IN Austria in 1973, at the height of the Cold War, six years of effort by United States president Lyndon Johnson and USSR premier Alexey Kosygin culminated in their nations’ joint establishment of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
It marked the beginning of a remarkable project to build bridges between the West and the Soviet bloc — a milestone in science diplomacy, defined as the use of scientific knowledge to foster international relations on a bilateral or multilateral basis.
In a paper for the British Council for the “Going Global 2018 Conference”, held in Kuala Lumpur last week, Dr Jane Knight from the University of Toronto noted that in today’s globalised world, “there is increased interconnectedness and interdependence among countries”.
The desirability of this development is being debated, she said. “Nevertheless, global issues such as climate change, epidemics, cybersecurity, migration, social justice — to name only a few — know no borders. Global challenges are now national challenges and vice versa.”
According to Dr Knight: “In international relations, countries tend to present their self-interests first – it is naïve to think otherwise. But because national self-interests are closely linked to global issues, multilateral cooperation is growing in importance. History has shown us that addressing both global and national issues requires collaboration and a commitment in order to find solutions that respect the individual needs and perspectives of different countries, while at the same time finding a common path to ensure different but relevant benefits for all”.
Some recent multilateral examples are the roles played by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comprised of scientists and experts from various nations to influence the outcomes of negotiations undertaken at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Others include the Intergovernmental Platform on Science-Policy Advice on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Another recent example was the 26-member UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board, established by then-UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to help inform the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through science, technology and innovation.
My earliest first-hand experience in science (knowledge) diplomacy was when I was made a member of the Malaysian delegation to negotiate the CBD in a series of intergovernmental meetings over two years beginning in 1990 for the treaty to be ready for signing at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then prime minister, signed the treaty on behalf of Malaysia.
It was almost a surreal experience. Coming from the university, 30 years ago, I was ill-prepared and hardly at ease as a negotiator in the heady world of the diplomats. They were suave, confident and almost invariably had the gift of the gab honed through years of experience as ambassadors of their respective countries.
Nevertheless, academics bring contributions not readily available to the diplomats — technical or expert knowledge which provide much added-value to any negotiation. It is the synergy of the two that makes knowledge so invaluable in today’s diplomatic relations.
What is needed at the national level is greater fostering of the relationship between academia and the diplomatic service. For example, we need to share research knowledge accumulated in areas of strategic importance in the local universities. Another option: organise dialogues and training workshops at our specialised institutions such as the Institute for Diplomatic and Foreign Relations. Through such collaborations, we would be in a better position to articulate our arguments in international arenas.
Another key question posed by Dr Knight relates to the role of universities in addressing national, regional and international challenges — how to bridge international relations and higher education and research.
Malaysia and the United Kingdom have created a very good example to illustrate this point: the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund (NUOF), a joint research initiative funded dollar-for- dollar by each country. Launched five years ago from a commitment to science and technology in both countries, the agreed research focus from the start has been the impact in Malaysia of climate change in sectors such as water, energy, health, food security and biodiversity loss.
Beyond joint research and an exchange of scholars, the NUOF programme has also built the relevant institutional links between our two countries — a great example of the intersection of knowledge and diplomacy.
As stressed by Dr Knight: “Higher education and research is changing at an unprecedented pace with the development of innovative global research networks, education/knowledge hubs, international joint universities, regional centres of excellence, multi-sector partnerships, and new modes of academic mobility among students, scholars, programmes, providers, research and policies.”
The time is ripe for policymakers to re-examine how this vast body of knowledge could be brought to bear on improving diplomatic relations among nations of the world.
The writer was founding chair of IPBES, and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board
LONG before “sustainable development” became a global buzzword in 1987, the principle of “utilising natural resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” had already been practised by many cultures and individual leaders beyond the Western world.
In this regard the late Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nahyan, father of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), stood out for decades.
Last week, Malaysia hosted the visit of a delegation from the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment. Led by its chairman, Prof Mohammad Ahmed Fahad, and its secretary-general, Dr Meshgan Al Awar, the visit was to celebrate the “Year of Zayed”, commemorating the late leader’s contribution to sustainable development.
Introduced in the influential UN report “Our Common Future”, sustainable development is a philosophy that encourages us to conserve and enhance our resource base while meeting basic needs of employment, food, energy, water and sanitation.
The idea quickly went viral, taken up as the theme of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro — better known as the “Earth Summit”. And, it inspired Agenda 21, the summit’s sustainable development blueprint for the global community.
