Declaration of Principles

Towards a New Paradigm for Future - The Edinburgh Futures Conversations, 2nd March 2021.

If we realize our ambitions across the full extent of the Agenda, the lives of all will be profoundly improved and our world will be transformed for the better.   

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


The pandemic is a watershed moment. It has further exposed the complex interdependencies between the health of humans and the planet, it has exacerbated extant inequalities across the globe, and it has created new forms of inequity. With the climate crisis, the pandemic has made more vulnerable the world’s most vulnerable. In calling for a transformative paradigm for the future of health, we are mindful of the difficult social, political and economic questions that need to be addressed and choices that will need to be made.  Through the Edinburgh Futures Conversations we draw on the wisdom of multilateral, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral perspectives to shape our choices at this critical juncture.

The Declaration  

Our future lies in recognising the interdependency of the health of people, animals and our planet, and their social, economic, environmental and political determinants.  We envision better health through strengthened primary, public and planetary health systems that rely on responses built on integrated understandings of contextual and relational risks and resilience.

In pursuit of a new paradigm for the future of health we affirm the following principles:

  • Health and wellbeing are fundamental human rights. All people should have access to high quality, universal health and social care.  
  • Health is a global responsibility. Nations have a moral responsibility to share the common goods of health and well-being, leaving no country, or person, behind; no one is safe until everyone is safe.  This will only be possible with equitable access to data and technology.
  • The quality of our leadership determines the quality of health. Truly globally-minded, compassionate leadership is the ultimate vaccine to ensure planetary health.
  • The recovery of our health will be based on shared values not threats. Innovation and action must be driven through the lens of our common humanity.
  • Knowledge is a common good. Universities and Colleges must lead in sharing the benefits and assets of research, education and innovation. Knowledge that is missing must be created and implemented together
  • Education for all is the foundation for health for all. Investing in children and young people and in access to learning through the life-course is investing in transformation.
  • Stronger interdisciplinary collaboration and political will  is needed. Science, the arts, the humanities and social sciences have demonstrated rapid, collective responses to the pandemic, going forward these need to be embedded and scaled.

Our Commitment

Universities and Colleges have a critical role to play in driving research, education, innovation and engagement to tackle the syndemic. As a place of convocation, debate and challenge, we embrace our responsibilities as contributors to global civic leadership. Specifically we affirm all Universities and Colleges must commit to the following actions:

  • Support the World Health Organisation and the multilateral system, and ensure that through our research, education and partnerships we constantly promote the ethos behind the Vaccine Equity Declaration and the UN Sustainable Development Goals of a world that shares its common goods. 
  • Use the unique role that our multi-faculty universities have in crossing subject boundaries to shape new knowledge, write new narratives to centre planet and human flourishing, and curate the multi-disciplinary research that underscores an economy of hope. 
  • Democratise knowledge and its implementation, improving access to health education, and data sharing.
  • Amplify the voice and leadership of young people.
  • Support governments with multi-disciplinary and multi-sectorial research evidence to make bold political choices beyond immediate self-advancement.     
  • Value and protect healthcare workers by investing in shared teaching and training to strengthen local, and regional capacity. 
  • Educate for ethical leadership, investing in the advocacy and communication skills needed to drive a new paradigm for health, which is equitably and transparently shaped by perspectives from the global south, east, west and north.
  • Learn the lessons from this current crisis, recognising the social, emotional and psychological trauma and other health impacts of the pandemic. 
  • Confront the inequalities and injustices which the pandemic has exposed, caused and intensified through an intersectional approach, and tackle these by putting our research and education in the service of local, national and international responses. 
  • Partner with communities and marginalised groups globally, and locally, to co-create health and challenge the factors that destroy the health of humans and the planet. 
  • Work with industry, business and civil society to prioritise science and actions that change the course of, and the impact of climate change on the health of humans and environment.
  • Utilise universities and colleges as a crucible in which critical questions and difficult choices in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals can be debated, treating all voices with respect. 
  • Create the space for building and mobilising consensus among nations to create bold new strategies to translate principles into action. 

Leading and modelling the future of health within our institutions and partnerships

This document distils insights shared at the Edinburgh Futures Conversation (The Future of Health) hosted by the University of Edinburgh on 2 March 2021. The Edinburgh Conversations, and associated Student Leaders programme, are led and convened by the University’s Edinburgh Futures Institute.