SDG Symposium: Operationalizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Feb 25, 2016

Yang Berhormat Senator Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department,

Yang Berbahagia Datuk Seri Dr. Rahamat Bivi binti Yusoff, Director General, Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department,

Excellencies and distinguished guests,

Senior officials and representatives from government agencies, academia, civil society, youth groups and private sector,

Colleagues from the United Nations Country Team

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Salam sejahtera and a very good morning to all of you.

Today’s event is the result of a special and long-term partnership. On behalf of the United Nations Country Team and UNDP Malaysia, I would like to thank the Economic Planning Unit for their efforts in making this important symposium a reality.

1.      Overview

2016 marks a new chapter of our journey in development. As we bid farewell to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have helped cut absolute poverty by half around the world between 2000 and 2015, we now aim to do more and go further with the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by all 193 UN Member States last September.

Through these 17 global goals and their 169 targets, Governments have committed to eradicate poverty, fight inequalities, build peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies, and secure the future of the planet and the wellbeing of future generations over the next 15 years.

As we start our journey together, today is a time for celebration as the Honourable Minister will launch Malaysia’s 2015 MDG Report shortly.  It is also a time for reflection, and for preparation and planning to guarantee the successful implementation of the sustainable development goals in Malaysia. The success of MDG achievements in Malaysia and globally is our inspiration.  It is also the source of our conviction that these new global goals can and will be achieved by 2030.

2.      Challenges and Opportunities

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our 2030 Agenda is ambitious, universal and more holistic than its predecessor. It applies to all countries at all income levels instead of just developing and least developed countries. Our key challenge now is to move the SDGs away from being aspirational at the international level, and to ground them in action at the country level. The SDGs will have to be prioritized according to national, sub-national and local development needs; and be fully integrated into development policies, plans and strategies for effective implementation.

In this regard, Malaysia is off to a good start. It is inspiring to learn that the 11th Malaysia Plan proactively incorporates Malaysia’s unfinished MDG agenda and many of the aspirations of the SDGs. Notably; Strategic Thrust 1 on Inclusive Growth corresponds to SDG 1 on poverty eradication and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities. The 11th Malaysia Plan’s Strategic Thrust 4 on Green Growth has a potential to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals on sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, biodiversity and environmental concerns. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate yesterday’s launch of its revised National Biodiversity Policy, which is forward looking, in some areas going beyond the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The next step for Malaysia will be the full operationalization and effective implementation of sub-national and local development plans and strategies, and designing inclusive pathways toward the SDGs that benefits all communities nationwide.

Another key challenge for SDG achievement is data. The SDGs themselves are broad; and there is an urgent need for improved data at both aggregated and disaggregated levels to monitor progress and help design policies and programmes that will be needed if the 169 targets are to be met. Poverty eradication, gender or ethnic equality, and environmental protection efforts have long been constrained by the unavailability of disaggregated data in many countries, including Malaysia.

These gaps in data prevented analysts, planners and practitioners from identifying trends in how countries were making progress toward their goals, particularly at the sub-national and local levels, and pose a barrier to improving the lives particularly of the unreached and hard to reach populations. Traditional data sources are very important, but we must also take advantage of new opportunities, especially those presented by the use of technology.  In essence, a “data revolution” is required.

This “data revolution” means working in different ways, putting different groups together across the public and private sectors and civil society, and being innovative in the use of technology for development data. The decline in the cost of data collection, with new sources of technology now available, and a strong push for open data will allow for more inclusion, participation and access by all, including the public and private sector, civil society and international organizations.

To implement the ambitious 2030 Agenda, we also will need to mobilize resources for development at an unprecedented scale.  Such mobilization will require innovative mechanisms in order to ensure that finance is used effectively and efficiently. Unlocking domestic resources, managing public expenditure effectively, and finding ways to use it to crowd-in the private sector will be essential.

While there will be challenges in implementing the 2030 agenda, such as I have just outlined, The SDGs also present huge opportunities. For example, the inclusive consultations on the sustainable development goals carried out by the United Nations and many Member States including Malaysia provided a platform for people around the world, including many of our young people, to share their concerns and ideas about the future they wanted to be reflected in the new global development agenda.

The strong desire of people, and particularly young people, to engage in shaping this agenda was palpable.  We must seize this moment to transform our world, and in doing so, recognize the powerful contributions young people can make. Young people represent innovation and enthusiasm.  They are our present and our future. Here in Malaysia, as around the world, we most open the door more widely, and actively encourage their meaningful participation, by listening to their needs and hopes, nurturing and evolving their contributions from ideas to solutions, together with them, through broad consultative processes. The same goes for other groups that are now on the margins of the policy process and programme implementation if we are to ensure a life of dignity for all and an opportunity for all people to live up to their full potential.  Research and action are especially needed on youth in peacebuilding; youth in resilience-building; youth and migration; youth and social accountability; youth-led innovation; and on financing for youth development.   

