KUALA LUMPUR: Digital technology will play a critical role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), although innovation will most likely affect progress in both positive and negative ways, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said the deployment of new technologies is seen to be essential in achieving the SDGs, considering the need for accelerated progress to fulfill the goals by 2030.
"At the same time, as new technologies are usually unavailable to marginalized populations, it will be a key challenge to ensure that no one is left behind, as new innovations often exacerbate existing divides in society between those who can benefit and those who are left behind.
"With the current speed of innovation, many opportunities and risks are still unknown but could rapidly crystallize without regulators being able to respond in a timely manner.
"Hence, a mindful approach towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution is necessary," he said in his speech at the opening of Malaysia SDG Summit 2019 here today.
Present were Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, his deputy Mohd Radzi Md Jidin and United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Stefan Priesner.
Dr Mahathir also said that in fulfilling its sustainable development goals, there would be challenges faced by Malaysia and other nations across the globe.
"Chief among the major global concerns over the last few decades is climate change."
Dr Mahathir added that other concerns include the degradation of forest, marine and freshwater resources; increase in certain hydro-meteorological and geomorphological events; the decline in food production capacities and other environmentally driven economic systems and climate change’s ethical-justice issues such as environmentally induced displacements and migration, the deprivation and sustenance of certain livelihood activities, and the safety and well-being of the more marginalised sectors of society.
"It is, therefore, crucial that we find the right balance between growth and measures needed to address climate change, environmental degradation and sustainable utilization of Malaysia’s natural endowment."
In his speech, Dr Mahathir also reiterated Malaysia's commitment to institutionalizing the SDG within its Shared Prosperity Vision 2021-2030.
"Since gaining Independence in 1957, Malaysia has consistently taken into account the economic, social and environmental aspects in our development plans."
Moving forward with the SDGs, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia recognized the social complexity of resolving sustainable development problems that will require coordinated action by a range of stakeholders.
"This will include government agencies at different levels of government, non-profit organizations, the private sector, academia, organized civil society and individuals."
He said Malaysia has put in place an institutional framework to facilitate the operationalization of the SDGs at all levels.
"Efforts will continue to be taken to ensure coordinated action involving all sectors of society."
Dr Mahathir said in line with the country's Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, Malaysia will focus on governance reforms based on two core principles, namely integrity and good governance.
"The principles of integrity and good governance will be applied across six identified sectors including political governance, public sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement and corporate governance.
"This is expected to result in favorable outcomes such as strengthening accountability and integrity, elevating the credibility of the legal system in tandem with social change and improving the people’s perception and trust towards public administration and institutions."
Dr Mahathir also highlighted that to achieve the ambitious global SDGs, which include ending poverty, improving global health, ensuring universal education, and mitigating climate change by 2030 would require a substantial amount of funding.
"The expected financial burden is beyond the capacity of the government, and cannot be met by official development assistance.
"The role of the private sector, as well as updated financial markets, will be essential."