Accelerating SDGs in Policy & Services At the Local Levels: Civil Society Perspectives

Published on 13 Nov 2019

The Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance acknowledges that since September 2015 there has been some efforts to integrate SDGs into the development planning by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Statistic Department too have undertaken some major steps in documenting SDG delivery based on targets and indicators. The Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance has been engaging in the process.

Arising out of the 11 papers are five key concerns and recommendations as listed below. The attempt here is to take a number of major concerns. However, each of the papers described in full, the concerns and recommendations.

1        Development not based on charity but a rights-based framework

Civil society places a strong emphasis on human rights-based on the Right to Development approach. The ideas pertaining to inclusivity in development and in addressing inequality is built on the foundations of human rights. In addition, CSOs make specific reference in this document in compliance with the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous People Rights (page 33) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (page 27).

In this context, poverty eradication for the indigenous people is closely linked to land ownership and disputes which is multi-dimensional and at the heart of the problem as well as its solution. Land is a livelihood concern for indigenous people and there must be greater provisions for the indigenous community conserved areas to protect human rights and natural areas (page 19).

Exclusion from land rights upon which the indigenous people’s livelihood is dependent upon is the root of all multi-dimensional poverty. The recommendation is for a special land tribunal to fast track disputes and moratorium on all land grabs. There must be full consultation before any forest land is developed with the local indigenous people.

CSOs call for a radical change in the development agenda especially in the way development is to be measured by not focusing on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There is a need to balance this with the development of Green Economy Indicators, the development of environmental accounts for national accounts and a better utilization of the Malaysian Wellbeing Index (Page 20).

2        Inclusivity and more realistic measurement of poverty

SDG and the theme of ‘leaving no one behind’ provides a good opportunity to identify the most vulnerable sections of our society. Addressing inequality is essential but at the same time, there is a need to recognise that providing opportunity on a “one size fits” approach alone will not bring results. Existing inequality and historical disadvantage into account need to be taken into account.

CSOs call upon the government to seriously review the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on poverty, especially on measurements through public discussion and interaction with academics and CSOs. Failure to gauge the actual rate of poverty and the root causes might lead to a failure to invest appropriately in policies and programmes geared towards reducing poverty and providing adequate social safety net that meet the people’s needs (page 23).

In addition, issues pertaining to gender equality (pages 27), stateless children and youths must be resolved as to ensure that they are enjoy their rights as citizens (page 42).

3        Towards Environmental Justice & Sustainability

CSOs have raised concern that many in the public sector and private sector has not fully understood the basic concept of ‘sustainable resource management’ (page 58). The development model has been biased towards profits and has not been consistent with resource conservation.

Another area of concern is wildlife crime (page 18) such as poaching, illegal wildlife trade, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (page 16). This is also a security threat as poachers are often armed foreigners entering Malaysian territory.

By way of recommendations is a call to enshrine rights to a clean and healthy environment (page 20) in the Federal Constitution so that stronger environmental laws and policies can be developed. There is a need for more cohesive action to be taken in terms of investigations and enforcement, and facilitate greater public participation (page 19).

4        Localising SDG and effective delivery

While the Ministry of Economic Affairs has been effective in incorporating SDGs into the development planning agenda, there is concern that this has had very little impact at the Ministries at the Federal, State and local levels.

CSOs recommend that the Federal government undertake an SDG awareness programme and a capability building programme for both state and non-state actors. There is a need to collect disaggregated data (page 51) and undertake periodic assessments (page 51).

One major development for the CSOs is the partnership with parliamentarians through the All Party Parliamentary Group on SDG. For 2020, a pilot study of 10 parliamentary constituencies have been selected. This provides a good opportunity for parliamentary oversight and monitoring of how effective the localisation of SDGs is taking place at the local level.

5        Robust engagement:  Moving from being consulted to becoming a partner

While there has been consultation for receiving input from CSOs, it is not a partnership which enables access to information and to be part of the decision-making process. Holding agencies and the executive accountable is difficult due to this reason. The call from CSOs is for meaningful stakeholder engagement which involves in the full cycle such as needs assessment, planning, delivery, monitoring and evaluation. However, CSOs are not being treated as equal partners nor invited to participate in the development cycle.

In order to realise the full partnership among multi-stakeholders, it is proposed that the government formulates a national policy of engagement so as to institutionalise this engagement process at the Federal, State and local levels.

Two related aspects are the access to information (page 13) and the access to justice (page 8) for citizen’s action. It is noted that there is much secrecy (page 60) and there is a need for the government to introduce a Freedom of Information Act (page 55 & 61) including access to open data (page 51).

In this call for great citizens’ action, access to justice is most essential. We need to address the issues of ‘locus standi’ which currently limits citizens’ action in the context of public interest litigation.

In this context, strengthening institutional governance and holding public officials and servants accountable is most essential. There have been many new initiatives in this direction since mid-2018. However, this needs to be strengthened. The setting up of an Ombudsman Office for Good Governance to track public sector accountability is a step in the right direction (page 12).


13 Nov 2019