretary, Population Europe

Jane C. Falkingham, Director of the Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton

Alexia Fürnkranz-Prskawetz, Professor of Mathematical Economics at TU Vienna

Herrmann GröheMember of the German Bundestag

Donya Gilan, Head of "Resilience & Society", Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research, Mainz

Virginia Wangare Greiner, CEO of MAISHA E.V. – African women in Germany

Anica Heinlein, Head of Berlin office, CARE International

Øyvind Ihlen, Professor at the Department of Media and Communications, University of Oslo

Hill Kulu, President of the European Association of Population Studies, Professor of Human Geography and Demography, University of St Andrews

Nataliia Levchuk, Senior Researcher at the Ptoukha Institute for Demography and Social Studies (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)

Ulrich Lilie, president of Diakonie Germany

Sir Geoffrey Mulgan, Professor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy and Social Innovation, University College London

Raya Muttarak, Professor of Demography at the University of Bologna, Head of “Population Dynamics under Global Climate Change” (European Research Council)

Claudia Neu, Professor of Rural Sociology (Universities of Göttingen and Kassel)

Amy Neumann-Volmer, Board of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Germany

Alice M. Reid, Director of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure (CAMPOP)

Juliane Seifert (tbc), State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community

Georg Schütte, General Secretary of the Volkswagen Foundation (VolkswagenStiftung)

Yanina Taneva, Ideas Factory Bulgaria

Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues by the Human Rights Council

Manuela Verduci, Managing Director of “Kiron Digital Learning Solutions”, Co-Founder of the “Match Talent Initiative”

Daniele Vignoli, Professor of Demography at the University of Florence, Head of the research project “Age-It, Ageing Well in an Ageing Society”

Sigrid Weigel, former Director of the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL), Permanent Visiting Professor at the German Department of Princeton University

Cordula Weimann, Founder of “Omas for Future”

Lukas Welz, Managing Director at the Association of Psychosocial Centres for Refugees and Victims of Torture in Germany (BAfF)

Caroline Zickgraf, Deputy Director of the “Hugo Observatory: Environment, Migration, Politics” (University of Liège)


Organisers of the 2024 Berlin Demography Days:

Logos of Diakonie Germany, Population Europe, Berlin Demography Days

Cooperation partners of the 2024 Berlin Demography Days:


Logos of African Institute for Development Policy, Association Internationale des Démographes de Langue Fran-çaise, FutuRes: Towards a Resilient Future of Europe, British Society for Population Studies, Deutsche Gesell-schaft für Demographie, European Association for Population Studies, International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, Italian Association for Population Studies, Nederlandse Vereniging voor Demografie, United Nations Population Funds


The organisers would like to thank the following partners for their financial support of the Berlin Demography Days:


Logos of German Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the German Federal Ministry of Health, the Stifterverband and the Förderfonds Wissenschaft in Berlin

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