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Voluntary National Review 2021

Video Presentation at the HLPF 2021

Malaysia’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) 2021: Key Messages


Sustainable and inclusive development has always been a key principle in the nation’s development planning. Efforts to mainstream SDGs in national development planning were undertaken via the alignment of SDGs in the five-year national development plans, the development of the SDG data and the establishment of a multi-stakeholder institutional framework. Malaysia’s VNR 2021 is the second report submitted as part of the review of the 2030 Agenda. The stakeholder engagement for the VNR 2021 commenced with a formal online inception workshop attended by more than 300 participants. The findings and data collected for the upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan (12th MP) and the SDG Indicators Malaysia 2019 report are also utilised in the VNR 2021. Following the improvement in data collection, the VNR 2021 will provide a more comprehensive evidence-based data as compared to the first VNR in 2017.

National Key Achievements and Progress

Malaysia has successfully transformed its economy, raised living standards, and moved from a low-income to an upper-middle-income economy within a generation. The gross national income (GNI) per capita, expanded about 29-fold, from US$347 in 1970 to US$10,118 in 2020. Among the significant achievements are in eradicating poverty and narrowing inequalities as well as providing better quality of life for the people. The incidence of absolute poverty reduced from 7.6 per cent in 2016 to 5.6 per cent in 2019. Hardcore poverty has almost been eradicated, though pockets among selected groups, and multidimensional deprivations remain. The COVID-19 crisis resulted in some vulnerable households within the B40 income group fell into higher incidence of poverty and widened the inequality. In response, the government has implemented a series of special economic recovery packages to boost growth and protect the vulnerable. Malaysia has also enhanced its food production, where the self-sufficiency levels of 10 major agri-food commodities continue to improve. However, the nutritional aspect of food security has become more pertinent as Malaysia faces double burden of malnutrition, particularly involving vulnerable groups and in times of unexpected emergencies.

Malaysia has been successful in providing quality, accessible and affordable healthcare, on par with those in more developed countries, based on the principle of universal health coverage. The country’s health security preparedness was demonstrated by successfully managing the COVID-19 outbreak. However, health burdens are rising due to an aging population, demands for better healthcare, and the increasing NCDs, which currently is responsible for more than 70% of deaths. Initiatives to enhance the healthcare delivery system to promote a better and healthier lifestyle through a multi-sectoral nutrition framework are currently being implemented.

Malaysia is also making progress towards sustainability and managing climate change by adopting a resource efficient and climate resilient development model. The sustainable consumption and production (SCP) approach was undertaken through creating green market, managing waste holistically, and increasing the share of renewable in energy mix. While various efforts are being made to better coordinate SCP, and climate change at the policy level, technical and financial support are still required in the implementation.

Malaysia continues to practice a unity in diversity approach, while emphasising governance, social cohesion and partnership. It is committed to South-South Cooperation through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme, supporting 144 developing countries through technical and capacity building initiatives. In addition, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on SDGs was established to enhance SDG localisation. The Voluntary Local Reviews have also been initiated to ensure local authorities’ programmes and initiatives are in line with the SDGs.

Way Forward

Moving towards 2030, the national development priorities will continue to be aligned and integrated to the SDGs. The SDG Roadmap Phase 2 (2021-2025) will be formulated to advance the SDG agenda by identifying priority areas, key enablers and critical ‘accelerator points’ for lagging SDGs, ensuring policy coherence across all levels of governments, and recommending strategies and plan of actions. Localising SDGs initiatives will also be further strengthened. The 12th MP will ensure that the people will benefit from socioeconomic development, achieve inclusivity and social cohesion, and improve general wellbeing. Malaysia will advance green growth towards a low-carbon nation, ultimately attaining carbon neutral future. Effective execution of the 12th MP will contribute to achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Voluntary National Review 2017

1. Malaysia started its journey on sustainable development since 1970s when the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced in 1970 to eradicate poverty and restructure societal imbalance. All the subsequent 5-year Malaysia development plans have underscored the elements of sustainable development encompassing sustainable economic growth, growth with equitable distribution to all sections of society, access to basic infrastructure and utilities, access to education and healthcare services and mainstreamed environmental conservation.