This was followed by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg which reviewed progress and focused on water, energy, health, food security, and biodiversity loss.
Twenty years after the Earth Summit — Rio+ 20 — leaders from 192 nations renewed their sustainable development commitment in a non-binding document called “The Future We Want”.
Three years ago, heads of government met again and agreed on the 2030 Development Agenda, committing to 17 sustainable development goals (SDG).
Each interrelated goal relates to a vital social or economic issue such as poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanisation, environment and social justice. And, each goal has its own set of targets (169 in total across the 17 goals).
Notwithstanding the global processes taking place in the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed exemplified a leader who walked the sustainable development talk. He is considered one of the world’s greatest conservationists, one whose foresight and vision long preceded the present-day global environmental movement.
According to Zayed: “We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live and to preserve it for succeeding generations.”
“With God’s will, we shall continue to work to protect our environment and our wildlife, as did our forefathers before us. It is a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage.”
Sheikh Zayed founded a programme to protect the country’s wildlife and created a sanctuary for endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx and the Sand Gazelle. Among the results: the symbol of Abu Dhabi, the Dorcas Gazelle, is a protected species and its numbers are increasing. Sheikh Zayed also reintroduced traditional methods of desert agriculture, ensuring that Abu Dhabi will be greener and more fertile.
Sheikh Zayed was born into an inhospitable, arid environment, so when he was appointed the Ruler’s Representative to the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi in 1946, he immediately started to secure a more reliable and sustainable supply of water. He set out to preserve the heritage of falconry and hunting, and, at the same time, ensure the long-term survival of falcons and their prey. He also introduced a humane face to the sport, which he considered art and an invaluable heritage.
It is no surprise, therefore, that in 1999 UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, honoured the former leader by founding the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment.
The foundation launched the Zayed International Prize for the Environment to recognise and encourage environmental achievements that support and promote implementation of Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation for Sustainable Development, the outcomes of Rio+20, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the years, recipients of the Award in the Global Leadership category have included Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Prince Albert 11 of Monaco. The scientific and technological category includes scientific leaders like Bert Bolin, Jane Lubchenco, Partha Dasgupta, Ashok Khosla and Mostafa Tolba.
In the words of former US president Bill Clinton, “Anything written about this man will not do justice to him — he is a very influential man and you can feel his strength and his great dreams of a happy future for his country”.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and co-recipient of the 2014 Zayed International Prize for the Environment (Science and Technology)
From humble beginnings in Birmingham, England, in 1856, plastic has become a mainstay of modern life.
Waterproof, inexpensive, easy to manufacture and shape, plastic has replaced wood, stone, ceramic and many other traditional natural materials. It is now used in everything from pens and plumbing supplies to spaceships.
Indeed, plastic is everywhere — from single-use cutlery, straws and water bottles to components in our electronics, cars and other everyday products.
The fact that plastic does not biodegrade is both a great quality, and a great cause for concern.
Many types of plastic ultimately end up in our oceans — an estimated 12 million tonnes every year. That’s the equivalent of a full rubbish truck every minute, according to Greenpeace. Plastic in the oceans originates from many sources — landfills, litterbugs, plastic microbeads in cosmetic products, and countless others.
By some accounts, the oceans now contain an estimated 300 million tonnes of plastic, much of it pulverised to an invisible scale. In a few decades our oceans could contain more plastic than fish. And we are warned that plastic is now finding its way into our food.
Derived from fossil fuels, plastic and its exponential growth is a threat in many ways, from poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones and causing early puberty. Indeed, new scientific data associate cancer with polystyrene food containers.
“Plastic pollution is now an ever-present challenge,” says Valeria Merino, vice-president of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network (EDN).
“We have all contributed to this problem — mostly unknowingly — and we must work to reduce and ultimately End Plastic Pollution.”
Indeed, ending plastic pollution was the theme of this year’s Earth Day.
According to EDN:
• About 9.1 billion tonnes of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced to date
• We have generated 6.9 billion tonnes of plastic waste
• Only nine per cent has been recycled, and
• Plastic production is predicted to triple in the next 25 years
EDN has built a multi-year campaign to end plastic pollution with multiple goals, which include an end to the production of single-use plastic products, promoting alternative materials, 100 per cent plastic recycling, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behaviour around the use of plastic.
