ONE New Year gift that must surely cheer up all Malaysians is the appointment of Penang Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif as executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements programme (UN-Habitat).
Maimunah makes history by becoming the first Asian to hold this prestigious job, and her appointment helps meet one of UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ promises to see women in more of UN’s senior most positions.
UN-Habitat is considered one of the most active agencies of the international body. Maimunah will oversee 400 core staff, up to 2,000 project-based employees, four regional offices and activities in more than 70 countries.
A key focus of the agency will
be UN’s New Urban Agenda, a
20-year vision for sustainable cities adopted at the 2016 Habitat III conference in Ecuador.
UN-Habitat predicts the number of people living in cities will almost double to seven billion in 2050 from 3.7 billion today, with many mired in squalor if urbanisation is poorly managed.
Encouraging and overseeing adoption of UN’s sustainable urban living goals worldwide is an awesome challenge, to say the least, especially so given recent declines in funding for the 40-year old agency.
Malaysian women have proven themselves up to such international challenges many times, however. In fact, holding key UN positions is part of a tradition of public service par excellence rendered by our female compatriots.
Maimunah follows in the path of Tan Sri Rafiah Salim, who served as assistant secretary-general for human resource management at UN headquarters in New York from 1997 to 2002. Rafiah was instrumental in the reform agenda at UN laid out by then secretary-general Kofi Annan in five core missions: peace and security, economic and social affairs, development cooperation, humanitarian affairs, and human rights.
As head of human resources, Rafiah’s mandate was to improve the efficiency of the UN machinery, which included heading a task force of experts from different world regions sharing diverse human resource management experience from the public and private sectors.
Similarly, Malaysian astrophysicist Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman was also appointed by Annan in 1999 to serve as director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna. At our government’s request, she returned to Malaysia in July 2002 to serve as the founding director-general of the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa), where her work led to the launch of
the first Malaysian angkasawan (astronaut), Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.
After five years, Mazlan returned to Vienna to reassume the directorship of UNOOSA, appointed to a second term by then secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. In that reprised role, she addressed such daunting issues as international cooperation in space, prevention of space debris and collisions, use of space-based remote sensing platforms for sustainable development, coordination of space law and the risks posed by near-earth asteroids.
A third highly notable example of Malaysian women in leadership roles at the world body is Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, who, since January last year, has served as under-secretary general for partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Before joining IFRC, she served at UN in New York as chief of the World Humanitarian Summit and of the UN Population Fund’s Humanitarian Response Branch.
Before her UN career, Jemilah in 1999 founded Mercy Malaysia (Malaysian Medical Relief Society), a medical charity inspired by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). In 2008, she was one of 16 members appointed by then UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to the Advisory Group of the Central Emergency Response Fund.
It is a source of great pride to Malaysians to see the contribution to world affairs of our women leaders. Having my own window on the UN, I can testify that these top posts are hotly contested and strictly awarded on merit; government lobbying can only do so much. When a UN secretary-general signs an appointment, you can be sure the nomination passed a rigorous search process in which a committee vetted and pared a long list of candidates down to a very few final choices.
Why do Malaysian women excel at such stratospheric levels? I can venture a few reasons: First, a solid education from an early age available in our country and the high female enrolment rate in our universities. Second, a robust public service working environment. After all, these high-flyers were plucked from the prime of their public careers back home.
Some 35 per cent of top management posts in our public sector are filled by women, as noted recently by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who wants
even further improvement in keeping with Malaysia’s strong track record in women’s rights.
It won’t be a surprise, therefore, that in the not-too-distant future, we will have a woman chief secretary to the government — perhaps even a secretary-general of the United Nations.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and former official of the United Nations University News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/319695/united-nations-and-malaysian-womens-power
COLOMBO: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today was welcomed by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat, before both proceeded to a four-eyed meeting for about 30 minutes.
The two premieres then joined a bilateral meeting with delegations from both countries for almost an hour, before witnessing the signing of three memoranda of understanding.
The first MoU between the two governments involved cooperation in the training of diplomats.
The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MiGHT) signed an MoU with Sri Lanka’s Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation for cooperation in “Foresight and Science2Action”.
The third MoU involved Malaysian Bioeconomy Develoment Cooperation Sdn Bhd on a collaboration in science, technology and innovation activities as well biotechnology sector.
Najib, along with delegates from both sides, will later attend an official luncheon hosted by Sirisena at his residence.
He will then hold a one-hour roundtable meeting with captains of industry comprising Malaysian, Sri Lankan and international firms mostly in the services sector.
They include those from telecommunication, information and communication technology, manufacturing, tourism, financial services and agriculture.
As of 2016, Sri Lanka was Malaysia’s 41st largest trading partner, 33rd largest export destination and 67th largest import source.
For the same period, Malaysia was Sri Lanka’s 10th largest trading partner, 37th largest export destination and sixth largest import source.