2. In 2009, Malaysia formulated the New Economic Model (NEM) which further cemented Malaysia’s commitment to pursue sustainable development based on three pillars, namely high income, inclusivity and sustainability, which mirrors the three elements of the SDG, namely economy, social and environment. The NEM provides the basis for 5-year Malaysia development plan until 2020. The current 5-year Malaysia plan i.e. the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) is premised on the three pillars of NEM. The theme of 11th Malaysia plan is “Anchoring Growth on People” where people will be the centerpiece of all development efforts and to ensure that no section of society is left behind in participating and benefiting from the nation’s development.

3. Malaysia is, therefore not starting anew on its pathway to sustainable development but it is a process already in motion. Some of the achievements to date are as below;

a. SDG 1&2: Absolute poverty reduced from 49.3% (1970) to 0.6% (2014) with no reported cases of hunger;
b. SDG 3: Child and maternal mortality rates are almost at the level of developed countries; eradicated endemic small pox and polio and reversed the spread of HIV/AIDS. Drastic reductions in water-borne diseases, deaths from treatable childhood diseases and malaria;
c. SDG 4&5: More than 90% enrolment rates for primary and secondary school levels for both boys and girls and 33% for higher education with gender ratio slightly in favour of girls;
d. SDG 6: Over 95% coverage for water and sanitation, and electricity supply at national level;
e. SDG 7,12 & 16: Laws, regulations, policies and plans in place to better protect and ensure sustainable use of natural assets;
f. SDG 8: Full employment since 1992;
g. SDG 10: Income inequalities reduced, as indicated by lower Gini Coefficient from 0.513 (1970) to 0.401 (2014); and
h. SDG 13, 14, 15, &17: As of 2015, maintained more than 50% forest cover, 10.76% as terrestrial protected areas and 1.06% as marine protected areas. Carbon intensity reduced by 33% since 2009, increasing renewable energy capacity. Malaysia also participates in international trans-boundary conservation efforts like the Coral Triangle and the Heart of Borneo initiatives.

4. The Agenda 2030 increases the resolve to pursue the journey on sustainable development more aggressively. Thus, Malaysia has aligned SDG principles with the 11th Malaysia Plan, which will entrench SDGs in all facets of Malaysia’s development. The Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak made his commitment during UN General Assembly in 2015 that Malaysia will adopt the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and its implementation.

5. To embrace and implement the 17 SDGs in a systematic and measurable manner, Malaysia has taken the following initiatives;

a. established a multi-stakeholder, participatory governance structure;
b. held two national SDG symposiums to promote participation of stakeholders;
c. conducted studies on data readiness and gap analysis;
d. undertaken a mapping exercise involving non-government and civil society organisations and the private sector to align SDGs with the 11th Malaysia Plan initiatives; and
e. established a National SDG Roadmap to guide implementation of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

Moving forward

6. Next steps to be taken include:

  • localising SDGs at sub-national levels by replicating the national multi-stakeholder governance structure at state levels;
  • mobilising resources and funding through partnerships i.e. crowd sourcing, social entrepreneurship, CSR programmes, support and funding from international sources; and
  • strengthening data readiness and filling data gaps to develop a comprehensive dataset for SDG implementation.


