FINANCING THE SDGS: MALAYSIAN PRIVATE SECTOR ROLE IN BRIDGING THE GAP FROM GOALS TO ACTIONS
Highlights of Keynote Address
Mr. Stefan Priesner
United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei
11 September 2019
Yang Berhormat Dato’ Rashid Hasnon, Deputy Speaker, Dewan Rakyat
YB Steven Sim, Deputy Minister, Youth & Sports
Mr Rizal Ishak, Director, RRJ Capital
Datin Seri Sunita Rajkumar, Chairwoman, Caring Group & Founder of Climate Governance Initiative
Puan Dzuleira Abu Bakar, CEO, MaGIC
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a pleasure for me to be here again today and I would like to thank the Deputy Speaker for hosting this event at the Parliament – on this important topic of ‘‘Financing the SDGs and the Role of Private Sector in Bridging the Gap from Goals to Action“.
I will focus my remarks today on charting a profile of the SDGs with special reference to Malaysia and ‘making the urgent case for private sector involvement’. I will argue that private sector has a hugely important role and that it makes sense to get involved not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes business sense.
The SDGs come at a time, when, globally speaking, mankind has made unprecedented progress in human development – never before were so many people well educated, lived longer and had higher income at their disposal. This of course is largely due to consecutive industrial revolutions (we are in the 4th now) and associated technological quantum leaps, it is due to economic growth coupled with social advancements.
However, this incredibly rapid development has left people behind (poverty is still a reality in 21st century) and has also resulted in a track record of environmental damage that quickly needs to be reversed to avoid making our planet uninhabitable. Climate change is a reality and world leaders will meet in two weeks in New York to discuss how to urgently accelerate action. The extinction of flora and fauna is happening several thousand times faster than the natural attrition rate. The oceans are polluted with plastic, which – if action is taken at the current pace – will have more mass than the combined marine biomass by 2050.
Indeed, we only have to look around us – at what is happening to people and the planet, global trends and the economy – to see that the call to action is an urgent one and cannot be ignored.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
- Since 2015, the world embarked something entirely new and ambitious journey – a universally agreed and powerful vision to make the world a better place by 2030.
- The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs were agreed by all 193 member states of the United Nations.
- It is a vision of a balanced development between economic growth, social inclusion, environmental protection and peaceful societies.
- With clearly defined targets and indicators – it is measurable! (as private sector, you are familiar with the triple bottom line). And private sector knows “what gets measured, gets done”.
- The SDGs now, provide a much more sophisticated, comprehensive and strongly mandated benchmark against which companies can assess its impact – in terms of responsible and “SDG” compliant investments, innovations, products and services, and even CSR.
- Post the Millennium Development Goals that ran its course from the year 2000 to 2015, the SDGs were developed through an unprecedented consultation process – based on the recognition that the three dimensions of human development was still lagging behind – be it the social, mainly the unfinished agenda of poverty reduction (in all of its multi-dimensional forms), the economic and closely linked to it – the sustainability of the environment that requires an urgent repair agenda.
- The SDGs are therefore built on some very important principles – of leaving no one behind; of environmental sustainability; good governance, gender equality and human rights.
- And the clock is ticking – we have only 11 years to go.
- Annual Global SDG Reports by the UN Secretary-General have consistently shown that we are not going to achieve the SDGs by 2030 – if we do not accelerate our efforts; and if all stakeholders, particular the private sector – do not come on board – to adopt, align and measure themselves against these goals and targets.
- Malaysia is generally seen as a success story of development (in comparison to some other countries).
- However, in the era of SDGs, all countries have a long way to go to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.
- The SDGs come with new challenges (it is no longer about averages – poverty reduction as a percentage of population – but it is about using disaggregated data to pinpoint pockets of those that are left behind).
- As you aware, the Special Rapporteur of Extreme Poverty, in his end of mission report on Malaysia – just a few weeks ago – had highlighted the pockets of poverty and deprivations that still remain (be it in rural or urban areas) and he challenged Malaysia to aspire to much higher standards given Malaysia’s level of economic progress.
- The same applies to environmental issues. Malaysia is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots with teaming biodiversity on land – in your beautiful rainforests and in your tropical oceans. And despite all the efforts wildlife and ecosystems are still degrading and much more concerted action and investment is needed to reverse these trends.
- We commend Government for its efforts in aligning its development planning and budgeting with SDGs.
- The Ministry of Economic Affairs is developing the 12th Malaysia Plan – for the period 2021 to 2025.
