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Brunei on right track towards achieving SDGs

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam has shown good progress in sustainable development goals (SDGs), particularly in health and well-being, quality education. The country continues to enjoy a safe, secure and prosperous environment.

This was highlighted in the Brunei Darussalam SDGs Annual Report for 2021 released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as the Secretariat of the Special Committee for the National Coordination of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Saturday.

The report shares on the national progress in the implementation of the SDGs since the submission of the 1st Brunei Darussalam Voluntary National Review Report at the 2020 United Nations (UN) High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Since the adoption of the SDGs, progress has been good in certain areas for the Sultanate.

Brunei reaffirmed its commitment to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, in line with Brunei Vision 2035, to ensure that no one is left behind. Further progress and development are stated in the following goals:

Goal 1: No Poverty

The nation remains committed to caring for the well-being and welfare of its people, continuing efforts to eradicate poverty in all of its forms.

Through the Sultanate’s National Plan of Action on Poverty Eradication (2020-2024), several strategies are being undertaken to strengthen the social protection eco-system through a whole-of-nation approach – the improvement of social service access and delivery across all sectors, among others – as overseen by the National Council on Social Issues (MKIS).

The Gadong wet market. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

The digitalisation of the National Welfare System (SKN) established in July 2020 as a centralised system, has utilised Business Intelligence for welfare assistance applications, further strengthening data-driven policy formulation and intervention programmes on
poverty eradication. During the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, and as part of the Brunei Government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures in September 2021, the SKN also incorporated short-term financial assistance for workers in the sectors affected by COVID-19. Subsequent phases of the SKN will integrate applications for in-kind educational assistance as well as the disbursement of old age pension and disability allowances.

The long-term goal is to ensure support is given to those who need it most, regardless
of background.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Various progress has been made to achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The Sultanate remains committed to strengthening the food system by accelerating the production growth of the agriculture and fisheries sector; promoting both domestic and foreign direct investment (FDI); and increasing productivity through the use of technology to meet domestic demand and for export. The National Food Industry Roadmap has been prepared to increase the production of safe, Halal, and high-quality food, and strengthen the value chain of the food system.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

significant progress has been made in terms of good health and well-being. The Ministry of Health (MoH) continues its efforts in ensuring the population is in good overall physical and mental health. In battling the COVID-19 outbreak, nationwide public health measures and non-pharmaceutical interventions have been operationalised. Steps have been taken to ensure the local adult and adolescent population will be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

As with other countries, some regression was seen in areas such as decent work and economic growth largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, there are continuous and ongoing efforts to reduce unemployment rates and ensure productive employment and decent work for all. In addressing decent work, entrepreneurship plays an important role in the development of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Sultanate such as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) introducing a development grant called Belia Membangun, an initiative taken by the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) to tackle the unemployment issue in the country.

Meanwhile, on Goal 10 on Reducing Inequalities, ensuring no one is left behind remains as a priority, particularly for the welfare of persons with different abilities.

In this regard, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam announced the amendment of the Old Age Pension and Disability Act (Amendment) Order, effective October 1, 2021. In ensuring no one is left behind and as continued welfare, the amendment includes ensuring persons with disabilities will also be entitled to continue receiving disability allowances, in addition to old-age pensions upon reaching the age of 60.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production

The government adopts a whole-of-nation approach to preserve the environment by making changes to the consumption and production patterns. Continuous engagement with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private companies were in place to address this. One particular focus is the efforts made by Green Brunei, a social enterprise that promotes environmental sustainability, by supporting the Plastic Bottle Free Initiative coordinated by the Department of Environment, Parks, and Recreation (JASTRe) and the Green Protocol launched by the Brunei Darussalam National Council on Climate Change (BNCCC).

Goal 13: Climate Action

A whole-of-nation approach continues to be adopted in addressing climate change with several developments in this area. For example, the commitments made through the Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy (BNCCP) such as low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways for a sustainable nation through 10 main strategies, namely industrial emissions; forest cover; electric vehicles; renewable energy; power management; carbon pricing; waste management; climate resilience and adaptation; carbon inventory; and awareness and education.

The Sultanate also submitted its first Nationally Determined Conditions (NDC) Synthesis Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat with a pledge to reduce 20 per cent of the total national global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Part of the plan is to develop a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) through the Adaptation and Resilience Working Group, which is a comprehensive climate adaptation planning to assist in integration. These efforts reflect the nation’s commitment to achieving long-term sustainability.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

The Sultanate strives to promote sustainable development through preserving peace and stability among its people by providing protection against various types of crimes. Examples include those in cybersecurity and in ensuring children’s rights and protecting persons with disabilities.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

The Sultanate continues to build stronger ties to further strengthen bilateral, regional and international cooperation in supporting and achieving the overarching goal of sustainable development. As ASEAN Chair for 2021, Brunei continued the collective efforts of ASEAN to care for its people and prepare for future challenges and opportunities, with the goal of ensuring that the whole ASEAN Community can sustainably prosper.

ASEAN also encouraged the acceleration of efforts to deliver the UN SDGs, in view of the Decade of Action for the SDGs and the reversal in the progress of achievement of the SDGs particularly on ‘No Poverty’ (Goal 1) and ‘Reduced Inequalities’ (Goal 10) caused by the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The alignment of the Work Plans / Work Programmes of the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Sectoral Bodies with the 2030 UN SDGs and other regional priorities, will lead to consistent efforts in helping the community advance to 2025 and beyond.