Make sustainable development a priority, green groups tell political parties

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Deforestation in Malaysian Borneo - Photograph: Rhett Butler/mongabay.com.

In an open letter to all Malaysian political parties, 16 civil society groups have called on them reavel their plans for sustainable development so that voters can make an informed choice.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by 193 countries including Malaysia in September 2015 at the United Nations summit, encompass environmental, social and economic dimensions. These are now considered as universal goals for development and indicators of a country’s wellbeing.

We believe that environmental conservation deserves a greater emphasis in your aspirations for our country. Sustainable development should be a goal that ensures a win-win in the environmental, social and economic dimensions. By informing voters of your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia, you allow them to make informed decisions with their votes.

We, the undersigned, urge you to recognise the environmental aspirations of the citizens of Malaysia, especially the youth by:

  • including these aspirations in your party manifesto; and
  • ensuring they are given high priority to ensure sustainable development for current and future generations. We appeal to you to inform the voters how you will work towards realising those aspirations for the benefits of the people and, more specifically, what would you do in the first 100 days, if you are elected to form the government.

Malaysia is recognised as one of the top 12 countries in the world for megabiodiversity. We are blessed with tropical rainforests, mangroves, peatland, montane forests, which rank Malaysia the fourth in the world for most tree species.

Our surrounding seas are important parts of the Coral Triangle, which contains more than 75% of the world’s known coral species. Our biodiversity is certainly one of the reasons why many tourists come to Malaysia.

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As we all know, humans cannot survive without nature. While development is meant to increase our standards of living and grow our economy, unsustainable development inadvertently destroys the environment – the environment that provides services we take for granted such as our clean air, fresh water, food, and protection against extreme weather.

In the end, we are left worse than expected, and this does not need to be the case. We must aim to achieve development in a sustainable way to balance our aspirations for economic growth without compromising our natural capital (environmental assets, social systems, cultural resources). Only then can we ensure higher standards of living for current and future generations.

In the absence of sustainable development and without proper protection of nature, the risks of flash floods, air pollution, landslides, shortage of water supply, and expanding urban heat islands will increase. We have already seen such events happening and their frequency and intensity will get worse due to the pressures of increasing populations and changing climate.

Let’s not forget the role forests, wetlands and oceans play in providing food, nutrients and recreational space for humans, regulating the climate and buffering against extreme weather.

This open letter has been prepared in a neutral and non-partisan manner on behalf of our supporters – your constituents.

They expect us to engage with the political system to advocate sustainable development and to urge you to make this a priority above party politics. By informing the voters your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia, you allow them to make informed decisions with their votes.

READ MORE:  Planet before profit

We thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Biji-biji Initiative
Civil Society Organisations for Sustainable Development Goals (CSO-SDG)
Alliance Ecocentric Transitions
EcoKnights
Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM)
Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Spiral
Malaysian Nature Society, Kuching Branch
Power Shift Malaysia
Reef Check Malaysia
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
Sabah Environmental Trust
Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES)
Wetlands International Malaysia
WWF-Malaysia

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