Malaysia’s total exports to Sri Lanka amounted to US$ 579.9 million last year (Jan-Oct 2017: US$483.4 million).
Its major exports included petroleum products, palm oil and palm based products, chemical and chemical products, electrical and electronic products and sawn timber and moulding.
Total imports from Sri Lanka stood at US$59.2 million last year (Jan-Oct 2017: US$60.2 million).
Malaysia’s major imports included textiles, apparels and footwear, processed food, natural rubber, petroleum products and rubber products.
Malaysia has a total investment of US$3.1 billion in Sri Lanka with 47 projects spanning 8,335 jobs.
Source: New Straits Times
GRIEVING the loss of his grandfather to a heart attack, a 14-year-old in India learned that a unique enzyme is found in victims of heart attack. Indeed, our bodies produce the enzyme in the hours beforehand.
Intrigued, he wondered, what if someone at high risk of a heart attack could watch for that enzyme in real time? What an advantage it would be to be forewarned in such a situation and to immediately take the medical steps known to avoid or reduce the impact of a heart attack.
The boy pursued his idea and learned that the enzyme can be detected on a patient’s skin. Therefore, he reasoned, it’s possible to create a non-invasive monitor for the telltale heart attack marker. The result of his curiosity was the recent award of a valuable patent for just such a device, now being clinically tested, with the potential to save many lives.
The story was told by India’s legendary Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and chairman of Axilor Ventures during the inter-sessional meeting of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council on Sept 30, making a point about breakthrough thinking — the Nobel mindset.
It illustrates well the sometimes simple makings and process of scientific innovation. Certainly, a genius mind helps, but isn’t required. Education, observation and curiosity combine to create an idea for improving some aspects of our lives, leading to a test which, more often than not, will fail at first. But, with perseverance, good ideas succeed. And, even those that don’t work out often lead to others that do.
Malaysia is blessed with many brilliant young minds and we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to create an environment in which they get their chance to change the world.
It was my proud honour, therefore, to join the British high commissioner, Vicki Treadell, to recognise some of our brightest researchers with the prestigious Newton-Ungku Omar Prize, one of five awards used to advance and scale up promising scientific ideas in Malaysia, India, Thailand and Vietnam.
There were five projects shortlisted for the prize in Malaysia this year, and the recipient of the RM635,000 award was Professor Dr Phang Siew Moi and her team from Universiti Malaya (UM). In partnership with researchers from Cambridge University, the UM team successfully demonstrated how tropical algae from agro-industrial wastewater could be used to create bioelectricity. It represents a true win-win-win: produce electricity, lower carbon dioxide emissions by using green energy and treat wastewater. The team’s next challenge: power an entire rural house with this energy source in five years.
Others in prize contention:
A TEAM from City University of London and UM’s Photonics Research Centre developed novel rain and humidity sensors to
detect landslide movement, a way for Malaysians to mitigate future monsoon damage and casualties.
A TEAM from the United Kingdom’s Cardiff University and the United Nations University’s International Institute for Global Health, based in Kuala Lumpur, researched links between health in urban centres and such variables as a city’s walkability, river restoration and food systems, identifying lessons urban planners might also draw from indigenous knowledge.
A TEAM from UK’s University of Southampton and Universiti Sains Malaysia created a network focused on infectious disease vaccines that target a limited number of bacterial strains, which allows new, more pathogenic, antibiotic resistant strains to emerge, increasing the risk of epidemics. The problem is expected to grow with climate change, industrial air pollution and changes in seasonal monsoon patterns.
All four projects, supported by the London-based British Council and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (Might), through their joint Newton-Ungku Omar Fund, were dedicated to addressing climate change and sustainable urbanisation.
The UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering and Malaysia’s Academy of Sciences, meanwhile, partnered to support the fifth finalist project, led by researchers from Liverpool John Moores University and UM. They developed a way to make electronics systems, including wireless medical devices, more reliable and secure from, for example, the threat posed by hackers.
Seeing what our researchers can do, we are encouraged as we struggle to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, and to adjust to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). It may be trite to believe that there has never been a more pressing need for curious, innovative and creative thinkers. Perhaps every generation has considered their time more perilous and challenging than any before. But, it certainly feels justified saying so these days as we confront daunting issues stemming largely from our species’ overwhelming success, to the point where humanity constitutes such a dominant force that we define a new geological epoch.
Pessimists have been a constant throughout human history. I’m not one of them. Ours is a smart species; we will find
the way forward. My hope, though, for the sake of future generations, is that we, in our time, are smart and mature enough to anticipate and prevent the problems we’re creating before they, in theirs, must react and cure.
In either case, we need all brains on deck. The maximised creative talents and innovative potential of every young person in Malaysia will be essential to success. And, we are grateful, therefore, to the many international colleagues and collaborators who share their resources and expertise with us in such effective ways.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (Might). New Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/12/313172/we-need-all-brains-deck