Subscribe To our mailing list

In Memoriam
Count Michel Didisheim

18.04.1930 – 06.01.2020

Obituary

In memoriam

Count Michel Didisheim

(18.04.1930 – 06.01.2020)
Honorary Member, The Club of Rome EU-Chapter


Michel, count Didisheim, was a visionary, a highly distinguished man with an exceptional sense of civic duty and personal responsibility. He served the Belgian monarchy, the State and society at large. He was also one of my closest, intimate friends.

I met him in 1970 when he was economic advisor to H.R.H Prince Albert, becoming soon his chief of cabinet. At a time that the very word “environment” was hardly used in politics and media he developed a sharp, clear vision on the challenges humankind was facing. No doubt in my mind that he inspired the Prince and King Baudouin in their comprehension of these challenges and the needed societal changes. This is reflected in the speech Prince Albert delivered in Strasbourg for the Council of Europe on 9 February 1970 at the opening of the European Year of Nature Protection.

On the field Michel Didisheim was active in the Brussels association Kunstwijk/Quartier des Arts, recently founded with a view to protecting the architectural heritage of the capital city, threatened by the then dominant trend to transform it to a Manhattan with priority to high-rise buildings, more concrete and more automobile. It gave him the opportunity to meet local environmental activists and concerned citizens. I was among the latter group.

We were six getting together in summer 1970 in a Brussels restaurant to make acquaintance, exchanging views on possible action. With his stature, noble distinction and diplomatic authority Michel was the undisputed leader of the small group of pioneers. I became his right hand, assisting him in materialising our ideas. His vision was bold for someone often perceived as belonging to the conservative Belgian establishment.

He expressed with acuity the required foundations for effective environmental action. They were far beyond the dominant fragmented approach. He denounced preconceived ideas, such as the need for economic growth to solve the ecological problems. Profit making should not remain the engine of an economy, in which Man is prisoner of his comfort and slave of material gadgets. Ethical foundations are essential for the survival of humankind.

After more than a year of efforts to bring together 40 leading associations from Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels our six men ‘task force’ was able to launch the non-profit umbrella association Inter-environnement / Bond Beter Leefmilieu. Michel Didisheim was the undisputed president. I was appointed National Secretary, having the privilege to work very closely with him.

In 1976, after a high-level colloquium on the environment at the Royal Palace in Laken, King Baudouin told me that he had invited Michel to lead the new Foundation, a gift from the Nation for his 25 years of reign. It was a loss for the environmental movement, I said, though there was no doubt that under Michel’s leadership our objectives would be part of the broader societal concerns.

With a total commitment for thirty years Michel Didisheim developed the King Baudouin Foundation into an authoritative, internationally recognised organisation. He took particular care to ensure funding and financial strength for a perennial mission.

A couple of days before he passed away I received a handwritten card with Season’s greetings. He wrote “…Regardless whether we take some measures, even drastic, everything is ruled by one thing: the greed for profit! We will need more than the charming Greta Thurnberg to make Man understanding this…” There is still much to do.

Michel Didisheim will remain a beacon for all those who have known him and are sharing his concern about the world’s affairs. We should honour his memory with recognition and tender affection in our hearts.

Mark Dubrulle
Emeritus President, The Club of Rome EU-Chapter 
6 January 2019