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UNICEF Commemorates 60 Years of Partnership in Malaysia

UNICEF Malaysia 60th Anniversary Commemoration
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 25 June 2014

Keynote Remarks
UNICEF Representative to Malaysia
Special Representative to Brunei
Good evening. Thank you for the kind introduction.

And, thank YOU for joining us, on a night where we honour our mutual commitment and steadfast efforts, in the past present and future, on behalf of Malaysia’s children.

Our team had what you might call a delicious challenge planning this event.

As we prepared, we asked ourselves over and over.

How can we properly capture 60 years of commitment and partnership on behalf of Malaysia’s children? As we take this moment to acknowledge some important milestones achieved over six decades in Malaysia -- how could we ever properly thank everyone in the room, for our partnerships and your results for children.

More simply -- How do we properly tell a story, that’s been 60 years in the making?

We thought the best way to start…might be like this…may I ask for the lights to be turned down a bit please.


I think the video eloquently captures our 60 year journey. And we revisit that history – not for the sake of nostalgia alone, but as a testament to the significant milestones achieved over that time…

§ Malaysia successfully increasing child survival and reducing child mortality, to levels comparable to those of OECD and other industrialized countries ---- an astounding effort, achieved within just over a generation

§ Enacting specific laws and policies to protect children (the Child Act of 2001, the National Child and National Child Protection Policies of 2009, and currently an important Social Worker’s Bill which is working its way to Parliament)

§ Malaysia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the removal of eight of 13 initial reservations (to the CRC). Ratification of two of the Optional Protocols, as well as the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and CEDAW, the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women.

§ Malaysia being on track to achieve most of the MDGs at national level. Including universal primary education and near universal preschool education.

All important milestones, all helpful reminders of the solid foundation on which we continue building our commitment to children. All especially useful at this critical juncture –

§ as we extend our support into a new decade, contributing to the development of the 11th Malaysia Plan.

§ As we reaffirm Malaysia’s commitment to children through and beyond 2015 – as the world shifts from the Millennium Development Goals to a new set of sustainable development goals.

§ And most important for Malaysia…as we contribute to the target the country has set for itself, to become a high income, highly developed nation by 2020.

There are challenges – to be sure. And I’ll mention some of those too.

But the story behind our 60 years of partnership for children is worth remembering, worth sharing, and worth learning from. Over the years, Malaysia’s incredible child survival revolution, has been of interest to many who would like to replicate it, themselves.

Today, countries continue to look to Malaysia for its experience and knowledge on a range of issues. In fact, a delegation from Timor Leste is currently visiting, speaking to colleagues in the Ministry of Finance, and other social sector ministries, about Outcome Based Budgeting, finding out how it’s done here -- so that they might learn and apply some of that expertise for children there.

Our main partner over the years has been and continues to be the Government. In this, we are especially proud of our excellent relationship with EPU and our critical partnerships with a number of ministries – among them, the Ministries of; Women Family and Community Development, Education, Health, the Attorney General’s chambers, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Department of Social Welfare, the of course the Department of Statistics. And at state level, the wonderful partnerships we have with the State Economic Planning Units in both Sabah and Sarawak.

As the challenges and needs facing children in Malaysia have evolved over the decades, so has UNICEF’s work, and so have UNICEF’s partnerships for children. Sime Darby, who has been so extremely generous in sponsoring tonight’s event – is a key private sector partner -- the first company in Malaysia to adopt a child protection policy, and one of several important champions promoting UNICEF’s Child Rights and Business Principles. Malaysia was the first South East Asian country to launch the Principles in 2012. Since then, Sime Darby and the Companies Commission of Malaysia have become reference points for private sector partners across the region and here at home, who want to find out how business can work more ethically, promoting and protecting child rights – as an investment in human capital AND in enlightened self-interest. All this, in line with Malaysia’s strong call to the private sector to ensure sustained growth through corporate responsibility.

As Malaysia has developed and grown into an upper middle income country, our relationship and role here has mirrored that shift — going from service delivery and basic child survival interventions in the early days, to knowledge sharing, capacity development, and strengthening systems to improve child wellbeing and development today… going from reaching the many over the last six decades, to efforts at reaching all, now.

