A one-day event was held in Kuching on 28 July 2018, bringing together 150 people representing 45 civil society organisations (CSOs) from across the East Malaysian State of Sarawak. The event was also attended by interested members of the public, research institutions and universities.
Its primary purpose was to introduce the UNSDGs, and bring a better understanding of what they are, and how they influence the work of CSOs in Malaysia.
FSC Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee Exco member Nicholas Mujah, and Malaysian FSC Standards Development Group member Thomas Jalong also attended, and Sebastian facilitated an open forum, mapping out CSOs and the SDGs.
Anthony Sebastian, International FSC member (environment south), and FSC Malaysia representative on the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance, shares his views on the role of civil society in achieving SDGs, and how FSC can contribute.
What’s the significance of having a CSO Alliance?
AS: The 17 SDGs are a much-improved articulation of sustainability measurement, and are very useful in framing the work of government, companies and CSOs. The biggest challenge in Malaysia is providing for an efficient and robust vehicle for engagement between government and civil society. CSOs organizing themselves through such an alliance serves this purpose, and allows everybody to easily know what others are working on, and how the collective efforts across the country come together. Let’s face it, many NGOs don’t even know that their cause feeds directly into an SDG, and neither does the government know this work is being done!
What do you see FSC Malaysia’s role in the alliance?
AS: FSC’s office in Malaysia is still relatively new, but FSC’s greatest strength has always been as a convenor of dialogue. We bring people together, and we do it better than most. Its built into our DNA! As an organisation built around the social, environmental and economic sectors, we have one of the widest portfolios amongst Malaysian CSOs. Our role is as it always has been… we bring people together and deliver great outcomes.
How can FSC contribute to the UNSDGs particularly in Malaysia’s context?
AS: Our work contributes intrinsically to sustainability. Our arena is forests, forestry and the forest industry, from the jungles right into your homes. Delivering the best standard defining sustainable forestry reduces inequalities, removes poverty, catalyses innovative production and sustainable consumption and builds better societies. And through all of this, we deliver life on land and sea. We are the ultimate partner towards SDGs.
What’s your hope towards Malaysia’s new government on sustainability terms?
AS: As a Malaysian, I expect good governance to be the very foundation of everything in this country. The rest will automatically fall into place, over time. FSC is poised to bring a whole paradigm shift for Malaysia’s still lucrative forest industry, and take it into the future. All Malaysia needs is good leadership.
What examples you envision Malaysia can set for other South East Asian countries?
AS: Multi-racialism defines Malaysia, and ultimately it delivered when the time came to change. The example we have set is not that we could change an entire establishment, but that we could do it without violence, and without breaking down our society’s fundamentals. It was about being used to other cultures, other languages, other religions. It is about mutual respect.
Biography of Anthony Sebastian
Anthony Sebastian is a wildlife ecologist by training and a conservation-planning specialist by profession. He served as Chairman of the FSC national initiative in Malaysia for 7 years and currently serves on the FSC International Board of Directors. He has been involved in FSC for nearly two decades. He is the first Asian to have chaired the FSC international board.
Born in Sarawak, Malaysia, Mr Sebastian lives in Kuching. He consults in strategic development planning across Asia and the Middle East. He specializes in the fields of conservation, agriculture and wetlands, forestry, policy and international conventions.