Amrita’s first honorary doctorates go to a groundbreaking global economist and a Nobel Peace Laureate

Dr Jeffrey Sachs is a prominent voice in the dialogue on climate change and a pioneer in sustainable development. Sri Kailash Satyarthi is a Nobel Peace Laureate who has led a tireless campaign for more than 40 years to end child slavery and exploitation. Both of them now hold Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s first honorary doctorates.

Amma, the university's Chancellor, bestowed the degrees during a virtual ceremony. The event included the presence of Sri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, India’s Minister of State for Consumer Affairs; Food and Public Distribution; and Environment, Forest and Climate Change.


Dr Sachs has made unprecedented contributions towards the preservation of the planet for future generations. He has been at the forefront of the field for decades, and his powerful advocacy for sustainability includes addressing the United Nations, other international organizations, and heads of state. Through his dedication, he has garnered the goodwill of leaders, experts, and citizens across the world.

He currently serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and has held the position of Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University from 2002 to 2016. Dr Sachs is also the President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Mr Satyarthi is a human and child-rights activist who founded a grassroots organization in 1980 called Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which translates from Hindi as the Save Childhood Movement. It has liberated more than 100,000 children from child labor, sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation and also developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation.

In 2014, Mr Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. His advocacy has resulted in international legislation for safeguarding children’s rights, with the United Nations putting children’s concerns at the forefront of sustainable and inclusive policy-making.

Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Sachs said, “I am so grateful for this honorary doctorate. It is a great honor to be part of your remarkable vision, Amma. Amrita University espouses exactly what the world needs today. For me, sustainable development means two related ideas, which are both extremely important.

“One idea is the intellectual and scientific idea, wherein we need to understand physical systems such as climate change, biodiversity, agronomy, public health, etc. The other fundamental part, which is often missed and which Amrita University embodies, is the ethical dimension of sustainable development.

“We will not find a solution to our problems without compassion, love, mutual respect and recognition of common humanity. A combination of intellectual and ethical ideas is a must to achieve sustainable development.”

While accepting the honorary doctorate, Mr Satyarthi said, “I feel humbled and honored in receiving this honorary doctorate. This is not an ordinary recognition, because as we all know, Amrita University is not an ordinary university. This is a place to inculcate universal human values along with modern education in making young people changemakers for a better world.

“Nothing could be more joyful than receiving this along with my dear friend, Dr Sachs. Today, as we know, the world is facing so many problems. Education is the key to achieving social justice, equality, sustainability, peace and empowerment.

“I was listening to Amma’s speech, and she gave solutions to all ongoing problems and the problems of the future, in such a short time. We cannot find a solution for social justice until we approach problems with compassion. If something has to be globalized, it is compassion.”

In recognition of Dr Sachs’ contribution to sustainable development, Amrita has constituted a fellowship in his name. The first recipient is Nitin Kumar, a Research Associate at the Amrita Center for Wireless Networks & Applications (Amrita WNA), Amritapuri. Dr Sachs told Mr Kumar he was looking forward to supporting him in his research and also promised to work with Amrita to achieve the goal of sustainable development.

To acknowledge Mr Satyarthi’s work in addressing child poverty, Amrita announced the establishment of a scholarship in his name. It will be available to any student who wishes to complete their higher education at the university.

“We are delighted to honor two accomplished and versatile personalities - Dr Sachs and Mr Satyarthi - with our first honorary doctorates,” said Dr P Venkat Rangan, Amrita’s Vice Chancellor.

“This recognition is not only for their immense accomplishments, but also for the impact they have had on society, which is in alignment with the new ideal of compassion-driven research set by our Chancellor, Amma.”

Addressing the audience, Amma congratulated both recipients of the honorary doctorates.

“In today’s world, where conflict and greed rule, Sri Jeffrey Sachs and Sri Kailash Satyarthi have overcome many challenges and are both actively involved in working to help society progress. The human race is confronted with so many burning issues," she said.

“There is no guarantee that this beautiful earth will sustain us for another 50 years. If it has to sustain, human beings will have to make great changes to their thoughts. If we do not see or hear Nature’s warning signs, Nature will strike back.

“We have to give due importance to protection of Nature, because we are not separate from it. We need to change our thinking and imbibe love and compassion to bring about a real change.”

Mr Choubey also congratulated Dr Sachs and Mr Satyarthi. He assured everyone that the Govt of India is committed to tackling the problem of child poverty and addressing the agenda for climate change and sustainable development goals.

For 2021, Amrita was rated by the Govt of India's National Institutional Ranking Framework as the country's fifth best university.

Photo 1: Amma holds Mr Satyarthi’s honorary doctorate. He is a Nobel Peace Laureate lauded for his work in ending child slavery and exploitation.
Photo 2: It was a virtual event based in Amritapuri with Dr Sachs joining from the US and Mr Satyarthi joining from India.
Photo 3: Amma and Swami Amritaswarupananda present Dr Sachs his honorary degree. He is an economist known for his practical approaches to global sustainable development.
Photo 4: Amrita is recognized by the Govt of India as the fifth best university in the country’s 2021 rankings.
Photo 5 : oth Dr Sachs and Mr Satyarthi expressed gratitude to Amma for her vision of a sustainable future for our world.

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