The National SDG Roadmap: CSO Reflections

KUALA LUMPUR – On March 14, 2017, ASLI’s Centre for Public Policy Studies and the CSO-SDG Alliance hosted a discussion on the National SDG Roadmap with the theme of ‘leaving on one behind’. The event was held at the PAUM Clubhouse,
Kuala Lumpur.

Discussions centred on themes such as environment & sustainability by Lavanya Rama Iyer (WWF); human rights and the Universal periodical review by Rizal Rozhan (EMPOWER); poverty & inequality by Dr Lin Mui Kiang (PROHAM); gender mainstreaming by Sunitha Bisan (NCWO), and access to justice by Andrew Khoo (Bar Council). From the presentations and feedback from participants, ten key pointers were recognised as inputs in preparing the National SDG Roadmap.
First, it is recognised that Malaysia has seriously taken the SDGs goals for public policy planning. Synergies were recognised between the SDGs and the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. This is especially so in the chapters addressing the educational, health & human wellbeing, the Bottom 40%, the multidimensional poverty indicators, and in the green growth for sustainability. Though this was a very good start, the challenge is in its implementation.

Second, it was also acknowledged that the Economic Planning Unit has created the spaces for CSO participation at the national discussions in 2016 and also in the National SDG Steering Committee, thematic cluster groups as well as the in the specific taskforces. CSOs appreciate the spaces given and hopes for ongoing participation in planning, deliver, monitoring and implementation recognising that this is a fifteen-year agenda incorporating three Malaysia Plans (Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth).

Third, it was recognised that much of the focus in national policy discussions have been on the 17 SDG goals along with the 169 targets and 230 indicators. While this is necessary and important, it is necessary to draw on the UN Transformational document – Agenda 2030 which has the substantive background, ethos and ideology undergirding the goals, targets and indicators. Without the framing documents and themes the exercise will become a mere technical process withiut substance and depth. It will miss the focus on paradigm of sustainability development.

Fourth, several thematic and cross cutting concerns were highlighted. It was noted that the National SDG Roadmap discussions lacked the discussion on the philology of sustainability and development such as the balance between people, profits and planate in a sustainable way. It is not enough just to use these terms as slogans but it must be ingrained as the conflicts and contestation comes in the implementation and often economic and business value and considerations are placed on higher priority than people and the environment.

Fifth, of utmost importance is to strengthen our understanding and commitment in three areas, namely, towards a sustainability agenda and framework, then on gender mainstreaming or gender lenses not just SDG 5 but the whole agenda for change, as well as human rights as a cross cutting theme of not just economic, social, cultural rights but also civil and political rights namely that people have right to voice their concerns and participation in holding State actors accountable. Access to information becomes a central right for participation and holding the State actors accountable.

Sixth, it was also noted that there were mismatches between the targets and indicators set at the global level. There is a need to have national indicator setting forums to formulate the specific indicators which will capture the aspirations of Malaysians at the national context. In this context, alternative indicators could be developed such as indicators for natural capital and its value, wellbeing or quality of life index and multidimensional poverty index for B40 and urban poor which capture their aspirations for social mobility and wellbeing.

Seventh, it was noted that local governments, including the district offices at the grassroots play a major role in SDG implementation. There must be more work done in creating greater awareness and enhancing their ‘buy-in’ in this process especially from agency officers at the district level as well as the local authorities. They must adopt a sustainability agenda for local governance. The Local agenda 21 was mentioned as a good example but its full potential was not tapped at the local governance level.

Eight, it was also expressed that there should be a review on specific issues and recommendations raised in the UPR process on human rights compliance alongside the SDG goals and targets. The common areas and concerns should be tabulated and discussed. This will enable the National SDG Roadmap to also take note of the UPR obligations.

Ninth, that the role of CSOs and nature of engagement need to be more clearly defined. CSOs do not want ad hoc participation and want to be equal partners with the public sector at planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. They like to ensure that there are adequate structures and resources that can enable effective participation. It was strongly expressed that public funds should be made available to CSOs in implementing the SDGs especially in undertaking awareness programs, coordination, capacity building and enhancing the richness, quality and diversity of CSO engagement in this process.

Finally, it was also noted that CSOs enjoy engaging with the public sector, a process which should be strengthen through alliances with the private sector as there are many good CSR initiatives by businesses. It is hoped that more public sector companies, especially the public listed ones will also adopt the sustainability ethos and framework for the total operations in additions to undertaking CSR projects.

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