In September 2015, world leaders agreed on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would support countries to address social, economic, environmental, and, to a certain extent, political challenges seeking to set the global community on a different path, in the hope that it will result in better outcomes on the ground. The SDGs, officially known as Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace and larger freedom. The implementation of SDGs in all forms and dimensions is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement to shift the world into sustainable development.
In working towards realizing these goals, it is important to note that the concept of inclusive sustainable development requires a more complex model. It is imperative that inclusive and sustainable development gets buy-ins from stakeholders in government, the private sector, NGOs and individuals, thus rendering the 20th century development model obsolete. All sectors have a significant role, as their participation will turn ideas into actions at all levels. A partnership at the international, regional, state and local levels will strengthen support for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In working towards achieving the goals, the parties involved should incorporate innovation and technology in their inclusive and sustainable development blueprint to turn ideas into reality. As mentioned by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its report in 2012, innovation and technology have played a central role in all aspects of development in the growth dynamics of successful developing countries. The application of innovation and technology has transformed from high-technology consumer products to one that helps address challenges specific to the socio-economic development process such as building an eco-friendly infrastructure and business processes.
This can be achieved by shifting from the traditional linear economic model to a circular or doughnut economic model. The latter is more relevant today as it is in tandem with the objectives of the 17 SDGs set by the UN. All sectors of the economy, its players and households will be included as they have an equal role to play. Manufacturing of consumer goods by using bio-degradable materials, substituting hydrocarbons with renewable energy and application of green technology by industries are among the instruments used in the circular economic model so that all economic activities, growth and development are sustainable in the long term.
To ensure that there is continuity in sustainable development, enriching and empowering youths in achieving inclusive and sustainable development becomes increasingly critical. Youths are future leaders, entrepreneurs, social workers, scientists, doctors, engineers and teachers. They determine the type of investments and jobs to be made, the type of goods to be produced and the kind of knowledge needed. Youths represent the chance to diversify the country’s economy towards a more sustainable path while harnessing new technology, new services and new ways of working and communicating. Their receptiveness to new ideas and technology can infuse into organizations and hence, their ideas and talents need to be harnessed in developing a more dynamic economy that will generate growth in the creative sector, performing arts and multimedia and cultural preservation.
The rapid migration of the population, particularly youths, to urban areas in search of jobs, raises an urgent need to build and create sustainable cities. Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, and social development and have enabled people to advance socially and economically. However, challenges exist in maintaining their sustainability, including pollution, congestion, inadequate housing and declining infrastructure. Therefore, governments and stakeholders need to leverage on innovation by deploying advances in technology by harnessing green energy, efficient waste management systems, allocation of resources such as land and water and provision of basic needs and services. This poses bigger challenges to authorities as in most cases, the rate of economic development has outpaced the ability of authorities to manage these issues. This increases the need for long-term innovative solutions that will incorporate the participation of city dwellers in their effort to build sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities.
Due to the wide nature of sustainable development, a holistic approach is necessary so that development is not only sustainable but is also inclusive as sustainability depends heavily on social capital. Hence, it is crucial that stakeholders work cohesively and adopt a more aggressive approach in addressing issues pertaining to social protection and empowerment as this will help to reduce urban poverty and narrow the income and gender inequality gaps that are associated with urbanization. Current policies need to be reviewed to improve access to sustainable livelihoods and entrepreneurial opportunities and education. Innovation and technology may be utilized to enhance the mode of delivery in our education system, generating a more educated society that will increase the employability of both men and women, increase household incomes and provide better access to health services.
In addition, a mechanism to include women employed in informal industry needs to be in place so that their contribution to society, economic growth and development can be quantified. Policy makers and stakeholders will be able to identify the right policies and strategies to be implemented in addressing issues related to women such as health, education and empowerment. Perhaps the advent of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), will provide more opportunities for women to be in formal employment as they will have equal and just access to job opportunities, lifelong learning, personal development, health and recreational activities.
With regards to the elderly, policies and action to foster healthy aging can help tackle inequities and ensure older people age safely in places that are right for them, are free from poverty, can continue to develop and can contribute to their communities while retaining autonomy and health. Healthy aging will help build societies that are cohesive, peaceful, just, secure and sustainable.
The task to maintain peace, harmony, law and order is becoming more pressing as information and transactions have become borderless in the digital era. Since cross-border barriers and boundaries have been reduced the threat of terrorism and crime are becoming more imminent and challenging. Digitization has elevated criminal activities to a global scale paving the way for cybercrimes, cyberwarfare and the spread of extremist doctrines. Economic activities can be disrupted and financial markets crash, leading to economic depression, social unrest and disharmony. Stakeholders are often confronted with the challenges in combating conventional crime and cybercrime of limited resources, assets and personnel. International collaboration between the authorities and security agencies have thus far been effective in combating criminal and terrorist activities but more needs to be done to stay ahead of any possible threat that will jeopardize economic growth and sustainable development.
Financial institutions through sustainable financing mechanisms, play an important role in pursuing the 17 SDGs. Due to the transformative and sustainable nature of the new development agenda, all possible resources must be mobilized if the world is to succeed in meeting its targets, including financial resources. Financial institutions bridge the gap in providing the funds needed for research and development and implementation of projects that are supportive of SDGs. Given the principles of Islamic finance that support socially inclusive and sustainable development activities, the Islamic financial sector has the potential to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals via its instruments such as Waqaf, Sukuk, carbon credit etc.
As such, with regards to the above, this year’s Pangkor Dialogue aims to gather insights on the possible challenges and solutions in turning ideas into reality through innovation and technology to achieve the sustainable development goals in Agenda 2030 by discussing the following pertinent questions:
- What are the policies that are needed to encourage the realization of new and existing ideas in the pursuit for inclusive sustainable development?
- Is there a need to establish a platform for the respective parties to work in cohesion?
- Will the parties concerned be willing to adopt and invest in supporting the SDGs through a participatory process with innovation and technology?
Eight focus areas/sub-theme have been identified and will be discussed in groups during the parallel sessions.
- Technology & Innovation
- Imagination & Creativity
- Sustainable, Inclusive & Resilient Cities
- Financial Sustainability
- Environmental Sustainability
- Social Protection & Empowerment
- Peace, Rights & Security