Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He is the co-recipient of the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the leading global prize for environmental leadership. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders. He was called by the New York Times, “probably the most important economist in the world,” and by Time Magazine “the world’s best known economist.” A recent survey by The Economist Magazine ranked Professor Sachs as among the world’s three most influential living economists of the past decade.
Professor Sachs served as the Director of the Earth Institute from 2002 to 2016. He was appointed University Professor at Columbia University in 2016, and also serves as Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sustainable Development Goals, and previously advised both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. Sachs is Director of both the Center for Sustainable Development, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Sachs is co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, and is director of the Millennium Villages Project. Sachs is also one of the Secretary-General’s MDG Advocates, and a Commissioner of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development. He has authored five books, including three New York Times bestsellers (*), in the past decade years: The End of Poverty (2005*), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (2008*), The Price of Civilization (2011*), To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (2013) and The Age of Sustainable Development (2015).
Professor Sachs is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on economic development, global macroeconomics, and the fight against poverty. His work on ending poverty, overcoming macroeconomic instability, promoting economic growth, fighting hunger and disease, and promoting sustainable environmental practices, has taken him to more than 125 countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s population. For more than thirty years he has advised dozens of heads of state and governments on economic strategy, in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. He was among the outside advisors to Pope John Paul II on the encyclical Centesimus Annus and in recent years has worked closely with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the issues of sustainable development.
Sachs works closely with many international organizations, including the African Union, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Food Programme, UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, among others.
Professor Sachs’ work has been pivotal in many of the key junctures of globalization during the past thirty years. In the 1980s he helped several Latin American countries including Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru to end hyperinflations and renegotiate their external debts. He was the leading academic advocate in the United States for reducing the debt overhang of the developing countries and his ideas were incorporated in the global debt-reduction plans undertaken from the mid-1980s onward, including the Brady Plan and the HIPC Program.
In 1989, Professor Sachs advised Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement and the first post-communist Government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. He wrote the first-ever comprehensive plan for the transition from central planning to a market democracy, which became incorporated into Poland’s highly successful reform program led by Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Professor Sachs was the main architect of Poland’s successful debt reduction operation. The Government of Poland awarded Sachs with one of its highest honors in 1999, the Commanders Cross of the Order of Merit. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Cracow University of Economics.
Sachs’s ideas and methods of transition from central planning were successfully adopted throughout the transition economies. He helped Slovenia (1991) and Estonia (1992) to introduce new stable and convertible currencies. Based on Poland’s success, he was invited first by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and then by Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the transition to a market economy. He served as advisor to Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and Finance Minister Boris Federov during 1991-93 on macroeconomic policies. He received the Leontief Medal of the Leontief Centre, St. Petersburg, for his contributions to Russia’s economic reforms.
From the mid-1990s till today, Prof. Sachs has been involved with economic reforms in many parts of Asia, including India and China. He has been a senior advisor to the Indian Government, most recently on the scaling up of primary health care in rural areas (the National Rural Health Mission), a policy that he recommended and helped to promote through the Indian Commission on Macroeconomics and Health. For his broad-based support of India’s economic reforms he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest honors.
He has similarly engaged with the Chinese Government on many issues of sustainable development, and during 2001-3 worked with senior government officials on China’s Western Development Strategy. He has authored many scholarly and policy papers on India’s and China’s economic reforms. Sachs has also worked in other parts of Asia on a number of development and research projects, including in Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and others. He actively supports Bhutan’s innovative strategy of Gross National Happiness. He works with the Government of Jordan on a national program of poverty reduction and with the Government of Qatar on education and ICT initiatives throughout the Arab region.
Since 1995, Professor Sachs has been deeply engaged in Africa’s escape from poverty. He has worked in more than two-dozen African countries, and has advised the African leadership at several African Union summits. In the mid-1990s he worked with senior officials of the Clinton Administration to develop the concept of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). He has engaged with dozens of African leaders to promote smallholder agriculture and to fight high disease burdens through strengthened primary health systems. His pioneering ideas on investing in health to break the poverty trap have been widely applied throughout the continent. He currently serves as an advisor to several African governments, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, among others.
The Millennium Villages Project, which he directs, operates in ten African countries, and covers more than 500,000 people. The MVP has achieved notable successes in raising agricultural production, reducing children’s stunting, and cutting child mortality rates, with the results described in several peer-reviewed publications. Its key concepts of integrated rural development to achieve the MDGs are now being applied at national scale in Nigeria and Mali, and are being used by many other countries to help support national anti-poverty programs. He works very closely with the Islamic Development Bank to scale up programs of integrated rural development and sustainable agriculture among the Bank’s member countries. One such project supports pastoralist communities in the Horn of Africa, with six participating nations: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.
Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, Professor Sachs has been widely considered to be the leading academic scholar and practitioner on the MDGs. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (2000-1), which played a pivotal role in scaling up the financing of health care and disease control in the low-income countries to support MDGs 4, 5, and 6. He worked with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000-1 to design and launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. He worked closely with senior officials of the administration of George W. Bush to develop the PEPFAR program to fight HIV/AIDS, and the PMI to fight malaria. On behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from 2002-2006 he chaired the UN Millennium Project, which was tasked with developing a concrete action plan to achieve the MDGs. The UN General Assembly adopted the key recommendations of the UN Millennium Project at a special session in September 2005. The recommendations for rural Africa are currently being implemented and documented in the Millennium Villages, and in several national scale-up efforts such as in Nigeria.
Professor Sachs has been the Director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University since 2002. In that capacity, he leads a university-wide organization of more than 850 professionals from natural-science and social-science disciplines, in support of sustainable development. Sachs has consistently advocated for the expansion of University education on sustainable development, and helped to introduce the PhD in Sustainable Development at Columbia University, one of the first PhD programs of its kind in the U.S. He championed the new Masters of Development Practice (MDP), which has led to a consortium of major universities around the world offering the new degree. The Earth Institute has also guided the adoption of sustainable development as a new major at Columbia College. The Earth Institute is home to cutting-edge research on all aspects of earth systems and sustainable development.
In August 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), with Sachs as the Director. The SDSN will mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable-development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. This Solutions Network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world. The Network convenes 12 global expert Thematic Groups on key sustainable development challenges that will identify common solutions and highlight best practices. Over time the SDSN will launch projects to pilot or roll-out solutions to sustainable development challenges and assist countries in developing sustainable long-term development pathways.
Sachs is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Blue Planet Prize, membership in the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Society of Fellows, and the Fellows of the World Econometric Society. His conversation with Tyler Cowen won the Quartz Podcast Award for best business/economics podcast of 2015. He has received more than 20 honorary degrees, and many awards and honors around the world. His syndicated newspaper column appears in more than 80 countries around the world, and he is a frequent contributor to major publications such as the Financial Times of London, the International Herald Tribune, Scientific American, and Time magazine.
Sachs’ policy and academic works span the challenges of globalization, and include: the relationship of international trade and economic growth; the resource curse and extractive industries; public health; the history of economic development; economic geography; strategies of economic reform; international financial markets; macroeconomic policy; global competitiveness; climate change; the role of universities in economic development; and the end of poverty. He has authored or co-authored hundreds of scholarly articles and several books, including three bestsellers, a textbook on macroeconomics that is widely used around the world, and a highly regarded new text on sustainable development.
Prior to his arrival at Columbia University in July 2002, Sachs spent over twenty years as a professor at Harvard University, most recently as Director of the Center for International Development and the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade.
Sachs was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1954. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Harvard College in 1976, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1978 and 1980 respectively. He joined the Harvard faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1980, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1982 and Full Professor in the fall of 1983, at the age of 28.