The campaign includes four major components:
Leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution;
Educating, mobilising and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution;
Educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and remove plastics; and
Promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution
In Malaysia, plastic is identified as a major pollutant but the recycling campaigns over the years have had too little impact.
In fact, according to one study published three years ago in Science, Malaysia is the eighth worst country worldwide for plastic waste. It is estimated to produce almost one million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste (waste not recycled or properly disposed of) in 2010.
An alternative to harmful plastic products are biodegradable and compostable plastic products. The Federal Territories and Melaka have decided to allow only biodegradable and compostable products in their territories, the definition of which is based on international standards.
Local industries producing such products are very young. To date, however, 13 suppliers have been certified. And some are showing creative initiative to overcome significant barriers.
The high cost of imported feedstock and energy needed to make these products, for example, means they are considerably costlier for consumers than traditional plastic products.
Some local companies, though, have started using abundant local biomass, such as rice husk and empty fruit bunches from palm waste, as an alternative feedstock. These biodegradable and compostable products have now started to enter not just our local but also international markets.
These companies have proven the viability of the concept of using biomass to produce these less harmful, alternative plastic but need funding to expand their lines, achieve economies of scale and meet the demand.
As the industry is still at a nascent stage, government intervention and support is needed, providing breaks on electricity costs, for example, and other minimal incentives to spur maturation.
An increasing number of countries are already reducing the use of or introducing a total ban on single-use plastic. Others are also considering the option of using biodegradable materials.
England introduced plastic to the world in the 19th century. It is only fitting then that during the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meetingin London, British Prime Minister Theresa May called on the group to join the fight against plastic pollution. It is in our economic interest and our responsibility to join this global effort.
The writer has long preferred to have his morning nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaves.
Source from NST
THE first-ever meeting of Commonwealth Science Advisers and Equivalents took place in London last week, a side event to this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.
Representatives from 22 of the 53 Commonwealth nations – from Australia to Vanuatu – convened “to share experiences of bringing science into the world of policy to help address global challenges.”
Established in 1931, the Commonwealth of former British colonies and protectorates spans every region, religion and culture – a vast, diverse community of almost 2.5 billion people with an interesting demographic profile: 60 per cent are under 30 years old.
As noted by our host institution, the Royal Society (a fellowship of eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence), a significant part of the global scientific community is found within Commonwealth nations. Some 12 per cent of the world’s researchers reside in member nations, in which around 10 per cent of global investments in research and development take place.
The inaugural meeting was co-chaired by Dr Patrick Vallance, the new UK government chief scientific adviser, and Sir Peter Gluckman, chief science adviser to the prime minister of New Zealand —the latter, a relentless champion of efforts to promote science in government policy-making.
Over the past six years, Sir Peter has also spearheaded the creation of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Chief Science Advisers and Equivalents, the International Network of Government Science Advice, and the Foreign Ministries Science and Technology Advisors Network.
The goals of these organisations go beyond simply fostering links among those providing science advice to policymakers. The two-day meeting covered the substance of profound challenges we commonly face — climate change, energy security, food security, epidemics and more — and opportunities for science to better address them.
As Sir Peter sees it, the Commonwealth nations face the same development problems as the rest of the world but we have some shared characteristics: language, common law, and similar parliamentary systems and institutions.
His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and himself a strong patron of science, stressed the increasing importance of science advice to governments and lamented the lack of scientists within the policy-making world.
He lent his full support, therefore, to this new initiative.
“This wonderful organisation called the Commonwealth, I believe, is under-exploited globally, and I think we ourselves sometimes don’t exploit it as much as we could in terms of opportunity that science can provide,” he said.
Themes of the two-day meeting of science advisers mirrored those of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments, which met from April 16 to 20, and included the universally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While achieving the SDGs must involve the private sector, civil society and academia, the primary role of governments in establishing relevant and effective policies is clear and requires both new and more systematic use of evidence.
This demands processes to mutually identify and address knowledge gaps related to climate change, the oceans and global health, for example.
Similarly, there are great opportunities for mutual support within the Commonwealth in the use of science for emergency management and enhancing resilience to disasters — greater information sharing, joint development of guidelines and training exercises.
Among many questions discussed:
WHAT challenges are most manageable with better science (research, capacity building, building research networks, evidence synthesis)?
WHAT joint or collective research and linked evidence-to-policy activities would best advance sustainability?
WHAT are the respective roles of science advisers and equivalents, academies, research providers and ministries in driving the agenda forward?
