Pangkor Dialogue (PD) 2017 : Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Localisation in Perak

Sep 11, 2017

Thank you for the very warm welcome and introduction.

Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri-Tan Sri, Puan Sri-Puan Sri, Dato’-Dato’, Datin-Datin,

Senior managers from government agencies and the private sector,

Distinguished keynote speakers and panelists,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good morning to all of you. Selamat Pagi and Salam Sejahtera.

1.     First of all, let me say that I am very happy to be back in Perak. I have recently started my appointment as UNDP Resident Representative in your beautiful country Malaysia, but I was in Perak once before on a personal trip and that was enough to leave a strong impression.

2.     What I think strikes every visitor is the rich cultural expressions of diversity and the warmth and hospitality of the people, from this short trip it was clear to me what strength lies in diversity!

3.     And then I recall the beauty of the nature of the state of Perak. The richness of the forests, where an incredible variety of vegetation with all shapes and sizes thrived besides and on top of each other and where the air was full of the chirping and singing of colorful birds. Imagine that the tropical rainforests of Malaysia on one hectare – a square of 100 by 100 meters – contain more biodiversity than the whole continent that I am coming from – Europe.  This is a treasure of significance for the whole globe.

4.     It is a huge pleasure to be back in your beautiful country, this time at the occasion of the 4th Pangkor Dialogue. I am very pleased that UNDP is a partner of this event and I congratulate the organizers for drawing up such a comprehensive and ambitious programme, covering many dimensions of development, from economy and entrepreneurship, to women, youth and old age, to the environment and many more.

5.     Looking at development indicators Perak has performed well in many dimensions, reducing the poverty rate from 46% to 0.7% between 1970 and 2014 and reducing inequality at the same time (Gini 0.45 to 0.36) only to name a few.

6.     But as we all know the nature of development is such that as we climb a rung of the ladder there is another rung, once one problem is solved another one emerges. Or quoting Nelson Mandela “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Development is a continuum and certainly in the time of the ambitious Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) there is no dearth of challenges. This is why it is important and timely that this year’s Pangkor Dialogue is linked to the SDGs.

7.     The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which all governments around the world adopted in 2015, cover all people, in all countries.  Its core idea is the balance between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. This can only work if there are inclusive and peaceful societies (SDG 16). But cutting across all of the goals are two underlying principles i.e. “leaving no one behind” and “sustainability”.

8.     This agenda does not distinguish between developed and developing countries. Even the wealthiest and most powerful societies have yet to conquer inequality, discrimination and environmental degradation.  And so all countries, at national, state and local levels, need to redouble efforts to achieve the goals. Last week I heard for example from the Danish Finance Minister that his budget of next year will fully reflect the SDGs.

9.     The 2030 agenda is an ambitious agenda.  But it is an achievable agenda.  As the UN Secretary-General often emphasizes, we are the first generation that can end poverty, and may be the last that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  And we certainly can do much more for women and children, and for vulnerable and excluded groups living on the margins of our societies.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

10.           I wish to say a few words on the SDG principles of “leaving no one behind” and sustainability. Neither of course is new in Malaysia. Regarding leaving no one behind the country mainstreamed this concept five decades ago. However, new challenges emerge, which require new sets of policies and interventions. For example, the issue of ageing was not relevant before, but as more and more people reach old age also because of good health care it is now becoming important. There is obviously need to continue focusing on women’s equality and on marginalized segments of society.

11.           The good news is that we have better mechanisms than ever before to do so. The age of technology and “big data” allows us to target those in need more precisely with our policies. And the SDGs are strong on measurable indicators and data monitoring since one lesson from the MDGs was that “what gets measured gets done”.

12.           The other big principle of the SDGs is environmental sustainability. This has become much more prominent in the SDGs than ever before in international development, since new science alerts us how unsustainable our growth centered strategies are globally. While the time of the MDGs there was one goal dedicated to environment it is now seven! This includes water, sustainable energy, cities, sustainable consumption and production, climate change and finally the two goals 14 and 15, which deal with biodiversity on land and in water. I am mentioning them because biodiversity degradation through loss of land, wildlife trafficking and climate change has accelerated dramatically in only a few decades and the numbers say that we are moving further away from sustainability and recovery every year.

13.           It is important to remind ourselves that biodiversity is not only about iconic animals, it is about ecosystem services – services that a healthy system of biodiversity provides, such as water supply, protection against flooding and erosion, food etc. The links between environment, disaster risk reduction and economic development are very important. I have seen in Central Asia that a whole Sea half as big as peninsular Malaysia disappeared because of unsustainable and inefficient water management. People that were once wealthy fishermen are now living impoverished in a desert. Elsewhere I have seen that the cutting of Mangrove Forests on the Bangladeshi coast has made villages vulnerable to cyclones and typhoons. These are examples of unsustainable practices that are hardly reversible. Even in my own home country Austria riverbeds that had been “regulated by concrete channels” in the 1970s are now dug up and built back to their former natural bed, because flooding has become worse rather than better. The SDGs require us to carefully analyze the tradeoffs between economic growth and environment degradation and find win-win solutions.

E - Innovation:

14.           Finally, a few words on innovation. It is commendable that it is part of the conference and including the Perak Festival of Ideas, a festival to contribute ideas to foster new ways of thinking that translate ideas into actions, that create a lasting legacy for the people.  Technological innovation was responsible for the spectacular economic and social progress around the world (income, educational attainments, child and maternal mortality, etc.) in the last 50 years.

15.           But the current generation of technological innovation may yet be of another impact level, be it through artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchains, 3-D printing etc. The 4th industrial revolution will have a profound impact for our work life and our private life. Let’s think about how the innovation of the smart phone has influenced everybody’s life. Certainly, my family excursions have become less interactive, since my children prefer to play with their smartphones rather than engaging in a talk with their parents! Innovation will have a profound impact be it through the replacement of workers by robots, which soon will be able to perform almost every function better than humans, or through ever more sophisticated data logarithms in the internet that know more about you than you yourself.

16.           This has major policy implications that should be carefully thought through so that innovation remains primarily an opportunity that is harnessed for the right development purposes. Innovation can never be an end in itself, but must be a tool to achieve substantive policy goals.

Ladies and gentleman,

17.            UNDP is pleased to be a partner of the Malaysian Government. We are currently completing a SDG roadmap in collaboration with EPU and subsequently have many planned activities. We look forward to partner with the Perak State Government on the preparation of a State level Human Development Report and SDG acceleration strategies. The Pangkor Dialogue will provide crucial inputs into this processes.

18.           A gathering from more than 30 countries, our Dialogue today is an excellent example to “scan globally to order to act locally”. The SDGs cannot be delivered by one business, country or individual alone. The SDGs are achievable. But it requires action (accelerated by learning) at all levels – from global to national to local levels.

19.           I welcome all of you once again, commend the organizers for convening this important Dialogue and hope that it will bring clarity about issues of emerging importance that need to be addressed at an early stage. Finally, I look forward to collaborating with the state government as it continues its journey to Perak Aman Jaya – Peaceful and Progressive Perak.

Thank you