Ordinary Academicians

Jeffrey D. Sachs


Jeffrey D. Sachs

Date of birth 05 November 1954

Place Oak Park, Michigan, United States of America (America)

Nomination 28 September 2021

Field Economics

Title University Professor, Columbia University

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Self-Presentation

Most important awards, prizes and academies
Positions: University Professor, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.; Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, 2002-16; Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.; President, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, New York, N.Y.; SDG Advocate under Secretary General António Guterres, United Nations; Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for the Millennium Development Goals; Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for the Millennium Development Goals; Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for the Sustainable Development Goals; Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for the Sustainable Development Goals; Special Advisor to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell; Co-Founder and Director, Millennium Promise Alliance; Honorary Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development, Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur; Chairman of the Jeffrey D. Sachs Center for Sustainable Development at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur; Chair, Lancet COVID-19 Commission; Chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health at WHO, 2000-01; Key role in conceptualizing and designing the Global Fund to Fight Aids TB and Malaria, 2000-01; Director of the UN Millennium Project 2001-06.
Awards: Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, by decree of the President of the Republic, France, June 14, 2021; Alexander Rüstow Award for the Advancement of a Humane Economy, the Alliance for the Social Market Economy, April 8, 2021; Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Third Class, Eesti Pank, Estonia, January 2019; World Sustainability Award (2017), Cape Town, January 27, 2017; Blue Planet Prize, Asahi Glass Foundation, 2015; Padma Bhushan Award, Government of India 2007; Sargent Shriver Award for Equal Justice, 2005.
Honorary Degrees (most recent); Honorary Degree, Doctor of Economics and Public Policy, ADA University, Baku, Azerbaijan, March 2019; Honorary Degree, Honorary Doctorate of Ivane Javakhishvili, Tbilisi State University of Georgia, March 2019; Honorary Degree, Doctor of Economics, University of Lodz, Poland, May 24, 2019; Honorary Degree, Doctor of Peace, University of Cambodia, January 10, 2020; Honorary Degree, Doctor of Sustainability, Amrita University, Kerala, India, 2021.

Summary of scientific research
Professor Sachs has conducted ground-breaking research and published extensively on topics spanning the challenges of globalization and sustainable development, including the relationship of international trade and economic growth; management of debt crises and methods of debt relief; the resource curse and extractive industries; global public health and the provision of public health in low-income settings; strategies for the eradication of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria; strategies to combat COVID-19; the history, geography, and practice of economic development; international financial markets and macroeconomic policy; climate change; education for sustainable development; and the eradication of extreme poverty through integrated investments in skills, local infrastructure, and business development.

Main publications
Ages of Globalization, Columbia University Press, New York, 2020; The Age of Sustainable Development, Columbia University Press, New York, 2015; The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, Random House, New York, 2011; Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, The Penguin Press, New York, 2008; The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, The Penguin Press, New York, 2005.

The story is very simple: in 1959 I entered kindergarten and I’ve never left school, the only difference is at some point they started to pay me for some reason, but other than that I’ve been a continuing student for 63 years and I want to continue in that mode.

I grew up in a very socially-aware household and community, in part in the shadow of the Holocaust and in part [the son of] a father who was a constitutional lawyer and labor lawyer, out of poverty himself, and just taught me a lot, because he was effortlessly aiming at social justice.

When I grew up in the United States in the 60s my first political memory is the Cuban missile crisis and Kennedy’s assassination; then protesting on the streets against the Vietnam War, being taken by my father to migrant farm worker movements and meetings, Cesar Chavez, falling in love with Robert Kennedy and watching him be assassinated. So I grew up in a very politically charged and aware environment in Detroit, Michigan, which had massive race riots in 1967, tremendously shaken and determined to see what could be done to make the world work in a better way, and that’s been my driving purpose.

I got to Harvard in 1972. The first book that I was assigned was Limits to Growth, which started the environmental movement. I stayed at Harvard for thirty years, then I went to Columbia University and to advise Kofi Annan at the UN, and have been at Columbia now for twenty years, so it’s really a simple story, but I’ve been engaged in one basic question, which is, why can’t we put our knowledge and capacity to work for the sake of humanity.

I’m taken in my adult life very much with a statement of President Kennedy in his inaugural address when he said, “the world is very different now, where mankind holds in his mortal hand the ability to end all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life”. I regard that as the fundamental question and puzzle: if we can end all forms of human poverty why don’t we, and are we smart enough to avoid ending all forms of human life. I find the Church’s social teachings fundamentally important in addressing these questions. From my own work and studies and engagement with the Church I find the possibility of the Church’s teachings helping to fix the world to be a profound reality and opportunity.

I wrote a book about President Kennedy’s search for peace in 1963, where Pope John XXIII played a crucial role in Pacem in Terris. I was an advisor to Solidarity in Poland and thus was an advisor to Pope John Paul II on Centesimus Annus, and then came back to meet with Pope John Paul during the Jubilee Year, when he championed debt cancellation and I was working very hard on that.

I’ve been blessed to work with the three wonderful Secretaries General of the UN as their Special Advisor: Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Guterres, and I’ve watched with awe as Chancellor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo has brought the Church’s social teachings to the purpose of the world in the last ten years by showing that they are fundamentally an inspiration for sustainable development. Your work is absolutely not only inspiring for all of us and inspiring for the Church, but transformative for the world, and when Pope Francis spoke on September 25th 2015 in the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals we can thank Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo for helping to bring the Church and the United Nations together in this extraordinarily important challenge.

This, I think, is our mission, that the Church has so much crucial teaching to offer and the world has so much need and we have so much knowledge and capacity, and if we can put it together before we destroy ourselves we’ll be doing a good job. Thank you.

Professional Address

Center for Sustainable Development
Columbia University
475 Riverside Drive
Interchurch Suite 1040
New York, NY 10115, USA

Sustainable Development Goals for a New Era (PDF) 2014