Asia Pacific Conference 2017 Localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Leaving no one behind

Oct 24, 2017

Thanks for the warm welcome and introduction

Honorable Mr Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang

Honorable Madam Chong Eng, Exco for Youth and Sports and Women, Family and Community and Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Penang Women’s Development Corporation

Honourable Dato’Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Mayor, City Council of Penang Island

Ms Ong Bee Leng, Chief Executive Officer of Penang Women’s Development Corporation

Dato’ Dr. Ooi Kee Beng, Chief Executive, Penang Institute

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.

Pleased to be here to welcome you to this important conference for localizing SDGs in Penang. Congratulate the organizers – Penang Women’s Development Committee, State Government of Penang, Municipal Council of Seberang Perai and express my pleasure on behalf of UNDP to be a partner


It is a pleasure to be in Penang: famous for its vibrancy and dynamism, for its culinary delights and street food, for its multi-ethnic heritage. For me as UN RC it is a privilege to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site;

Profiling the SDGs:

SDGs are a powerful vision. Based on the most consultative process that the UN ever conducted. Endorsed by all 193 UN member states in 2015

At the broadest level it means balancing economic growth against social justice/equality considerations (6 goals are dedicated to social issues: poverty, hunger, education, health, gender equity, water and sanitation) and environmental sustainability (7 goals are dedicated to env – climate change, sustainable cities, sustainable consumption, biodiversity X 2).

This is based on the foundation of good governance (SDG16) – subject of the conference is extremely relevant

Many national/sub-national development strategies contain aspects of these directions. What makes the SDG so impressive, is comprehensiveness and rigour of two principles: leaving no one behind, sustainability – come to this later

Comprehensiveness shown if you look closer: 169 targets and 244 indicators to enable to map any national/sub-national plans against targets, if there are targets, identify, if are we doing well, where one has fallen behind.

A glimpse at Penang: the recent Household Income Survey 2016 shows Penang performing impressively in development indicators. Penang saw a reduction in poverty rate from 0.6% in 2014 to 0.4% in 2016. The incidence of absolute poverty in Pulau Pinang has improved from 0.3% in 2014 to 0.1% in 2016.

Despite this, Penang continues to face some existing and emerging challenges with respect to economic, environmental and social conditions. For instance, development on limited state land, increasing frequency and severity of flooding events, increasing aging population, urbanisation challenges such as solid waste, water and air pollution, as well as traffic congestions.

We know that this is the nature of development. We reach one target and a new one emerges. As Mandela said: “I climbed one hill just to see that there are many more hills to climb.”

SDGs have universal coverage. SDGs makes every country a developing country. Not even the most advanced countries can boast to have comprehensively tackled climate change or addressed inequality. à this has resulted in an enormous momentum all over the world. E.g. Recently Sweden and Denmark have mainstreamed SDGs into their public budgets. Developed countries are reviewing the data sets for refining their indicators.

SDGs are ambitious, but achievable. They will not be achieved by Government only. Government has a key responsibility as planner & implementer of public/social services. Also as regulator and provider of incentives to mobilize the other players: the NGOs and the private sector

For private sector important to be contribute to the SDGs:

-         Many are already dealing with Corporate Social Responsibility, but now the role is about aligning themselves within SDG precepts; and influencing your supply/production chain or your consumers to do the same

-         What is the business case?

1)     First movers advantage in a policy shift that will come.

2)     Social and environmental sustainability in operations related to the goodwill of organizations

3)     SDGs are a business opportunity. Let’s take sustainability as an example. Evidence shows that green business is good business; this is why some economies are already taking transformational policy decisions, such as the phase out of combustion engines. Action on SDGs brings with it opportunities of new markets and jobs, and trillions in economic output –

§  Malaysia’s own Green Technology Masterplan that was recently launched, projects 180 billion in revenue and 200,000 jobs, whilst reaping the benefits of a low carbon and resource-efficient economy.

Malaysia has proven to be very committed to the SDG agenda.  Mainstreaming into Malaysia Plan.  July this year presentation of the Voluntary National Review. Currently finalization of a roadmap for SDGs. Pledging database for SDGs is being developed with Government and Global Compact in Malaysia

But implementation needs to happen at all governmental levels – localization key since it is cities, districts that are most involved in delivering basic services, provide an flourishing environment for the private sector

Lots of aspects in the Penang Development Agenda that can serve as a great basis for finetuning through the SDG Blueprint

A few words on the SDG principles of “leaving no one behind” and sustainability. Neither of course is new in Malaysia and in Penang. Regarding leaving no one behind the country mainstreamed this concept five decades ago.


To leave no one behind from an SDGs perspective means to understand the multidimensional nature of human development needs. Poverty and inequality are not just linked only to income and wealth, but to access to basic needs, access to opportunities, and realization of human rights, to name a few.

 Imagine a person with disabilities have the same opportunities to earn a decent living for themselves and their loved ones; a woman from a B40 background to have the same opportunities for employment and the same access to quality education and healthcare as a man from a well-to-do family.

LNOB means designing and implementing policies for these vulnerable groups and finetuning them based on evaluations if the policies work. If new challenges emerge, they 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.

To ‘Leave no one behind’, political institutions need to be made inclusive and participatory.

The good news is that we have technology to help. SDGs emphasize the importance of data for targeting and evidence based policy making. I noted the Penang ICT Strategy. It seems that Penang’s Big Data Analytics project and Integrated Data portal provide a headstart for the focus on data/evidence for policy making to achieve the SDGs.


This also applies to the second principle of the SDGs: sustainability.

As the science has become stronger, we see a huge importance of environmental sustainability in the development agenda. Example of climate change: We are experiencing dramatic changes in our own lifetime.  The number of national disasters that we face today is four times higher than in 1970. Example biodiversity degradation: rate of extinction of species 1000 times faster than the natural rate. Our development has come at a price, and urgent action is needed.

This is especially challenging in highly urbanized settings: with population growth and migration on the rise, more than ever governments need to find a balance between environmental conservation and urban planning and development strategies. Conservation of natural capital such as soil, air, water and living things means to preserve ecosystem services that is integral to human well-being.

Balancing environment sustainability and urban development can be strengthened when government policies are informed with robust disaggregated urban data and improved statistical capacities. Systematic collection and analytics of urban indicators will ensure monitoring of sustainable development, which can in turn spur innovative solutions to solve problems or mitigate risks.

Finally a few words on UNDP’s support to SDG localization. We are a global network working in 170 countries and are especially tied in with the Asia Pacific region.

Our support at local level can be structured in three dimensions:

4)     Mainstreaming and SDGs into local planning and budgeting, including the assessment policy trade offs

5)     Accelerating action on issues that have been identified as falling behind, especially on LNOB and sustainability issues.

6)     Sound monitoring and evaluation processes; development of sound and robust state datasets and indicators;

This conference is laying the ground for just this, bringing together local and regional knowledge. It includes break-out sessions to translate discussions into concrete action, taskforce on SDGs to ensure follow up.

UNDP values this collaboration with the Government of Penang, and we are happy to continue to provide our support in the development of the Blueprint on Localising SDGs for the State. We hope that it will promote long-term action towards achieving sustainable development. Once again congratulations to the organizers and I wish you an engaging conference

Thank you

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