Malaysia Takes Leading Role On Sustainable Development

Malaysia established itself as a leader in the global effort to promote sustainable development with the official launch of the Jeffrey Sachs Center for Sustainable Development at Sunway University. The Center is the first of its kind in Asia.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, officially launched the Center at the university, located in Sunway City — a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. The township is built on what was once barren mining land, but is now home to a vibrant community of 200,000 people living, working, studying and playing in Malaysia’s first Green Building Index-certified township.
In his speech, the Prime Minister hailed the establishment of Jeffrey Sachs Center that it reinforces the government’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and commended the Center for taking a leading role in supporting the government in advancing these goals.

The Center is a catalytic move to mobilise comprehensive collaboration, particularly amongst Southeast Asian nations, to move towards achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University is the result of a gift of USD 10 million from the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, Malaysia’s largest education-focused social enterprise. To date, the gift is the largest financial commitment focused on SDG education and implementation following the adoption of the 17 goals by 193 members of the UN in September 2015.

The SDGs continue the work of the Millenium Development Goals, which focused on ending extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty, but will add the challenges of ensuring more equitable development and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of mitigating the dangers of human-induced climate change.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chairman of the Center, said that the launch of the Center will be an important part of the world’s drive towards achieving the SDGs.

“Asia is the epicenter for development and the launch of the Center will help progress the development of the global community towards the SDGs,” he said.
Founding Trustee of the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation and Founding Chancellor of Sunway University, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, AO, said, “The realisation of these goals is not the sole responsibility of governments. It requires the commitment of all sectors of society- the private sector, academia, civil society groups and, of course, every single individual.”

The establishment of the Jeffrey Sachs Center enhances the global expertise needed to move Malaysia and Asia forward in the area of sustainable development. The Malaysia-based center will develop linkages with leading universities and think tanks around the world and in Malaysia. In addition, the Center will curate the world’s best curriculum, academic, and executive programmes on sustainable development.

In conjunction with the launch, there was an inaugural conference featuring five keynote speakers in the area of sustainability. The event was held at Sunway University in Malaysia on 9 December 2016, titled ‘Moving Decisively Forward on Sustainable Development Now!’ The five experts were:

  • Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University; Director, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network; and Chairman, Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development;
  • Professor Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia;
  • Professor Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Director of the University Center for the Environment, and Director of the Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography, Harvard University, USA;
  • Professor Angelo Riccaboni, Chair of SDSN Assembly; and Rector of the University of Siena, Italy;
  • Professor Xue Lan, Member of United Nations University Council; and Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Professor Jeffrey Sachs’ talk was on “What Does Sustainable Development Really Mean?”, Prof. Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid spoke on “Walking the Talk on Implementing the SDGs: A Case for Malaysia and South-East Asia,” Professor Daniel Schrag covered “Climate Change and Sustainable Development: Opportunities for the Developing World”, Professor Angelo Riccaboni focused on “Food Systems for Sustainable Development: Innovations are Needed” while Professor Xue Lan discussed “Policy Challenges in Implementing Sustainable Development Goals.”