Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Integrating Anti-corruption Initiatives into Sustainable Development Goals

Selamat Datang Ramadhan. Selamat Beribadah Puasa. With this, I wish all my Muslim friends “Selamat Menyambut Bulan Suci Ramadhan 1440H / 2019M”. May the delights of this Hari Raya Puasa bring you lots of happiness into your life and may you celebrate merrily with all your family members, friends and associates. And not forgetting heartily wishing to all Sabahans – Kotobian Tadau Tagazo Do Kaamatan! Happy Harvest Festival! 豐收節快樂! Selamat Hari Pesta Menuai! And to all Sarawakians – Selamat Nyambut Ari Gawai Dayak! Selamat Gawai Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai.

On 25 September 2015, 193 United Nations Member States unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global plan of action with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, to end poverty by 2030, protect the planet, ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, and pursue a sustainable future. Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, this 2030 Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. Sustainable development is about people living a life of dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another. The goals are broad and interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would signal accomplishing all 17 goals. Achieving the SDGs requires the partnership of governments, private sector, civil society and citizens alike to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations.

Malaysia is committed to support and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in a systematic and measurable manner and has put in place an enabling environment through the several initiatives and has taken crucial steps to execute these goals to improve the livelihood of the people. However, sustainable development must not only integrate inclusive economic growth, social well-being and environmental protection; foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies; and be based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity but also making sure that anti-corruption measures and initiatives are included as integral part of the targets for the SDGs. It becomes very difficult to achieve the targets for each SDG as corruption is a major impediment and a risk factor for all SDGs at all stages of the implementation of targets. As we have gone through that how exorbitantly corruption has damaged the international development in all the sectors and when it comes to the implementation of SDGs, anti-corruption initiatives really need to be embedded while setting the performance indicators, goals and means to achieve those outcomes of 2030 Agenda.

Integrating anti-corruption into the SDGs starts with asking the question – how could corruption impede progress on what we are trying to achieve – if actors at all levels start to consider corruption risk as part of their strategic planning and activity planning and implementation, that would already mean substantial progress. It can be done in various ways, through effective anti-corruption legislation, through effective implementation of already existing anti-corruption legislation, building strong and autonomous institutions which will be free from any political pressures and agendas, and setting the zero-tolerance against corruption, raising increasing awareness in general public and letting people know that how harmful corruption is for their development.

One has to realize that anti-corruption initiatives and SDGs have a many similar objectives, for example, they have the objective to combating inequities, promote the transparency, quality and wellness for the people, without any discrimination. They have an intrinsic relation, because anti-corruption initiatives addressing better mechanism to coexist, similar to SDG No: 16 which focuses on building peace, justice and strong institutions. It includes anti-corruption targets on illicit financial flows, bribery and corruption, transparent institutions, inclusive participation, and access to information. SDG No: 16 creates an enabling environment to achieve all the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG No: 16 plays a vital role as the ‘enabler’ for the entire 2030 Agenda’s 17 goals. It should be not seen in isolation: it has strong links with other goals. While the 2030 Agenda has made an explicit link between corruption and peaceful, just and inclusive societies under SDG No:16, the fight against corruption concerns all SDGs. Anti-corruption efforts are essential to make progress on sustainable development.

It also means to highlight how important is to fight corruption to achieving progress and sustainable development for all. In terms of implementation of anti-corruption in the SGDs, it is necessary to undergo a due diligence process for corruption (assess, identify, understand, mitigate, remediate, prevent, monitor, review, report, improve) in each area of interest and base the process in internationally recognized principles of sustainability accountability and reporting (inclusivity, materiality, responsiveness, completeness, etc…). Next, by creating awareness about corruption, about SDGs, about its impacts at all levels (i.e. to all parties of the society in an adequate manner for each audience) is absolutely necessary as well as promoting to strengthen anti-corruption tools and institutions already existent.

Integrating of anti-corruption initiatives in SDGs seems to be a natural progression of addressing the global concerns which it a part and parcel of our daily life to ensure sustainable development is essentially important for our future generations. Just as much as we are addressing global sustainability and at the same time, we cannot just ignore the elements of corruption which may work against the grain of 2030 Agenda. It is also obvious that to achieve sustainable development for our future without leaving anything and anyone behind, we have to tackle Corruption at the same time just like glove in the hand to achieve both goals and objectives.

As we progress further, we realize that it is impossible to ignore one for another while we move towards our 2030 Agenda without addressing corruption. It is best to call for complementary with adoption of anti-corruption initiatives in these SDGs. It would be even better and more challenging if our Malaysian National Anti-corruption Plan (2019 – 2013) could encapsulate anti-corruption and SDGs that foster to end poverty, protect planet, advance prosperity and peace in parallelly making Malaysia a greater corrupt-free nation that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity culture in every Malaysians. Successes of anti-corruption initiatives will instil confidence in the citizenry when they are assured of the fact that duty bearers will be held accountable for their action and inaction which will provide the motivation for participation and effective mobilization for national development programs and activities. Let’s kill two birds with one stone!