Sadly today, structures for linking evidence to policy are weak in many of the countries represented, yet some of the Commonwealth countries lead global thinking in this area.
When the meeting concluded, we established a working party to build this fledgling network, specifically by:
CREATING an information exchange to assist the identification solutions to the SDGs particularly those components related to Commonwealth countries that science and technology can assess;
USING the network to enhance cooperation on risk management and emergency responses;
SHARING approaches to data governance, data ethics and technological assessment;
DEVELOPING a strategy for integrating locally derived data across the Commonwealth to address significant challenges such as sea level rise, food security and freshwater quality;
FACILITATING access to large-scale science infrastructure; and,
DEVELOPING capacity building for science advice
With globalisation driving challenges to and connections between nations, science has no geographic, political or cultural boundaries. The scope of challenges demands large-scale science infrastructure and cooperation, and advanced countries need to assist and strengthen the scientific abilities of developing countries.
The Commonwealth offers an excellent platform to further grow international collaboration and networking in science, as well as the positioning of science at the centre of policy-making, both of which need encouragement in every possible way.
Malaysia stands ready and willing to play its role in this noble enterprise.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and an advocate of science diplomacy
NST, Retrieve from: here
Determining how science could create wealth and jobs for the rakyat was the simple, farsighted instruction Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave me when I was appointed his science adviser several years ago.
In Malaysia and elsewhere, science is increasingly found at the heart of policy and decision-making.
Whether the issue is climate change, renewable energy, natural disaster prevention and mitigation, food security, or disease pandemics, policymakers want scientific advice.
But, rigorous, useful and timely science advice is not a trivial matter, and taking careful account of such advice in complex policy areas of interest to many different stakeholders is not always straightforward.
To complicate things even further, many issues are of an international nature, and can only be addressed in a meaningful way through collaboration between countries.
Such collaboration can take many forms, ranging from simply sharing of experiences to the establishment of very large multi-level organisations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Just as many governments around the world have recognised the need to inform their policy decisions with the best knowledge available, some promising initiatives have been started, including the move by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish his Scientific Advisory Board and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council.
Two weeks ago, Islamic Development Bank President Dr Bandar Hajjar likewise established a scientific advisory board comprising 10 leading experts on sustainable development.
Various collaborative platforms have also been established recently, such as the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), the Apec Chief Science Advisers and Equivalents, the Commonwealth Scientific Advisers, and the Foreign Ministries Science and Technology Advisors Network. These are also part of a growing interest in science diplomacy worldwide.
In addition to the post of the science adviser to the prime minister, first instituted in 1984, Najib revamped the National Science Council two years ago to complement the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council for Malaysia which he established earlier in 2010.
Both platforms are intended to assist the government’s efforts to create a high-income economy, and to help raise Malaysia’s international ranking and competitiveness in science and innovation.
Council members, including nobel laureates, distinguished public officials, corporate leaders, academics and economists, advise the Prime Minister on wealth and job creation.
The council’s insightful international experience and advice greatly assists Malaysia in the development of policies and strategies. Both platforms are also fine examples of the so-called science-policy nexus.
In Malaysia we see science, technology and innovation as an engine for socio-economic development, creating jobs and increasing income levels.
And, we are most fortunate to have the necessary ingredients to make this case a model of success in national development.
Blessed with abundant natural resources, what we need now is a motivated and hardworking society with high moral values and discipline, and the proper application of science to serve our needs and aspirations for greater achievements.
In our case, science, and indeed the whole spectrum of knowledge must be developed and utilised as a tool to fulfill our aspiration of peace, prosperity, unity and justice for all Malaysians.
Today, many nations look to science as a means of overcoming the middle-income trap. Scientific advances and technological innovation are important drivers of economic performance.
The ability to create, distribute and exploit scientific knowledge and technology is a major source of competitive advantage and wealth creation, lifting the quality of life for all.
This too, was one of the main reasons the prime minister launched the National Transformation 2050 (TN50), envisioning Malaysia among the world’s top 20 nations in the next three decades. The Government has committed to a bottom-up approach to realise TN50, thus ensuring our future direction reflects the people’s aspirations and needs.
Last year, Malaysia hosted the INGSA South East Asia Government Science Advice workshop in line with the goal of strengthening science advice, particularly in developing countries.
This was INGSA’s first capacity building workshop in the region. The most significant outcome of this workshop was the establishment of the Asia chapter for INGSA.
