As world sets new development goals, Malaysia calls for poverty relief within green agenda

November 04, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR - The Prime Minister of Malaysia today outlined his country's position on the United Nations' next set of global development goals, saying they need to address the relief of poverty within a green agenda reflecting deep environmental concerns.

Prime Minister Najib Razak commended the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, http://bit.ly/HpIK1V), a set of eight objectives agreed by nations in 2000 for completion in 2015, which focussed on ending extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease, and noted that Malaysia has met its MDG targets.

To advance the successes achieved under that development blueprint, he said, the replacement Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) under negotiation through the UN need to represent "a unified, people-centered agenda for the post-2015 period, with sustainable development at its core and under the umbrella of world peace."

Poverty eradication, he added, should remain "an overarching purpose of sustainable development."

Recalling the original sustainable development agenda -- Agenda 21 -- universally agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Prime Minister Najib said that "21 years on, it is abundantly clear that problems related to water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity remain the greatest global challenges facing the world today. And obviously, the strength of the words written in 1992 was not matched by the strength of subsequent actions and effort. Little islands of success cannot help us achieve our broader global objectives."

The Prime Minister noted that major geo-political differences have evolved in recent decades, including far greater global interconnections, deepening "both opportunities and risks: opportunities to be influenced and risks to be spread."

In particular, he pointed to risks and challenges posed by climate change, which include "the limitations of quick solutions to guard against climate change and variability, and the need to ensure equity in embracing solutions."

"The resilience of socio-economic and environmental systems is now being tested against the demands of a rapidly growing global population and sustainable economic growth. Malaysia is no exception: we are also actively trying to strike a balance between environmental conservation and development."

"This has not been an easy path for a developing nation," he said. "After all, if we look around the world, many high-income countries achieved prosperity at the expense of the environment, not in concert with it. Nevertheless we take lessons from the experience of others, and striking that delicate balance between development and environmental conservation we must."

Over the past three decades, Malaysia's economy has increased more than a hundredfold, with Gross Domestic Product growth averaging nearly 7% per year. Poverty rates have fallen from 49% to less than 4%. Per-capita GDP has risen from US$370 to more than US$10,000.

At the same time, the country made lower carbon emissions and environment-friendly technologies central planks in Malaysia's sustainable development strategies, foremost among them the New Economic Model.

With help from developed countries in technology transfer and funding, Malaysia is committed to a 40 per cent reduction in the intensity of emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 2020, using 2005 levels as a baseline.

"I am also happy to note that during the Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago, we pledged to the world to keep at least 50% of our country under forest and tree covers in perpetuity. Today, our green cover is at 74% and 56.4% of our landmass is forested."

"For us, this is the crux of sustainable development: to achieve such goals as relieving poverty by availing ourselves of our natural resources without compromising the ability of future generations to do likewise."

In 1992, the world adopted the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," he noted, recognizing that developed countries need to provide resources to support sustainable development in measures relative to the pressures their societies place on the global environment and to the technologies and financial resources they command.

"Malaysia is ready to play its role to realize the spirit of this important principle," the prime minister said, "but we will also expect other countries in particular the developed and industrialized nations to meet their roles and obligations. We must work together if any effort is to have global impact."

"With a majority of the world's biodiversity residing in developing countries, it is essential that any global development agenda renews commitments to coordinated effort and mobilizes resources adequate to effect genuine progress," he said.

The Prime Minister made the remarks at the opening of a week-long series of meetings focussed on priority setting for the early work of a new UN biodiversity organization - the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Often likened to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and chaired by the PM's Science Advisor, Malaysian Zakri Abdul Hamid, the new Bonn-based IPBES was inaugurated this year to serve as a source of authoritative biodiversity science to guide policy making decisions.

Dr. Zakri, recently appointed also to the UN Secretary-General's new Science Advisory Board, acknowledged with thanks the contributions of his nation to the work of the IPBES and pointed to "encouraging signs that the message is getting through and protections are being instituted in many places."

"We must mainstream biodiversity protection in the policies of countries throughout the world, however, and both the IPBES and the global post-2015 development agenda offer rare opportunities to make a deep and lasting impact."
-end-


Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

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