The Olivaint Conference is an organization open to students from all higher education institutions, multilingual and pluralistic, free from any link with political parties, religious or philosophical organizations, open to all currents of opinion provided they respect democracy.
The Olivaint Conference of Belgium (C.O.B.) was created on November 7, 1954, under the presidency of Georges Haumont, a Jesuit Father, following as a model the "Meeting of Young People" (later the Olivaint Conference of Paris), a movement founded in 1852 in France by Father Pierre Olivaint. Like its French counterpart, it aimed to give its members, limited to 40 per academic year, a framework for training in political and social life, whether at the local, regional or national level, already in a spirit of philosophical, political and religious pluralism. The Olivaint training involves learning techniques such as public speaking, written journalism, and the development of arguments in debates. Among its former members to have benefited from it, we find personalities such as Jacques van Ypersele de Strihou, Jean-Luc Dehaene, François-Xavier de Donnea, Francis Delperée, Alexia Bertrand, Marc Bossuyt, Jean Blavier or Philippe Lambrecht.
At the beginning, the young institution brought together mainly students from Brussels universities, but in 1955 it was opened to other French-speaking faculties in the country and, from 1957, to Flemish universities. In order to enrich the exchanges of its various workshops, the Olivaint Conference of Belgium introduced in 1957 the "lunch-and-talks" during which current issues were addressed by personalities from the economic, political and social worlds. These debates are still relevant and have allowed meetings with major figures such as Herman van Rompuy or Ursula von der Leyen.
In 1958, one of the current pillars of the institution was born: the "public speaking contest" whose themes were inspired by the political news of the time. That same year, the Olivaint Conference of Belgium launched its summer study sessions that aim to analyse the different aspects of a country's governance through meetings and site visits. The first session was organized in Israel and was followed by about fifty trips to the four corners of the world.
In 1971, the Olivaint Conference of Belgium adopted the form of an A.S.B.L. (non-profit association)
On September 30, 2004, the Olivaint Conference of Belgium was granted the title of Royal Association.
In 2015, in memory of Jean-Jacques Masquelin, a lawyer who chaired the association for twenty years, the Olivaint Conference of Belgium created the Jean-Jacques Masquelin Prize to reward the winner of its annual Public Speaking Contest.
For many years, the Belgian Olivaint Conference has been undergoing an evolution, not only of openness by training students of all philosophical tendencies in political and social issues, but by now also broadening its field of investigation to the field of culture and the arts, in the same spirit of pluralism but with a greater openness to the diversity of nationality, gender and social origin.