UNCT Seminar Series: Implementing the SDG Agenda – Action & Impact at Country Level

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  • 2018•05•07     Kuala Lumpur

    3/5/2018 – Mr. Stefan Priesner, the UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia and UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, spent over an hour updating the audience on the collaboration between UNDP and the Malaysian Government to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (#SDGs) in the country. He lauded Malaysia as a success story for development in the developing world, and outlined some of the nation’s tremendous achievements since her independence 60 years ago, particularly in alleviating poverty and morbidity and mortality reduction.

    The Malaysian Government reaffirmed their commitment to achieving Agenda 2030 at the UNGA in July 2017. Even though the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) – the country’s 5-year development blueprints which began in 1966 – was drafted before the SDGs were launched, the Government is working together with various UN agencies to identify the gaps and address key issues in localisation and implementation of the SDGs at national level in parallel with the plans in the scheme.

    Among the efforts are the National SDG Roadmap prepared by the National SDG Council together with UNDP; the document is in the vetting process and is expected to be launched in June 2018. To streamline the policies and the implementers, a comprehensive training manual is being conceptualised by the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN) together with UNDP and it is expected to be released at the end of the year. 169 targets have been identified to assess the success of integrating the SDGs with Malaysia’s development policies – collaboration with the Department of Statistics Malaysia is expected to fill the accountability gap with the implementation of the National SDG Data Monitoring Dashboard to support the Government’s commitment to prepare SDG Country Reports every four years.

    Mr. Stefan Priesner addressing the audience. Photo: UNU-IIGH. Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0

    Domestic investment remains the largest source of financing for the SDGs, underscoring the major need for the Malaysian Government to integrate the SDGs paradigm with national goals and policies. Mr Priesner emphasised on the link between sustainable development and formulating sound economic, social, and environmental policies, therefore applying the SDG principles of universality, integration, and leaving no one behind in the nation’s development strategies adds a degree of robustness for inclusive growth.

    Consultation with multiple stakeholders from civil society to the business community is key to developing the necessary infrastructure and network for SDGs attainment in Malaysia. Multi-stakeholder governance  was established to engage with the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance, and the Global Compact Network Malaysia (GCMy) to bring together the various perspectives needed to realise the SDGs in Malaysia. Mr. Priesner exhorted for more Malaysian businesses to be a part of the Responsible Business Forum and encouraged the private sector to engage the SDGs as part of their business practices; the cost-benefit of the exercise is tremendous as it goes a long way towards enhancing their credibility for sustainable business.

    Among the various challenges to achieve the SDGs in Malaysia are:

    • The need for the government to shift towards robust regulatory and incentive systems for change at scale
    • Local businesses to appreciate the cost-benefit of SDG compliance
    • Sustainable financing of the SDGs
    • Identifying and balancing the trade-offs between development and protection for the environment and vulnerable groups.
    • The marginalised and vulnerable population that fell between the gaps
    • Governance and independence of institutions
    • Rise of conservatism, extremism and complex ethnoreligious dynamics

    Mr. Priesner concluded on a positive note on Malaysia’s possible report card in 2030 in terms of progress in poverty reduction, health promotion, social goals and gender equality. However, he cautioned that the country needs to be more aggressive in addressing environmental challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution as the planet is on the verge of the 6th mass extinction.

    The Q&A segment was a lively exchange as various members of the audience shared their perspectives and queries were addressed by Mr. Priesner. Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha of the Ministry of Health Malaysia commented that the recent UNICEF report on the sad state of Malaysian urban poor’s children health has yet to be addressed systematically. He pointed out that the rising income disparity may lead to the urban poor to be at higher risk for non-communicable diseases which can be costly to the government and affect Malaysia’s sustainable universal health care coverage.

    Ms. Mary Shanti Dairiam of IWRAW Asia Pacific. Photo: UNU-IIGH. Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0

    Ms. Mary Shanthi Dairiam of the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific shared her experience in engaging with the government on the SDG roadmap and how more considerations need to be given to migrant workers and refugees, two segments of the population that are not included in the government’s conceptual plans. She also pointed out that although Malaysia ratified CEDAW, the response given by the Malaysian Government during the CEDAW committee session in February indicated a dissonance of what the government consider as gender equality and the expectations of the international society.

    Prof. Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, the Co-Chair of the Malaysia CSO-SDG Alliance spoke of the difficulty in disseminating the importance of achieving the SDGs throughout Malaysia. Most of the CSOs in the alliance are based in Klang Valley and more is needed to set up outreach to the other states. He asked if the UN agencies could support in the form of resource persons and institutional backing to help with the outreach programme and Mr. Priesner indicated that this can be considered.

    In response to an inquiry from Ms. Nur Azmiah Zainuddin from the Institute for Health Systems Research on integrating the SDGs in education to promote early awareness, Mr. Priesner shared the World’s Largest Lesson that was designed to introduce the SDGs to children and young people. He indicated that the Economic Planning Unit is looking to expand the modules in the website to be used by the Ministry of Education.


    The next UNCT seminar will be held on June 4th, 2018 by the UNICEF Representative in Malaysia.

    Further reading: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform – Malaysia