3.      Effective Development Cooperation

As we transition to the new global development agenda to transform our world and build inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies, we will have to do some aspects of development differently that we did before. Business as usual certainly will not bring us transformative results. We will need effective planning, inclusive and participatory governance, sound policy and legal frameworks, strong institutions, and effective development cooperation and partnerships. Everyone has a role to play – each of us as  governments, CSOs, the private sector, international institutions, youth and individuals.  Our ability to work in effective partnership, guided by the commitment to leave no one behind, will shape the quality of our development results and the health of our planet.

The time for action is now!  This was the message of the Global Transformation Forum, the first global dialogue on operationalising the SDGs that was hosted here in Kuala Lumpur last October by PEMANDU in the Prime Minister’s Department, in strategic partnership with UNDP, just 3 weeks after adoption of the goals. Minister, your participation in the Ministerial panel at the GTF was very important in sharing with other countries, not only Malaysia’s progress and its path forward with the 11MP but also firmly planting the idea that this is an agenda for all, and the importance of proactively setting targets relative to the particular levels of development. And it is staying true to that message of early and determined action to have the Prime Minister’s Department today, this time through EPU, bring this wide range of national stakeholders together to move out of the blocks to use a track and field analogy, and, in a consultative approach from the beginning, get going on this important, yet challenging journey.

As we move forward, new partnerships need to be forged with business, with civil society, and with the international community. Not just in terms of consultation, but in implementing and, crucially, in resourcing the SDGs too. As sources of ODA and international finance decline significantly – this is already the case for an upper middle income country like Malaysia - it will be for the Government to mobilize domestic resources through both public and private sources and channel them to the right course of actions; and to continue build the partnerships for knowledge and technology transfer, and to stay focussed on the targets and measure progress as stakeholders across the country implement planned actions. 

4.      UNDP Support to SDG Implementation

The UN too will play its part.  In response to Member States’ request for coherent and integrated support for implementation of the SDGs, the United Nations Development Group developed and agreed a common approach for the UN Development System. It is called the ‘MAPS’, which stands for Mainstreaming, Acceleration, and Policy Support.

“Mainstreaming”, refers to the support we can give governments as they incorporate the agenda in their national and local strategies, plans, and budgets, and strengthen their data systems. This will require intensive outreach to national stakeholders about the new agenda, and, where appropriate, strengthening the capacities of stakeholders to contribute.

“Acceleration” entails supporting countries to identify obstacles and bottlenecks standing in the way of making progress on goals and targets, and identifying actions that can remove them. An acceleration approach to achieving MDG targets was used successfully in more than fifty countries over the past five years.


“Policy support” will make co-ordinated policy and technical support available from the UN system to countries on request, drawing on our extensive expertise and programming experience.


In short, MAPS is a flexible approach that can be adjusted to different development context and different set of challenges faced. Supporting partnerships, the availability of quality data and analysis, and accountability are themes which cut across all three components of our approach to implementation.

UNDP is already supporting the SDG agenda at the request of governments. Currently, we are mainstreaming SDGs into national development plans and budgets in the middle income countries such as Indonesia and Philippines. UNDP also has been working with five Member States, namely Albania, Indonesia, Rwanda, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, to explore approaches to implementing and monitoring governance-related national goals and targets for SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). Beyond enhancing the readiness of participating countries to integrate the Goal into their national planning processes, the objective also was to generate and exchange knowledge that could inform other countries’ efforts.

Given our experience and work programme in Malaysia, UNDP Malaysia is expected to provide strong support in SDG 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere); SDG 10 (reduce inequality within and among countries); and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). We also expect to be active across a number of SDGs related to the environment and climate change, and women’s empowerment.

5. Conclusion

UNDP Malaysia, together with other UN agencies working as a cohesive UN Country Team, is committed to support Malaysia in its efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. This is a top most priority of UNDP and all the agencies in the United Nations Country Team.

UNDP’s Strategic Plan for 2014 – 2017 and the new UNDP and Government of Malaysia Country Programme Action Plan for 2016 – 2020 were written with the sustainable development agenda in mind. We commit to use all means at our disposal to help ensure its success.

Finally, UNDP Malaysia welcomes this symposium, and hopes that this event paves the way to a series of consultations at the national and sub-national level and specific thematic policy dialogues throughout the course of the year to build awareness, ownership and momentum for achievement of the goals, and to provide opportunities for continued dialogue and understanding of the perspectives of different communities to inform the implementation of the 11th Malaysia Plan and the national SDG action plan that will need to be developed. I wish all participants a day of fruitful discussion with a view to early and concrete actions.

Thank you.

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