Jeffrey Sachs
Director, The Earth Institute

What's the role of the UN?

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The UN is much maligned, but vital for creating global agreements, Sachs says.

Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is also Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. From 2002 to 2006, he was Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed goals to reduce extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015. Sachs is also President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty.

He is widely considered to be the leading international economic advisor of his generation. For more than 20 years Professor Sachs has been in the forefront of the challenges of economic development, poverty alleviation, and enlightened globalization, promoting policies to help all parts of the world to benefit from expanding economic opportunities and wellbeing. He is also one of the leading voices for combining economic development with environmental sustainability, and as Director of the Earth Institute leads large-scale efforts to promote the mitigation of human-induced climate change.

In 2004 and 2005 he was named among the 100 most influential leaders in the world by Time Magazine. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, a high civilian honor bestowed by the Indian Government, in 2007. Sachs lectures constantly around the world and was the 2007 BBC Reith Lecturer. He is author of hundreds of scholarly articles and many books, including the New York Times bestsellers Common Wealth (Penguin, 2008) and The End of Poverty (Penguin, 2005). Sachs is a member of the Institute of Medicine and is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Prior to joining Columbia, he spent over twenty years at Harvard University, most recently as Director of the Center for International Development. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Sachs received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard University.


Question: What's the role of the UN?

Sachs:    The UN is a much maligned and yet vital institution for all of us, including the United States.  In the US, the right wing says, oh the UN, that just takes away American prerogatives and that’s the kind of incorrect and simple-minded thinking that has gotten us into other disasters in Iraq and elsewhere.  We need the UN to get global agreements on how to help unstable regions, how to secure peace, and how to face environmental calamities like climate change.  Now, within that context, the UN has engaged in some encouragement of volunteerism.  The global compact, for example, is an initiative to get companies to step up to the challenges of labor rights, human rights, environmental sustainability, and now the millennium development goals, but much more could be done.  A lot of volunteerism in the context of the UN and its specific agencies like UNICEF or like the World Health Organization could play a very important role.  I think it’s a wonderful idea.

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