7. Malaysia can and should be ambitious with the goals and targets for the SDGs. We have demonstrated that we can set and achieve “higher targets” through sustained and systematic effort. Malaysia has in place the implementing mechanism for the SDGs with sustainable development initiative aligned with the 11MP, the implementation will be a relatively smooth process. The National SDG Roadmap sets out the priorities and plan of action for implementation.
Focal point
Mr. Azhar Noraini, Director
Environmental and Natural Resource Section
Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister's Department
Block B5 & B6, Parcel B
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62650, Putrajaya
+603 88723231
Documents & Reports

Partnerships & Commitments
The below is a listing of all partnership initiatives and voluntary commitments where Malaysia is listed as a partner or lead entity in the Partnerships for SDGs online platform
Coral Triangle Initiative

The Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) is a multilateral partnership of six countries working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues such as food security, climate change and marine biodiversity.There is broad scientific consensus that the Coral Triangle represents a global epicenter of marine life abundance and diversity. Spanning only 1.6% of the planet’s oceans, the Coral Triangle region is home to is home to the highest coral diversity in the world with 600 corals or 76% of the world’s kn...[more]

Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste with USAID, Australia Government: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, ADB, GEF, Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Wide Fund for Nature
Action Network
Sustainable Development Goals
Enhancing South-South cooperation for capacity building in science: Towards Economic Resilience to Natural Shocks in the Pacific and Southeast Asia

The Government of Malaysia and the United Nations for Education, Sciences, Culture and Communications Organization (UNESO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 15th November 2011 under the Malaysia UNESCO Cooperation. The MOU was initiated in 2009 by the Honorable Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia who announced at the 35th General Conference of UNESCO, the establishment of Malaysian Cooperative Trust Fund which will contribute to enhance South-South cooperation for capacity building in education and science for the benefit of the Least Developed Countries, S...[more]

UNESCO, National University of Malaysia (UKM), University of Technology Malaysia (UTM), University Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), University of South Pacific (USP), Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Melbourne University, Local Disaster Risk Management and Climate Ch...[more]
Action Network
Sustainable Development Goals
Eradicating Fish Bombing in Sabah by 2020

Sabahs Anti-Fish Bombing Committee is committed to the long-term protection and sustainability of its precious marine biodiversity through a network of appropriately managed Marine Protected Areas, together with rational management of activities taking place outside the MPA network. Notwithstanding, Sabah faces chronic threats to coastal ecosystems from IUU and destructive fishing, management of which are integral to achieving SDG Goal 14. The illegal and destructive practice of fish bombing (also known as blast fishing) is a matter of grave and continuing concern in Sabah. In order to a...[more]

Sabah Parks Authority (Government), Department of Fisheries (Government), Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (Government), Polis Di Raja Malaysia, Sabah Wildlife Department, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Immigration Department of Malaysia, WWF Malaysia (NGO), Stop Fish Bombing! (NGO), Marine Conservation Society (NGO), ReefCheck Malaysia (NGO), Green Semporna (NGO), Forever Sabah (NGO), S...[more]
Action Network
Sustainable Development Goals
IHO Hydrography Capacity Building Programme for Coastal States

The IHO capacity building programme seeks to assess and advise on how countries can best meet their international obligations and serve their own best interests by providing appropriate hydrographic and nautical charting services. Such services directly support safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, efficient sea transportation and the wider use of the seas and oceans in a sustainable way, including the protection of the marine environment, coastal zone management, fishing, marine resource exploration and exploitation, maritime boundary delimitation, maritime defence and security, and o...[more]

International Hydrographic Organization (IGO); 87 IHO Member States (Governments); International Maritime Organization (UN); World Meteorological Organization (UN); International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (NGO)
Action Network
Sustainable Development Goals
Promoting South-South Cooperation through Climate Change Education in Asia-Pacific Small Island Developing States

This partnership aims to enhance regional cooperation on sustainability challenges by leveraging the resources and expertise of UNESCO and the Malaysian Higher Education Leadership Academy to build the capacity of teacher training institutions in small island pacific states to deliver locally-relevant Climate Change Education.The partnership will build upon prior and ongoing initiatives in CCE in Asia-Pacific SIDS, with the ultimate goal of upstreaming CCE approaches and materials to pre- and in-service training provided through MoEs

UNESCO Jakarta, UNESCO Apia, Malaysian Ministry of Education (Educational Planning & Research Division, Higher Education Leadership Academy (AKEPT)), Ministries of Education and Teacher Training Institutes in target SIDS.
Action Network
Sustainable Development Goals
United Nations