Malaysia: Indigenous rights group honoured for leaving no one behind
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Malaysia: Indigenous rights group honoured for leaving no one behind

THE Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah (PACOS Trust), an organisation that empowers indigenous communities in the rural areas of Malaysian Borneo, was among those honoured by the United Nations in Kuala Lumpur today.

The 30-year-old organisation received the UN Award 2017 at the ceremony today to recognise contributions toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Malaysia.

“PACOS Trust received the award for promoting the Leave No One Behind principle and reaching those furthest behind, especially in Sabah and Sarawak,” the UN said in a statement.

The SDGs are a set of 17 ambitious “Global Goals” comprising 169 targets that all 192 UN member states, including the US, have agreed to reach by 2030. They include getting rid of poverty and hunger, combatting climate change as well as promoting gender equality and access to quality education.

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Leave No One Behind is one of the SDGs indicator aimed at ensuring benefits of development are equally shared by all segments of society regardless of age, sex, income level, location or physical ability.

Indigenous communities living in the interior of Malaysia’s Eastern Peninsula have seen their way of life increasingly under threat, particularly through land grabs which takes away their main source of livelihood.

Speaking to Asian Correspondent, Kenneth Chung, a coordinator at PACOS Trust explains how the organisation makes it a point to teach these communities how to address conflicts as such on their own.

“We want to teach them how to fish instead of giving them fish. As you can see, for a lot of other organisations or even the government, their ways of solving problems is to give them fish. If you don’t have house, we give you house. If you’re poor, we give you jobs,” Chung said.

These are being done “instead of creating opportunities or economies” for the indigenous people to thrive on. Chung says their methods focus on training villagers or the indigenous people, including understanding their rights and methods of negotiations with businesses or governments in the event of conflict.

SEE ALSO: Unequal rights for indigenous, rural women endanger forest lands – researchers

As for the future, Chung hopes to see improvements to how indigenous communities are treated: “We hope the indigenous way of life will be preserved and respected.”

Denison Jayasooria, who co-chairs a network of civil society organisations pushing for the implementation of SDGs, and Claire Sancelot, founder of Zero Waste Malaysia, were also honoured at the award.

Denison won the award for mobilising stakeholders, including those from vulnerable groups, to be part of the 2030 Agenda. Whereas Sancelot was recognised for Zero Waste Malaysia’s efforts to reduce their environmental footprint and incorporate sustainable practices in their business operations and practices.

Previous winners for the award include the Federation of Family Planning Association Malaysia (1999), the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (2001), the Malaysian Bar (2012) and R.AGE the youth reporting division of a local newspaper (2016).

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