The Asia chapter, led by one young, up and coming Malaysian academic, Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam of Sunway University will enlarge INGSA’s reach, promote information dissemination and access, raise awareness, support training, and encourage research.
Besides building the regional and inter-regional networks of science advice practitioners, the chapter will support regional policymakers and promote demand for science advice.
While scientific research should always have a place in a country’s national development plan, it is important to ensure that its outputs must have relevance to our needs.
For R&D to be relevant, science must stay close to national policies. And it is only through a formal science-policy nexus that this role can be delivered effectively.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is a former lecturer who has found a new interest in science diplomacy.
Retrieve from News Straits Times. URL :here
ROUGHLY one in every 10 people on earth today lives in extreme poverty — defined as less than US$1.90 (less than RM8) per day. Of the 700 million or so people in these dire conditions, many reside in member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Indeed, one in every five citizens of OIC countries — 21 per cent — lives below that US$1.90 per day world poverty line, double the proportion found worldwide. Of the OIC’s 57 member states, 21 appear on a roster of the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). And yet, OIC nations possess 70 per cent of the world’s energy resources and 40 per cent of its natural resources.
These statistics are particularly painful when we consider that they apply to a great and proud civilisation. For more than 1,000 years, the Islamic empire was the most advanced and civilised in the world, founded on Islam’s emphasis on learning, education, observation, and the use of reason.
Islam stresses the importance and respect of learning, forbids destruction, and develops in Muslims a respect for authority, discipline, and religious tolerance — teachings that inspired and nurtured high accomplishments in both science and medicine.
During Islam’s Golden Age, Muslims made immense contributions to the arts, sciences and to the cultural growth of humankind. Today, we can make far fewer such claims.
Of the three Muslim Nobel Prize recipients, all made their mark while working in industrialised countries. The knowledge-based economy predicated on science, technology and innovation (STI) is still an elusive dream for most parts of the Muslim world. And, as a consequence, we are relatively poor.
It is against this backdrop that the new president of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr Bandar Hajjar, embarked on a crusade to alleviate poverty when he assumed office in 2016. Poverty alleviation is an essential pre-requisite to achieving at least six of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by world leaders in 2015 for achievement by 2030, namely:
GOOD health and well-being;
CLEAN water and sanitation;
AFFORDABLE and clean energy, and,
IMPROVED industry, innovation and infrastructure.
Taking up its part in the vital poverty alleviation effort became the clarion call of the IsDB during its 43rd annual meeting in Tunis last week. Success in implementation is underpinned by the use of science, technology and innovation (STI), seen by the IsDB as “a key catalyst and pivotal driver of development”.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is Science Adviser to the Prime Minister, and a member of the newly established Scientific Advisory Board to the President of the Islamic Development Bank
email@example.com. News Strait Times
Retrieve from: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/04/355053/transforming-oic-states-member
Oceans cover about 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, and some 70 per cent of the oceans are beyond national jurisdictions.
These marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) — commonly called “the high seas” — are places where no country has sole management responsibility (areas beyond the authority of one country). Altogether, ABNJ make up 49 per cent of our planet, 64 per cent of the oceans’ surface, and nearly 95 per cent of the ocean’s volume.
ABNJs are rich in biological diversity, and proven to be an important source of novel genes and natural products. Given that so much biodiversity in the ocean remains unknown to science, there is a great potential for discovering new species and genes which could benefit our lives. The search, discovery and commercialisation of new products based on biological resources is known as bioprospecting.
An estimated 95 per cent of ocean life by weight is microscopic, with viruses constituting by far the most abundant ocean life forms. A rich source of proteins with a wide range of functions, viruses are perhaps the greatest reservoir of largely unexplored genetic diversity on earth.
Many deep-sea organisms (or “extremophiles”) have unusual molecular and metabolic characteristics that have allowed them to adapt and thrive in highly pressurised conditions. Understanding their biological make-up could have valuable applications in our world above.
The development of pharmaceuticals, enzymes, cosmetics and other products from marine sources is not new. In fact, back in the late 1960s, the shallow-water sponge was the source of chemicals that led to the development of an anti-leukaemia drug, and subsequently in the 1980s, the HIV drug.
Similarly, the venom of the cone shell resulted in the development of a synthetic compound used in a painkiller. Antifreeze proteins from cold-water fish and other organisms are used to improve the quality of frozen foods, such as ice cream, by inhibiting re-crystallisation and maintaining a smooth texture. These are, but, a few examples of the wide range of uses and applications of what are called “marine genetic resources” (MGRs).
