Partnering for Impact: A reflection from Malaysia

Topics Cross-sector partnerships | Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Dr Khoo_RDI ConfDr Suet Leng Khoo is a Senior Lecturer with the Development Planning and Management Programme, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Dr Khoo was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and the RDI Network to attend RDI Conference 2017.

Below, Dr Khoo reflects upon what she gained from joining this unique cross-sector development event.

As a development studies lecturer and researcher myself, I must say that I benefited tremendously from this conference because every aspect and dimension of this conference are related to my work in one way or another. Unlike the many conferences that I have attended in the past, this is certainly a conference with a difference.  This is a conference where ‘development’ is the crux and core focus in every single planery and parallel session that I attended.  As such, I could relate closely and connect with all the issues, debates and discourses that were discussed during the presentations.

I was particularly impressed by the presence and substance of the talks presented by the keynote speaker (i.e. Ms. Helen Clark) and fellow planery speakers. They successfully and wittily provoked all conference delegates to rethink and revisit our past and present development thinking, practices and doctrines vis-a-vis the current Sustainable Development Goals.

Every presentation, every dialogue and every solution/strategy/policy proposed were crucial and provocative to make me reflect on how the development paradigm is evolving and morphing in today’s global world. The presentations also highlighted the emergence of new development issues and presenters astutely shared novel strategies and solutions to respond to volatile internal and external global environs.  I shall share the new knowledge and novel discoveries obtained during the presentations with my fellow colleagues in my department and my students back home in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).  More importantly, the take-home message I gathered from this remarkable conference is for different stakeholders and social actors to come together, partner and collaborate to propose solutions and create positive impacts on sustainable development.  Instead of contesting and competing against each other, we should partner and collaborate together to address all the global, national and local development challenges that we face today.

Instead of contesting and competing against each other, we should partner and collaborate together to address all the global, national and local development challenges that we face today.
Dr Suet Leng Khoo

During this conference, I had the privilege to present and share my own research on the development of human capital with specific reference to George Town’s (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) built heritage.  In relation to Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals that advocates sustainable management of cities and urban communities, my presentation is crucial because George Town is a city at a crossroads.  Just like most capital cities in the world, George Town (as Penang’s capital) is rapidly developing and modernising on one hand, yet the city’s inscription as a UNESCO historic city on 2008 has put forth a set of different expectations and impositions where conservation of the city is now the more important urban agenda.

Hence, there is now a pressing need to safeguard the historic city of Geoge Town from the vagaries of indiscriminate development, gentrification and modernisation.  My presentation highlighted the need for partners in George Town’s urban conservation to collectively identify and address human capital issues and challenges related to the city’s built heritage. The collective voices of the partners will manifest and translate as collaborative and coordinated strategies to increase citizen participation for sustainable human settlement planning and management of the historic city of George Town.  By driving at such sustainable urban strategies, it will eventually impact on immediate and long-term outcomes of developing the right mix of human capital to sustain George Town’s built heritage.

Last but not least, I would again like to express my sincere thanks to RDI Network and the University of Sydney for making my attendance at this conference possible.  The many lessons that were gleaned, the new networks established and the great friendships formed during this conference will pave the way for prospective partnerships and future collaborations between USM and other global partners in development.  I applaud the good work and great efforts by RDI Network and its partners for putting together an excellent 2-day conference program that has showcased a collection of highly interesting development topics by scholars, researchers and practitioners alike.

For more reflections from RDI Conference 2017, visit the ACFID Blog.