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Achim Steiner: “We live in a moment of great opportunity”


David J. Cord



Achim Steiner, Director of the Oxford Martin School and one of the prime forces behind the creation and adoption of the UN development goals, gave a note of optimism for a changing world at the World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki today.

So much of the current news is dominated by fear and uncertainties. Political instability, terrorism, migration and inequalities paint a depressing picture of the world. Achim Steiner says this pessimistic outlook is misguided. Instead, we have a great opportunity in front of us.

“Economies which destroy resources create alienated people,” he says. “We need to change what we believe about development. We used to think we could develop economically, then develop socially, and then finally we could fix all the harm we have done. We need to change our systems and ways of thinking.”

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As proof of some of the great possibilities we have Steiner points to a study in Lisbon which showed the city could have the same transport service as today using only 20 per cent of the vehicles. This proves that we have the means to change and improve our systems, but an even greater accomplishment is that we can revolutionise our way of thinking. The entire world came together to create the UN’s world development goals.

“This is a shared development agenda for the first time in history,” Steiner says. “Think of all the jobs we will create and the social problems we will eliminate. We live in a moment of great opportunity.”

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