The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the principal international legal instrument for the oceans, provides a framework that clarifies the nature of rights over different portions of the oceans and introduces some of the fundamental principles and duties of ocean conservation.
UNCLOS, however, has failed to address a number of matters, such as the conservation of marine species and ecosystems, particularly in ABNJs, and how countries can have access to and sharing of benefits arising from the development of these resources.
Provisions of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) also extend to marine biodiversity and are not overridden by UNCLOS. The CBD establishes that the responsibility of the states are “to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”. Large gaps in our ocean governance system have long been known; addressing them has been a somewhat plodding process.
At the Rio+20 Summit in 2002, states committed to developing an international instrument under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJs, and in 2005, the UN General Assembly established a group to study the issues.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly agreed to develop an internationally legally binding instrument (ILBI) under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJs. And, late last December, the General Assembly agreed to convene an inter-governmental conference to elaborate on the text of such an instrument.
Behind all these developments and activities are economic interests. The discovery of manganese nodules in the deep seabed, for example, was a catalyst for establishment of the legal regime governing ABNJ.
In the past, Malaysia has championed the interests of developing countries in issues related to the common heritage of humankind. A case in point is Antarctica. Research, development and bioprospecting in such areas are expensive and require high-tech skills which normally reside in industrialised countries.
When negotiations on the ILBI start this autumn in New York, Malaysia must insist that it has provisions for access to and the sharing in the economic and other benefits of genetic resources. This should include the participation of developing countries in future research undertakings in areas beyond national jurisdiction, technology transfer and capacity-building.
Negotiating the agreement on marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction will be the first global treaty process related to the oceans in over two decades. Its importance cannot be overstated, representing as it does a once-in- a-generation opportunity to transform the management of nearly half the planet.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is science adviser to the prime minister and a member of the Malaysian delegation that negotiated the UN Biodiversity Treaty during 1990-1992.
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/04/351946/bioprospecting-high-seas
ONLY 25 of 100 countries evaluated by the World Economic Forum are positioned to benefit from Industry 4.0. Malaysia is one of them.
In a report, “Readiness for the Future of Production”, the researchers used new benchmarks, diagnostic tools and data to help countries understand their readiness for the future of production, as well as corresponding opportunities and challenges.
The assessment framework has two main components: “Structure of production” (a country’s baseline of production), and “drivers of production” (the key enablers that position a state to transform production systems and capitalise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR).
There are 59 indicators across these two components. The report defines “readiness” as the ability to capitalise on future production opportunities, mitigate risks and challenges, and be resilient and agile in responding to unknown future shocks.
One example of companies leading the way into the future of production in Malaysia is First Solar, a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar energy solutions with more than 10GW installed worldwide.
This installed capacity produces enough clean electricity annually to power five million households, save more than 18 billion litres of water, displace seven million metric tons of CO2 per year, and reduce other air pollutants by 89 to 98 per cent.
This American company started operation in 2008 and Malaysia hosts the largest high-technology manufacturing site for First Solar’s advanced thin- film PV modules.
The 65ha Kulim High-Tech Park employs talent from universities and provides the community with high-tech jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri led a delegation from Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) to First Solar Malaysia.
“Strategic investments by global technology and manufacturing leaders like First Solar will help Malaysia realise its 4IR goal and our local talent will also gain from the exposure and become world class.”
First Solar Malaysia managing director Datuk P’ng Soo Hong said: “First Solar chose Malaysia as a base due to the ability to find and retain good talent, well developed and excellent infrastructure, political stability and pro-business government policies.
“Malaysia is firming up its position as one of the largest solar panel producing nations and overtaking much larger competitor nations as world-class companies start to expand their capacities in Malaysia.”
The government’s efforts to provide free education have contributed to the development of a skilled workforce in the country. Coupled with the population’s command of the English language, foreign investors in Malaysia can expect accessibility to a valuable pool of local talent to help further their business ambitions.
Recently, Malaysia secured 27th place in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2018. It was ranked among the top 10 most talented competitive countries in Asia Pacific, beating South Korea.
Based on the “Malaysian Solar PV Roadmap” prepared by Might, Malaysia is on course to becoming a major player in the solar power industry, particularly in the manufacture of solar PV cells and modules.
Malaysia is the third largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the world, after China and Taiwan. Malaysia has an almost complete solar ecosystem of some 250 companies involved in upstream (producing wafers and cells) and downstream (inverters and system integrators) activities.
