Malaysia Takes Leading Role on Sustainable Development

Malaysia established itself as a leader in the global effort to promote sustainable development with the official launch of the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University. The Center is the first of its kind in Asia.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, officially launched the Center at the university, located in Sunway City — a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. The township is built on what was once barren mining land, but is now home to a vibrant community of 200,000 people living, working, studying and playing in Malaysia’s first Green Building Index-certified township.

In his speech, the Prime Minister hailed the establishment of Jeffrey Sachs Center that it reinforces the government’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and commended the Center for taking a leading role in supporting the government in advancing these goals.

The Center is a catalytic move to mobilise comprehensive collaboration, particularly amongst Southeast Asian nations, to move towards achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University is the result of a gift of USD 10 million from the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, Malaysia’s largest education-focused social enterprise. To date, the gift is the largest financial commitment focused on SDG education and implementation following the adoption of the 17 goals by 193 members of the UN in September 2015.

The SDGs continue the work of the Millennium Development Goals, which focused on ending extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty, but will add the challenges of ensuring more equitable development and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of mitigating the dangers of human-induced climate change.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chairman of the Center, said that the launch of the Center will be an important part of the world’s drive towards achieving the SDGs.

Founding Trustee of the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation and Founding Chancellor of Sunway University, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, AO, said, “The realisation of these goals is not the sole responsibility of governments. It requires the commitment of all sectors of society- the private sector, academia, civil society groups and, of course, every single individual.”

The establishment of the Jeffrey Sachs Center enhances the global expertise needed to move Malaysia and Asia forward in the area of sustainable development. The Malaysia-based center will develop linkages with leading universities and think tanks around the world and in Malaysia. In addition, the Center will curate the world’s best curriculum, academic, and executive programmes on sustainable development.

In conjunction with the launch, there was an inaugural conference featuring five keynote speakers in the area of sustainability. The event was held at Sunway University in Malaysia on 9 December 2016, titled ‘Moving Decisively Forward on Sustainable Development Now!’ The five experts were:

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University; Director, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network; and Chairman, Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development;
Professor Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia;
Professor Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Director of the University Center for the Environment, and Director of the Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography, Harvard University, USA;
Professor Angelo Riccaboni, Chair of SDSN Assembly; and Rector of the University of Siena, Italy;
Professor Xue Lan, Member of United Nations University Council; and Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Professor Jeffrey Sachs’ talk was on “What Does Sustainable Development Really Mean?”, Prof. Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid spoke on “Walking the Talk on Implementing the SDGs: A Case for Malaysia and South-East Asia,” Professor Daniel Schrag covered “Climate Change and Sustainable Development: Opportunities for the Developing World”, Professor Angelo Riccaboni focused on “Food Systems for Sustainable Development: Innovations are Needed” while Professor Xue Lan discussed “Policy Challenges in Implementing Sustainable Development Goals.”


About the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development

Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University (JSC) is the Southeast Asian regional hub to deepen technical knowledge and to systematically integrate knowledge to create world-class programs that train students, practitioners and policy leaders in the area of sustainable development. JSC is established in collaboration with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) through a gift of USD 10 million from the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation to carry out comprehensive collaboration on sustainable development as the global community under the leadership of the United Nations begins the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. 193 members of the UN have adopted the 17 SDGs since September 2015.

About the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network

The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) operates under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mobilize leaders from academia, business, civil society, and other development organizations to promote problem solving and practical solutions for the pressing challenges of sustainable development. Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the SDSN is committed to supporting the implementation of the SDGs at local, national, and global scales. The SDSN aims to accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world.

About the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation

Jeffrey Cheah Foundation is a unique, first-of-its-kind structure in Malaysia within the field of private higher education, modelled along the lines of some of the oldest and most eminent universities in the world, such as Harvard University. To date, the Foundation retains ownership and equity of 16 learning institutions, including Sunway University, Monash University Malaysia*, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sunway Colleges, Sunway TES Centre for Accountancy Excellence and Sunway International School, valued at more than RM720 million (now in excess of RM1 billion), making it the largest education-focused social enterprise in Malaysia.

Governed by a distinguished board of eleven trustees, the Foundation aims to
safeguard the institutions in perpetuity by ensuring that the  assets and operating surpluses are used to perpetuate the cause of providing and sustaining quality  education for present and future generations of students. It continues the mandate of the Sunway Education Trust Fund established in March 1997, and both entities have disbursed scholarships amounting to RM270 million to thousands of deserving students to-date.

Jeffrey Cheah Foundation was launched on 18 March 2010 by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, in the presence of its Royal Patron, H.R.H. The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj Ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Alhaj. For more information on Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, please log on to

*Monash University Malaysia is jointly-owned by Monash Australia and Jeffrey Cheah Foundation

For media inquiries, please contact:

Michael Shank, Head of Communications, UN SDSN, 1.646.574.8903,

Jane Poh, Administrator, Jeffrey Cheah Foundation +603 5639 8948,