Malaysia’s Voluntary National Review: Inception Workshop & Technical Working Groups Meetings

Over 350 participants from Government, Civil Society and Private Sector joined a full day inception workshop to begin Malaysia's 2nd Voluntary National Review

Yang Berhormat Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (in charge of Economy),

Yang Berbahagia Datuk Saiful Anuar, Director General, Economic Planning Unit,

Dr. Zunika Mohamed, Deputy Director General (Macro), Economic Planning Unit,

My colleagues from the UN Country Team,

Dr Riccardo Mesiano, and Ms Caitlin Porter, both Senior VNR Advisors who join us from UN ESCAP in Bangkok

Partners from Government ministries and agencies, state and local governments; civil society; private sector and academia.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Selamat pagi and Salam Sejahtera.          

On behalf of the United Nations in Malaysia, I would like to welcome you to this Inception Workshop and Meetings of the Technical Working Groups - for Malaysia’s second Voluntary National Review (or VNR) - that we have the honour of co-organising with the Economic Planning Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department, as the main focal points for SDGs in the country.

I would like to commend Government for its commitment to undertake this review process every four years. I remember when I took up my posting in Malaysia in 2017, Malaysia submitted its first VNR to the High-level Political Forum in New York; and I have witnessed the growing commitment of Government, civil society, private sector and many young people – this has driven a positive, dynamic, whole of society approach to taking the 2030 Agenda.

COVID-19 & the SDGs

This year, as the world continues in its struggle to battle the devastating impact of COVID-19, and as we mourn the loss of 2 million people, still higher numbers of lost jobs and livelihoods and the plight of many others who suffer in the aftermath of the disease -- the need for us to work in solidarity to stay on course of achieving our shared development aspirations as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, has never been more critical.

The pandemic has not only proven to be the biggest stress test in living history to our health systems but also to the resilience of our economies, social safety nets and social cohesion.

It has deepened the already widening inequalities that existed before the pandemic and is testing the robustness of our policies and institutional structures to leave no one behind and protect the planet for generations to come.

The most vulnerable amongst us, the poor, people with disabilities, the aged, children, migrant workers, refugees, the stateless and undocumented persons - are amongst those most affected. Women and girls have been disproportionately impacted in this past one year – through increased unemployment, gender-based violence and burden of care, and as those who make up the majority of healthcare front liners.

The pandemic has also brought to light the strong interlinkages between health and the economy, and between human activity and the environment, biodiversity, and climate change.  Hence while COVID has undercut the progress towards the SDGs, it is very clear that the crisis has also further validated the critical importance of Agenda 2030 and the Global Goals as our shared vision and way forward. 

Importance of Partnerships for Development

Ladies and gentlemen,

Partnerships for development - at the global, regional, national and local levels - has never been more important than it is now. This includes multilateralism; bilateral support between countries in and across regions; public-private partnerships; and greater civil society and community engagement.

It is not a time for pointing fingers but rather for finding solutions. Together. It is a time to regain development momentum and to join forces to build back better, delivering a COVID-19 response that is both inclusive and lasting.

The UN development system as you know is entering its third year of reform and we have repositioned ourselves to support countries attain their sustainable development goals and address the impacts of the COVID-19 in an integrated and cohesive manner.

The UN Country Team in Malaysia comprises 20 UN agencies. And we have developed a joint Socio-economic Response Plan that sets our short term support to the response to the COVID crisis; and a UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) to support Malaysia’s national development priorities in addressing the complex last mile gaps and challenges with the highly transformative targets under the Sustainable Development Goals as the benchmark.  

Indeed, together we can build back better.


VNR Process

We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Government in ensuring a participatory approach in the preparation of its second Voluntary National Review.  And we are greatly encouraged with the participation of multiple stakeholders today.

The VNR is the cornerstone of the review and follow up mechanism of the 2030 Agenda. The VNR seeks to promote the monitoring of progress, the sharing of experiences and the acceleration of action for implementation of the SDGs across all sectors.

VNRs leverage policy changes and strengthen institutional arrangements to catalyse multi-stakeholder engagement and unlock financing for development and other SDG accelerators in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

Member States in adopting the General Assembly Resolution Transforming our world: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in 2015, committed to:

  • Engaging in systematic, robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda:
    • To maximize and track progress to ensure that no one is left behind;
  • The High-level Political Forum – is a platform to:
    • Discuss challenges that countries face to achieve the SDGs;
    • To share best practices and foster mutual learning;
    • To mobilize support and to find ways to overcome common challenges; and
    • To identify and try to address new and emerging issues.
  • This means that the process is as important as the report itself.
  • And since it may not be possible to include everything in the Report, the UN is also supporting the Government in drafting another SDG Roadmap and an Integrated National Financing Framework. These will be ideal mechanisms to detail the follow up to further accelerate SDG achievement. 

Please allow me to recall some of the principles for this reporting mechanism as articulated in the General Assembly Resolution such as that:

  1. It will be voluntary and country-led; open, inclusive, participatory and transparent.
  2. It will also look at the means of implementation and interrelated nature and the three dimensions of sustainable development

The “WHAT” is clear to us through the 17 goals and 169 targets and over 200 indicators.

But the “HOW” is often less clear and much more challenging.

In relation to implementation, I would like to commend:

  1. The Government for aligning its development planning and national budgeting to the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. 
  2. For linking recommendations from its Universal Periodic Review to the SDGs.
  3. Six local governments in Malaysia for taking forward a Voluntary Local Reviews: Shah Alam, Alor Gajah, Kuala Lumpur, Subang Jaya,  Putrajaya and Melaka City.
  4. I would like to express appreciation to the many government-linked companies, private business entities and Financial Institutions who are working on aligning their operations, investment-decisions and corporate social responsibility activities to the SDGs.
  5. Equally the civil society and academia who have organised themselves to support the mainstreaming, implementation and solutioning for SDG attainment.
  6. Also, the establishment of the bipartisan All-Party Parliamentary Group for the SDGs.

Malaysia, will indeed have a lot to share with other countries at the High-level Political Forum in July this year.  

We, therefore, invite all of you to participate and contribute to the consultations that will take place today through the:  

    • Inception Workshop this morning.
    • Followed by three Technical Work Group discussions that will take place this afternoon.

With that, I wish you all, constructive discussions today, to be facilitated by EPU, UN colleagues from different agencies, and our very able consulting team who have been brought on board to ensure a seamless process.

Thank you.

Speech by
Stefan Priesner
Resident Coordinator
Stefan Priesner
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office