In Memoriam of a great European researcher, a personal tribute to Orio Giarini, 31 Jan 1936 – 28 Feb 2020

Professor Dr Orio Giarini was a restless researcher extraordinary and a convinced federalist and European ! He was able to communicate in the major European languages; he was an open, warm, patient and generous person, a promoter and mentor of his students, a gentleman of the 20th century, preferring to work on paper rather than on screen.

Italian by origin, he studied economics at the University of Austin, TX, and served 1962 to 67 as Secretary General of the European Federalist Movement in Paris before moving to Geneva, where he spent most of his active life; he succeeded in combining the best of the four cultures. As assistant of Hugo Thiemann, General Director of the Battelle Institute Geneva, Orio organized the first conference of the Club of Rome in Bern in 1970 and became a member of the Club of Rome from the beginning. In 1973, he was the driving force behind the foundation of the Geneva Association (GA), today the renowned think tank of the World insurance industry, and became its first Secretary General. In this position and as first professor of Service Economics at Geneva University, Orio was fighting for a rethink of economics, sketching and discussing relentlessly novel economic approaches to make the World a better place. He wrote ‘Dialogue on wealth and welfare: An alternative view of world capital formation; a report to the Club of Rome’, published in 1980, and together with Raymond Barre, the first president of the GA, founded the highly esteemed refereed Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance. Orio Giarini is remembered in the Hall of fame of insurance.

In 1973, we were ships crossing at night, when Orio left Battelle as Director of the techno-economic research division while I joined as an architect. But it was foreseeable that we should meet; too similar was our thinking out of any box. In 1982, we founded the Product-Life Institute together in Geneva; in 1986, Orio invited me to join him at the GA, firstly to start its risk management research section, later also as deputy secretary general, an activity I continued doing until 2014. In the late 1980s, we jointly wrote the book ‘The Limits to Certainty – Facing Risks in the New Service Economy’, published 1989 in English and translated into numerous languages including Japanese.

For a decade, The Product-Life Institute (PLI) – a virtual organisation with no offices or employees - had its domicile at the GA and Orio was our main sponsor, allowing us to use the GA’s sophisticated copying and printing equipment to produce our brochures and reports, and giving us free advice in economic matters. He was my guiding light in avoiding the cliffs set up by traditional economists to sink my concept of the circular economy, which until recently has clashed head-on with main stream economics. The PLI took off in the difficult 1980s thanks to Orio’s support and advice, until the first contracts were signed. Dr Max Börlin, an economist who was my first co-director at PLI, and Dr Willy Bierter, a theoretical physicist, were frequent visitors at the GA offices.

At the turn of the Millennium, Orio retired from the GA, left Geneva and returned to his Trieste. But retirement was no option for his creative mind; in 2001, he founded the Risk Institute to promote studies on risk and uncertainty and their impact on society, and in 2005 the European Papers on the New Welfare. In 2010, as trustee of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), he promoted the Cadmus Journal and continued his research and writing until recently, as member of WAAS and at the International University Institute for European Studies (Gorizia, University of Trieste).

Orio Giarini is the author a dozen books published in 10 languages including Japanese and Korean and has taught at numerous universities. His scholars will continue to carry his legacy of publications trying to break down intellectual barriers and open up silo thinking. Orio leaves his wife and two children.

Orio, it was a great privilege, an honour and a pleasure to work with you. Rest in peace, your friends will always remember you.

Professor Walter R. Stahel, University of Surrey
Geneva, 4 March 2020