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Countries need to conquer environmental degradation at all levels, says UNDP Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei resident coordinator. 

THE UNDERLYING principles of “leaving no one behind” and “sustainability” that cut across the 17 goals of sustainable development do not distinguish between developed and developing countries.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Resident Coordinator Stefan Priesner said even the wealthiest and most powerful societies have yet to conquer inequality, discrimination, and environmental degradation.

“And so all countries, at national, state and local levels, need to redouble efforts to achieve the goals,” he said in his welcoming keynote address on the first day of the Pangkor Dialogue 2017 in Ipoh on Monday.

On leaving no one behind, Priesner said the country had mainstreamed this concept five decades ago but because of emerging challenges, new sets of policies and interventions are required.

“For example, the issue of aging was not relevant before, but as more and more people reach old age because of improved healthcare, it is now becoming important.

“There is obviously need to continue focusing on women’s equality and on marginalized segments of society.

“The good news is that we have better mechanisms than ever before to do so. The age of technology and big data allows us to target those in need of more in line with our policies,” he said.

Noting that the other big principle of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is environmental sustainability, Priesner said biodiversity degradation through loss of land, wildlife trafficking and climate change has accelerated dramatically in only a few decades.

“The numbers say that we are moving further away from sustainability and recovery every year.

“It is important to remind ourselves that biodiversity is not only about iconic animals, it is about ecosystem services – services that a healthy system of biodiversity provides, such as water supply, protection against flooding and erosion, food and so forth.

“The links between environment, disaster-risk reduction and economic development are very important. I have seen in Central Asia that a whole sea half as big as Peninsular Malaysia disappeared because of unsustainable and inefficient water management. People that were once wealthy fishermen are now living impoverished in a desert.

“Elsewhere, I have seen that the clearing of mangrove forests on the Bangladeshi coast has made villages vulnerable to cyclones and typhoons.

“These are examples of unsustainable practices that are hardly reversible. Even in my own home country Austria, riverbeds regulated by concrete channels in the 1970s are now dug up and built back to their former natural bed because flooding has become worse. The SDG require us to carefully analyze the trade-offs between economic growth and environment degradation and find win-win solutions,” he said.

The Pangkor Dialogue 2017 which ended on Tuesday, was organized by the Institut Darul Ridzuan with the UNDP and Northern Corridor Implementation Authority as strategic partners.

Source: The Star | 14 September 2017

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