World leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit held in New York in
September 2000 resolved to strengthen global efforts for peace, democracy,
good governance, and poverty eradication while continuing to promote the
principles of human rights and human dignity. The Millennium Declaration made
a strong commitment to the right to development, to gender equality and the empowerment of
women, to the eradication of the many dimensions of poverty, and to sustainable human
development. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emerged as the principal means of
implementing the Declaration.
Since 1970, Malaysia has achieved a number of national developmental goals which
coincidentally cover essential elements of the MDGs. These achievements, and the favourable
position Malaysia now occupies in economic and social development, owe a great deal to the
ground-breaking policies and strategies that were envisioned in the Outline Perspective Plans
and systematically implemented through Malaysia’s national five-year plans. A comprehensive
account of the policies, strategies, and programmes that have enabled Malaysia to achieve
most of the MDGs is given in Malaysia: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals,
Successes and Challenges. This publication provides a graphic summary of the progress made.
It is aimed at a wider readership.
Poverty eradication, the primary objective among all the MDGs, was already of major
concern in 1970, when half of all households in Malaysia were living in poverty. By 2002, just 5
per cent of households were still classified as poor, although poverty levels still vary
considerably by state and ethnic group. The poverty-reducing approaches that succeeded in
Malaysia emphasized rural and agricultural development, export of labour-intensive
manufactured goods, and public investment in education, health, and infrastructure.
Universal primary education was achieved by 1990, by which time nearly all children were
completing primary school, greatly improving on the one-third of the population 6 years of age
and over that had never attended school in 1970. Attendance of girls had already caught up with
that of boys by 1970 and has increasingly exceeded that of boys at secondary and tertiary
levels. Employment rates of males and females partly reflect this trend but women’s multiple
responsibilities and more limited job opportunities mean that women are relatively underrepresented
in the labour force.
Child mortality and maternal health have recorded reductions to levels that are
exceptionally low in the region through a well-developed primary health care system and
access to quality water, sanitation, and nutrition.
Malaria has been virtually eliminated from most densely populated areas but the
prevalence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are matters of major concern. The doubling about
every three years of the reported HIV cases is especially disturbing and while the problem is
concentrated in a small, high-risk group, the MDG target of halting and reversing the spread of
HIV/AIDS by 2015 is extremely challenging.
M a l a y s i a A c h i e v i n g t h e M i l l e n n i u m D e v e l o p m e n t G o a l s
Sustainable development has been integrated into national development policies since the
late 1970s and factors such as access to a quality water supply have been a major success in
Malaysia. More challenging areas include implementation of national forestry management
policies at state levels and environmentally acceptable and efficient expansion of energygeneration
capacity to meet expanding demand.
In the contemporary world, isolationism and unilateral action are becoming increasingly
impractical. Malaysia favours participation in a global partnership for development that
benefits all countries willing to take part. In 1980, Malaysia established the Malaysian Technical
Cooperation Programme, a bilateral programme of cooperation designed to assist other
developing countries by sharing Malaysia’s development experiences and expertise in capacity
building and human resource development. Malaysia also plays a significant role in
cooperative regional groupings, including the Association of South-East Asian Nations
(ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
With the fulfilment of so many of the MDGs, the challenge for Malaysia is to maintain
momentum in dealing decisively with the remainder, and to identify the next set of tasks and
priorities that will keep the nation moving ahead in this exemplary way, continuing to set
precedents that others can emulate and moving towards its ultimate
objective of becoming a fully developed nation.
The key strategies now in place include developing a knowledge-based economy and
human resource development, accelerating structural transformation within the manufacturing
and services sectors, revitalizing the agriculture sector, and strengthening socio-economic
stability through enhanced public and private sectoral partnerships. Further progress towards
poverty eradication is expected to result from continued rapid economic growth assisted by
targeted poverty-reduction programmes.
National unity, political stability, and administrative continuity have been critical to this
success as, through consistent policies, continuous improvements, and an unswerving sense
of purpose, Malaysia has been able to bring about development, enhance education and skills
training, and reduce poverty rates throughout the country. Malaysia is now working to advance
up the economic value chain and further enhance its competitiveness, and it has set 2009 as
the target for total eradication of hard-core poverty.
In conclusion, we would like to thank all those who contributed to and participated in the
analysis and dialogue that led to the preparation of this publication. In particular, we would like
to thank our colleagues in the Economic Planning Unit, members of the National Steering
Committee, the United Nations Country Team in Malaysia, as well as Civil Society Organizations.
We hope this work will stimulate an even broader discussion of how Malaysia can progress
beyond the MDGs.
Raja Dato’ Zaharaton bt Raja Zainal Abidin Richard Leete
Director General Resident Coordinator
Economic Planning Unit United Nations
Prime Minister’s Department Malaysia