…On strengthening and sharing capacity, that’s meant facilitating areas where Malaysia shares with others – in the kind of South-South leadership we’ve already mentioned, … AND areas where Malaysia can also learn from others – through high level regional and national conferences we organize with some of the ministries, in areas like social work, child protection, juvenile justice, birth registration, and next year; on child protection and the internet.

Of course, another fundamental area of UNICEF’s support in an upper middle income country context like this one, is in generating data and evidence to better target policies and better achieve results, for children most in need.

Specifically in the areas of enhancing inclusivity, harnessing talent and improving well-being – all of which are key pillars of the 11th Malaysia Development Plan. Our mutual efforts here, aim to build on significantly improved national levels to ensure they are sustainable by extending them at sub-national level, among all children. In practice, this means focusing on children who are disproportionately affected by poverty, and those living on the margins often suffering multiple deprivations.

Its critical to measure whether our policies and programmes are really improving the lives of children they’re meant to help….just as its critical to identify not only those who’ve benefitted, but especially the children who’ve been left behind.

Allow me to highlight one especially important research effort, the joint publication late last year by EPU and UNICEF of a statistical booklet called Profiles of Children in Malaysia. It focuses on the implementation of children’s rights with equity. The booklet was timely as a substantive, data-driven contribution to discussions around the 11th Malaysia Plan. And let me take this occasion to again thank the Director General of EPU for the bold way she championed the process and distribution of that publication, which was shared with the Prime Minister’s office and all Parliamentarians.

We know that many issues faced by children in Malaysia, and elsewhere, are in domains that are complex and sometimes sensitive – especially, but not exclusively, around child protection. Areas like; birth registration, (neglect), refugee and undocumented children, early pregnancies, early marriage, gender based violence -- like the horrific, headline grabbing, gang rape of 2 teenaged girls in Kelantan, recently – as well as the kind of violence that happens hidden away daily at home, in schools, often in places of trust that eventually become prisons of silence and shame for the women and girls subjected to it. And other issues; like the provision of quality education and services to children with disabilities… -- guided by the CRC, UNICEF promotes a “spirit of open dialogue” to bring together diverse perspectives and develop strategies and solutions in a spirit of mutual trust, understanding and respect. In this, we welcome the government’s desire to achieve national unity, social cohesion and harmony which requires that very spirit of dialogue, tolerance and moderation.

We are encouraged by Malaysia’s repeated recognition that the true test of long-term success as a nation is not only whether – or how fast -- Malaysia develops but how it develops. In other words rapid economic growth AND improved quality of life. In this area, we’ve contributed policy briefs on child poverty, health and education, and we’ve helped shape the development of a framework on child wellbeing indicators, with the goal of improving socio-inclusive development across the nation, and among vulnerable groups, like the Orang Asli, among others.

We want to acknowledge and thank the children who are here tonight – and the many others who’ve been the inspiration for so many of our campaigns and for all of our work. Thanks also to the many NGOs here this evening, who’ve been tireless allies in championing the rights of children.

Finally, we are especially proud of the trust and commitment UNICEF has built with the Malaysian people over the past 60 years – especially since 2008, when we started our public fundraising. Malaysians have shown themselves to be engaged and generous in supporting our work for children here, and UNICEF’s work for children around the world. Here again, Malaysia is a model. It ranks 3rd out of more than 20 countries in which UNICEF has a working programme AND raises funds for children.

So tonight, we honour our 60 years in Malaysia, as globally – we also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – that moment 25 years ago, when the world promised its children that we would do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights, to make their voices heard, and to help them reach their full potential.

We honour the legacy of that work here to date, as mark this newest milestone, and move forward to ensure that the unfinished business, remain our priority today, tomorrow and in the years ahead, as together we build a Malaysia fit for all its children.

Thank you YB Minister Rohani, Minister Wahid, and thanks again to Sime Darby and Les Copaque for their generous support this evening.

It’s late, so Upin and Ipin are home getting ready for bed. But you’ll still have a chance to see their special contribution a bit later.

Terima Kasih





Wivina Belmonte - UNICEF Representative, Malaysia

Ms. Wivina Belmonte

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