Meet Achim Steiner, new president of the UN Development Programme | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 21.04.2017
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Meet Achim Steiner, new president of the UN Development Programme

Environment and development belong together, according to the unshakeable optimist. And now the 55-year-old is the highest appointed German at the United Nations.

Achim Steiner never talks about environmental policies without mentioning the nitty-gritty of economic development. This habit probably stems from his background and career path.

The 55-year-old has been in the trenches of environmental activism since before his service at the UN, including work with the Washington-based International Union for Conservation of Nature.

He's even devoted his professional life - for example, while working as secretary general of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) - to pet projects. In 2000, the WCD published a report showing how reservoirs posed dangers to the environment despite their importance for development. Notable for its holistic and sustainable approach, it is this viewpoint that Steiner brings to his new office.

The new face of UN environmental development faces the enormous task of pushing good leadership in poor countries to combat poverty and AIDS, while also tackling environmental and climate protection.

Read: DW exclusive with Steiner on Niger Delta

A big deal for Germany

It is only fitting that Steiner - a citizen of the world, the son of a German, raised in Brazil, multilingual, studied at Oxford, and spent time in London, in Germany, Africa and Asia, - has been tapped as the next president of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Symbolbild Wirtschaft in Brasilien (picture alliance/dpa/R. Pera)

This Brazilian soy plantation is one of many examples of the global need for higher food production that is both sustainable and environmentally-friendly

He also headed the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP) until 2016.

For the German government, Steiner's new role carries great significance: he will become the highest ranking German at the United Nations.  A point, which Development Minister Gerd Müller was quick to emphasize.

"Germany is taking on more responsibility. That's the message the world is receiving. Selecting Achim Steiner to lead the UN Development Programme shows a deep appreciation of this fact."

Others were simply proud upon hearing the news.

"I'm very happy about this. Steiner is exactly the right person for the office of the UNDP president with all of his experience, with his passion for development and with his dedication," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Read: Steiner: 'Leaders must development green policies'