'Human security versus National security: have we lost our capacity for collective action?' with Achim Steiner

Past Event

03 November 2023, 5:00pm - 6:15pm

Oxford Martin School & Online
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Event Recording:

Conflicts, climate change, rising inequalities…. the list of crises is long and growing.

But it doesn’t really matter what we call this unprecedented moment in history, in which human activity has become the dominant force shaping the planet. Whether this is the “Anthropocene” – the Age of Humans – or the “Era of Poly-crises”, what matters is that it is real, changing our lives at extraordinary speed and challenging our post-war institutional architecture. At a time of unprecedented interdependence, are we losing our capacity for collective problem-solving and effective global governance? With the UN and Bretton Woods Institutions in the crosshairs of both governments and citizens for chronic failures in preventing conflict, climate change or the current financial/debt crisis, what hope is there for multilateralism in a multipopular world? How will citizens and institutions respond and what would it take to rebuild trust and confidence?

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, will explore the implications of growing paralysis, polarisation and uncertainty for a world in a race against time to achieve systemic and transformational change. Drawing on a range of contemporary and contested policy arenas such as decarbonising our economies, reforming the international financial system and harnessing the disruptive power of technology and innovation, he will present ‘signals’ that imply fundamentally different future scenarios for ‘human security’ vs ‘national security’.

Following his presentation, Achim Steiner will join Baroness Valerie Amos, Master of University College, to debate how paradigm shifts in geopolitics and economic orthodoxy can be achieved and how to build political movements and momentum - less focused on competition and confrontation and more on shared interest, cooperation and co-investing in our collective ability to tackle inequality and sustainability.

Achim Steiner

Achim Steiner
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator

Achim Steiner became UNDP Administrator on 19 June 2017. The United Nations General Assembly confirmed his appointment following his nomination by Secretary-General António Guterres. In April 2021, the General Assembly confirmed his appointment to a second four-year term beginning in June 2021.

Mr Steiner is also the Vice-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group, which unites 40 entities of the UN system that work to support sustainable development.

Over nearly three decades, Achim Steiner has been a global leader on sustainable development, climate resilience and international cooperation. He has worked tirelessly to champion sustainability, economic growth and equality for the vulnerable, and has been a vocal advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Prior to joining UNDP, he was Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professorial Fellow of Balliol College, University of Oxford. Mr Steiner has served across the United Nations system, looking at global challenges from both a humanitarian and a development perspective. He led the United Nations Environment Programme (2006-2016), helping governments invest in clean technologies and renewable energy. He was also Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi. Achim Steiner previously held other notable positions including Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams.

Achim Steiner has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the United States. He graduated in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (MA) from Worcester College, Oxford University and holds an MA from the University of London/School of Oriental and African Studies.

Amos Valerie

Baroness Valerie Amos
Master, University College

Baroness Valerie Amos is the Master of University College Oxford. She previously served as Director of the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London from 2015-2020. From 2010, Valerie served as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN. She served in a number of roles in the public sector including in local government and as Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Baroness Amos was an adviser to the Mandela Government on leadership and change management issues and was appointed a Labour Life Peer in 1997. She became the first black woman to sit in the British Cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development. Baroness Amos became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in October 2003 and served as UK High Commissioner to Australia before joining the UN.