‘Social capital vital in environmental sustainability’

FOR YOU: Yap (left) presents a souvenir to Lee, witnessed by Kerr and Beena.

MIRI: The importance of social capital in ensuring environmental sustainability was the key message at the Sustainable Development and Leadership Forum 2011 held at Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) recently.

Themed ