Global Health Academy

Compassion and the SDGs

We need science as well as compassion to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our University is contributing much to the science needed to deliver the SDGs. Yet science alone is not enough to transform our social, political and economic systems.

To deliver to the goals we need to engage with them and hold to account the drivers and causes that led to the Goals being developed – the crises of inequity, injustice, the harm to people and the destruction of the earth’s resources. This requires wise action – actions rooted in compassion.

We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.

 Roshi Joan Halifax

At its most fundamental, compassion is rooted in a desire for everyone's flourishing. Compassion involves noticing suffering, and taking action to prevent or alieviate it.

With this understanding of compassion, it is clear that the SDGs are bound by compassion. They are concerned with reducing suffering caused by inequity, injustices, inequalities and the degradation of the earth’s resources. As the preamble to the SDGs states, “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”. 

Our work – at the Academy and the Global Compassion Initiative – is exploring why compassion is the glue that holds the SDGs together. We look at how and why compassion – as a motive, a response, an attitude, a culture, a way of seeing self and others – lies at the heart of the SDGs. Without compassion, our efforts will surely fail.


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