As Malaysia charts its development path to high-income advanced nation status by 2020, the Cabinet has approved an innovative arrangement where government bodies can engage UNDP for on-demand technical and policy advisory services. These are aimed at top national priorities such as accelerated and inclusive poverty reduction, gender equality, green growth and public sector reform. Malaysia’s first co-financing agreement with UNDP, in 1976, commenced with the Government contributing 25 percent of total costs. The share has risen steadily to 60 percent in recent years reflecting the growing confidence in UNDP as a partner in overcoming remaining development hurdles on the way to Malaysia becoming a high-income country.
The added value of UNDP
UNDP offers long experience as a pioneer of new thinking and innovation on core issues such as inclusive growth, human development and the sustainable stewardship of natural resources. Given our extensive expertise and strong relationships within Malaysia, the Government sees UNDP as a strong development partner in fine-tuning its national and subnational policies in order to close remaining gaps in the development process.
The technical expertise offered a source of rigorous analysis and evidence to shape policies and programmes in Malaysia, and an avenue for enhancing participation of a cross-section of citizens in advancing national and subnational development agendas. Increasing space for innovative, strategic engagement with extended and innovative citizen-centric service delivery, advanced the application of multidimensional measures of poverty and tracked the many barriers which kept people from moving out of poverty. Assistance on promoting the national green growth agenda spanned steps to manage climate change impacts, prevent further degradation of land and biodiversity, and extended low-carbon development. Other efforts helped shine a spotlight on gender equality and women’s empowerment across all socio- economic plans and programmes.
In the next few years, UNDP inputs will be instrumental accelerating the work on the SDGs, supporting environmental policy coherence and access to climate finance, and brokering new partnerships with the private sector. Assistance will also help Malaysia extend cooperation with other developing nations by sharing lessons from its own experiences and innovative approaches, while learning from others.
Redesigning an inclusive future in Malaysia
UNDP worked closely with the Government during an intensive two-year consultation process to design the 2016- 2020 11th Malaysia Plan. Aligned to the five-year National Development Plan to operationalize the SDGs, it drew a number of insights from a UNDP-assisted National Human Development Report, ‘Redesigning an Inclusive Future’. UNDP also convened broad-based consultations, including with NGOs and academia, to provide inputs and policy options on sustainable production and consumption patterns.
This close partnership led the Government to play an active role in the design of the new UNDP Country Programme Action Plan 2016-2020, ensuring close alignment to selected national priorities in the 11th Malaysia Plan. In tandem, government co-financing doubled for the UNDP Country programme. UNDP’s policy support services will focus on six core areas of cooperation: an equitable society, well-being for all, accelerating human capital development, green growth, enhanced infrastructure and economic growth re-engineered for greater prosperity.
Working closely with the Economic Planning Unit and 12 line ministries, UNDP provides policy services related to analysis, research and modelling; institutional capacity-building; innovative development solutions; and policy recommendations and pathways. These services are provided as part of policy development exercises, independent assessments and evaluations, and thematic focus group discussions. They will support stronger statistical indicators aligned to the SDGs as well as high-quality reporting under international conventions and treaties.
As an example of how service provision will work, the Economic Planning Unit and UNDP developed a comprehensive action plan to address the increasing cost of living, particularly impacting the bottom 40 percent in terms of income. UNDP’s use of ‘open space technology’ to guide transparent, botton-up consultations allowing inputs into policy and decision-making by relevant stakeholders and communities is considered particularly helpful for well-targeted, innovative development.
This methodology uses an unconventional technique in which there are no pre-planned discussion topics or pre-set event formats, beyond an overarching central theme. All participants have the liberty to suggest topics and self-organize into groups according to issues they are most passionate and concerned about. Together, they eventually shape solutions to the challenges at hand. This approach to central planning strategies was first successfully applied by the Economic Planning Unit and the UN Country Team in Malaysia to identify key priorities during the Post-2015 Development Agenda National Consultations in 2014.
Consultations on development solutions for the bottom 40 percent income group began in late 2016. Insights gleaned is used in an action plan developed through collaboration among the Economic Planning Unit, UNDP and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and elaborated through further consultations with ministries, academia and civil society organizations. The plan is expected to define interventions covering issues such as price control regulations, access to affordable housing, a more integrated and comprehensive social protection system, and financial and debt management.
In helping to guide the dialogue process, UNDP draws on leading academic and other experts. Some will advise on the most strategic use of open space forums, while others reinforcing a move towards a more inclusive focus on the multiple dimensions of poverty, since the longstanding classification of the bottom 40 percent rests on income alone.