The Malaysian Investment Development Authority said the value of exports by solar manufacturing companies here was RM11.1 billion while local sourcing activities were valued at RM1.42 billion in 2016.
Manufacturers talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of using new technologies such as sensors, robotics, and data analytics to gain insights into product use, improved productivity and improved competitiveness.
New techniques will change the products, processes, and relationships involved in every aspect of industry. Better customer experiences, higher levels of efficiency and more highly skilled jobs will be part and parcel of the 4IR journey.
The opportunity is clear, but this will disrupt traditional business models.
Our local high technology industry cannot, however, opt out. 4IR is upon us, whether we like it or not. The world turns, as always. But now it turns on a dime, or rather a computer chip.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is the science adviser to the prime minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/349424/riding-wave-4ir
ON March 8, we were again reminded of our vulnerability to natural disasters with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in Sabah. Although there was no casualty, more than 100 climbers on their way to Mount Kinabalu were temporarily halted.
Professor Felix Tongkul of Universiti Malaysia Sabah identified it as a new quake, not an aftershock of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake in 2015 which killed 18 people and left many others injured.
Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and intense, contributing to the displacement of people leading to humanitarian crises, with the poor most severely impacted.
Between 2001 and 2006, middle-income countries with rapidly expanding assets have borne the largest burden of such disasters, with losses equal to about one per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) — 10 times the losses inflicted on developed countries, relative to the economy.
In the Pacific’s small island developing states, climate change-related losses reach as high as eight per cent of GDP, with worse yet to come.
In Asia generally, climate change-related hazards increasingly will impact human health, security, livelihoods, and poverty. Rising coastal, riverine and urban flooding leading to widespread damage to infrastructure and settlements has been identified as one of the region’s 10 critical risks, gradually challenging Asia’s resilience and development gains.
Malaysia’s main climate change-related hazards are floods, landslides, thunderstorms, forest fires, and haze.
In 2014, we experienced unprecedented flooding with more than 500,000 people affected, 21 lives lost, more than 3,000 houses destroyed, and over RM2.8 billion in damage to public infrastructure.
Last October, extreme rainfall triggered a landslide at a Penang construction site, killing 11 people.
In 2015, this and neighbouring countries were enveloped in a severe episode of transboundary haze, presenting serious health risks.
Disaster risk reduction has been integrated into Malaysia’s overall national development plans over many decades, with science and technology applied in regulations, policies, guidelines, standards, procedures and early warning systems operated at state and local levels. Involved agencies include the Meteorology, Drainage and Irrigation, Minerals and Geoscience, Public Works, and Environment Departments. The private sector and scientists from academia are also deeply involved.
Concerns about the increasing frequency and impact of disasters, however, have prompted several new national initiatives. One of these is the establishment of a Scientific Expert Panel (SEP) to provide timely and evidence-based advice to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).
This panel has been officially endorsed by the National Science Council, chaired by the prime minister, and is complementing and enhancing Nadma’s efforts as a national coordinating agency.
Fostering relevant scientific and technological innovation and capabilities is a vital contribution to mitigating the impact of catastrophes, as is strengthening the science-policy interface and robust evidence-based reporting.
We need to carefully harness this potential to reduce disaster-related harm to people both directly and to our economy, with a specific focus on protecting the poor in vulnerable situations.
To quote former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, “Climate change harms the poor first and worst — the poor are the most vulnerable and have the least resources with which to adapt”.
SEP members are helping formulate the National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) — identifying and prioritising actions to build resilience and to reduce the exposure and vulnerability of communities.
This includes, for example, how to promote sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, thereby strengthening adaptation to extreme weather, drought, floods and other disasters.
To be effective, we need to promote public-private and civil society partnerships, and to build capacity to innovate and to share information at local levels to enhance recovery processes.
There is no single approach for reducing risks across all settings and there is an urgent need to understand specific disaster risks in national and local level contexts.
Effective measures must consider the dynamics of vulnerability and exposure, and their linkages with socioeconomic processes, sustainable development and climate change.
FOR disaster prevention: big data and analytics, in conjunction with improved weather and flood forecasting modelling, will allow future disasters to be accurately predicted;
FOR disaster mitigation: advanced flood walls can contain waters, preventing damage to infrastructure and assets,;
FOR disaster preparedness: drones can provide real-time, on- site situation information linked to public warning systems;
FOR disaster response: robotics can support relief and clean-up efforts, accessing areas too dangerous for humans; and,
FOR disaster recovery: reusable ecohomes can provide quick, easy way to build temporary housing, using waste from the disaster zones.