- And we, the United Nations (we are 19 agencies working in Malaysia) work with the Government on this – currently 22 positioning papers developed by UN family on issues from LNOB, environmental dimensions, human rights aspects, gender, IR for development 4.0, etc.
- This is part of a comprehensive cooperation with the Government on SDGs – on overall mainstreaming and on specific issues.
- We are also working with Government on business and human rights – which is part of the SDG agenda.
- And we are looking forward to collaborate with parliament, which has a key role to play in its legislative, oversight and representative functions.
- I would therefore like to congratulate the Deputy Speaker, YB Dato’ Rashid and the Parliament for establishing the All-party Parliamentary Group on SDGs.
The need for greater private sector contribution to the SDGs
Ladies and gentlemen,
- Private sector has a huge role to play in the SDG agenda – as creator of jobs, as innovator, promoter of knowledge and technologies, as investor.
- Because the SDGs are globally endorsed, this is a global movement with 100,000s of actors, which will move the needle of the economic paradigm to incorporate social and environmental aspects. These will not be ‘externalities’ anymore, but part of the economic and profit model.
- Governments are adjusting their regulatory and incentives instruments (Sustainable Development Financing Fund was mentioned) and global value chains are providing a further impetus.
- At the same time new orientation of business brings about huge opportunities – Business & Sustainable Development Commission estimates that SDGs will open up opportunities worth US$12 trillion and increase employment by up to 380 million jobs.
- We need the private sector to come in a big way to achieve the national aspirations of the 2030 Agenda. Certain sectors need more attention such as in environment and poverty eradication and I am optimistic the private sector can work closely with the UN and government agencies and contribute significantly towards these aspirations.
How can the private sector contribute?
- Private sector can contribute in several (I will suggest four) ways:
- As SDG-Financiers:
- Ensuring SDG-compliant investment is key role of banks and the business sector.
- In a brand new initiative the UN Environment Programme (or UNEP) has developed the “Principles for Responsible Banking”.
- There are a set of criteria to be fulfilled and steps to be followed such as:
- Impact analysis
- Target setting and implementation; and
- The Principles will be launched on 22 September in NY with the UN Secretary General, UNEP’s Executive Director and other high level officials.
- The first set of signatories are 125 banks from 46 countries jointly representing USD 46 trillion in assets and with that over a third of the global banking industry.
- The list of the Founding Banks for Responsible Banking – include Malaysia’s CIMB; Citibank and BNP Paribas.
- As SDG-Innovators:
- Contributing with innovation or type of business that directly promotes the achievement of the SDGs (such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, social enterprises) or investment into such businesses.
- As I mentioned, there is business opportunities worth trillions.
- Look at what is going on in developing countries with the dramatic shift toward low carbon economies, opening whole sectors of new business.
- Through Aligning your business operations to SDGs:
- Aligning business processes and working modalities with the SDGs (ensuring decent work standards; gender equality; reducing carbon foot print) etc.
- This makes ample business sense given the influence of global value chains and good will on the viability of business.
- Channelling your CSR resources and programmes to where it is needed most – to address SDG gaps in the country as it relates to vulnerable groups and those furthest behind; to preserve biodiversity and ensure environmental; sustainability.
- As SDG-Financiers:
- Specifically for Malaysia we are establishing a TogetherforSDGs platform – to bring the private sector and other stakeholders on board of the SDGs – to help channel resources to where it is needed most; and to showcase best practices.
- Because the SDGs cannot be achieved without private sector, this is part of a larger effort of the UN to partner with the private sector at scale:
- We would like to acknowledge the contributions of the private sector – and will be looking into measurement of impact.
- We would like to partner with the private sector on specific SDG solutions.
- The TogetherforSDGs Hub – will facilitate both: recognition of contributions of the private sector plus partnerships to contribute to the specific SDG related priorities of the UN.
- UN and its agencies is inviting the private sector at large to partner with us at scale and to proactively reach out, so as to achieve solutions that benefit the most vulnerable, at same time benefitting the industries in terms of moving up the value chain and enhancing goodwill.
- I believe that by “mainstreaming” the SDGs within Corporate Malaysia’s day-to-day operations will accelerate us meeting the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
- I hope I have provided a glimpse into where and how the private sector is moving in relation to the SDGs.
- I’m sure some of you here are already on this journey and congratulate you for that.
- For others, do speak to us, the UN system in Malaysia; also to Global Compact – we are here to assist in any way that we can.
- I also, invite you to participate actively in the inaugural SDG Summit that will be officiated by the Hon. Prime Minister himself – it will be held at the KL Convention Centre – on the 6th and 7th November.
- I hope to see you there and wish you a productive dialogue today.