It is primarily in cities and towns that the most effective disaster resilience can be built. National, state and local governments, academia, civil society, business and other stakeholders will each play a significant role translating science into action.
It is our hope that the STI Plan for DRR enhances cooperation between stakeholders, improves information, communications and knowledge sharing, and empowers our greater use of technology to protect lives and our hard won economic progress.
The writer, Zakri Abdul Hamid is a science adviser to the prime minister, co-chairs the SEP with the director-general of Nadma. He can be reached via email@example.com
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/346768/harness-science-reduce-impact-catastrophes
Protecting nature is no longer deemed a whimsical luxury. It is an economic, cultural and ecological necessity.
Increasingly, conservation is accepted as part of mainstream policymaking because nature provides us with so many essential services — pollination, pest control, food security, medicine and preventing the spread of diseases.
Think about the importance of pollination, for example. Most of the world’s food crops and wild flowering plants depend on pollination by bats, birds, bees and butterflies, which are, therefore, guarantors of human food security.
Intensive agriculture, pesticides, pollution, invasive species and climate change pose threats to pollinators and, therefore, to human wellbeing. In addition to pollination, bats consume large numbers of harmful insects, thereby reducing damage to crops, the need for chemical pesticides, and the spread of malaria, dengue fever and other diseases.
Growing awareness of these animals’ vital role, thanks in no small part to a landmark Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessment report on pollinators launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2016, has encouraged nations to take steps. The United Nations even recently declared May 20 as World Bee Day.
In addition to their vital services, animals are also the bedrock of a multi-billion-dollar global ecotourism industry.
Animals are simply beautiful and fascinating, and their contribution to national economies is considerable. Tourism is booming worldwide with more than 1.1 billion foreign trips made in 2014 and one of the most vibrant sectors is eco-tourism, the branch that includes wildlife watching.
Ours ranks among the world’s most biodiverse countries with large numbers of endemic species, part of internationally renowned hotspots such as the Coral Triangle and Sundaland — home to elephants, monkeys, orangutans, tigers, tapirs and rhinoceroses.
Naturally, Malaysia’s share of the tourism business is big — around 25 million tourists every year, many of them attracted by this country’s aquatic and terrestrial wonders.
Studies have shown that wild animals can generate far more income alive than dead. The meat and gills of a Manta Ray, for example, might bring US$500 (RM2,000). A living specimen can, however, contribute tourist revenue of millions of dollars over its lifetime.
To protect our natural heritage, and corresponding economic interests, we must not only act at home but must also engage internationally.
There are five international conventions working towards the protection of biodiversity: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Malaysia is a party to the first four, but, curiously, not to CMS. Negotiated by world governments in the late 1970s, CMS coordinates global action to conserve land-based, aquatic and bird wildlife that cyclically and predictably crosses international borders.
Migratory species are an integral part of the world’s fauna, but are threatened due to climate change, pollution, habitat loss, illegal trade and poaching.
CMS has 124 parties, including Brazil, India and other G20 countries and the list continues to grow with the United Arab Emirates being one of the newest recruits. These countries recognise that conserving migratory species is the responsibility of all Range States and that the convention provides a platform through which to collaborate.
Malaysia, notwithstanding its rich wildlife, has yet to join, despite having signed the regional instrument for marine turtles of the Indian Ocean concluded under CMS.
Certainly, Malaysia is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed at a United Nations summit in September 2015 and attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Among the tools at Malaysia’s disposal to turn good intentions into real achievement on the ground is active membership of the biodiversity-related conventions, because a clean and flourishing environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development.
Many of the species in Malaysia occur here and nowhere else. Malaysia therefore bears a duty to ensure their survival. But many species also migrate through Malaysia, and the country has a shared responsibility as one link in the chain of the life cycles of marine turtles, whales, dolphins and dugongs as well as countless birds.
Malaysia succeeded in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the precursors of SDGs, to which the Malaysian government is also committed.
CMS is of direct relevance to the implementation of SDGs, in particular, goal 14, relating to life below water, and goal 15, life on land.
Surely it is time for our country to accede to CMS, to complete Malaysia’s membership in the set of international environmental agreements, and to fill an important gap in the Convention’s global coverage.
Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, is science adviser to the prime minister and the founding chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/344196/animals-good-our-health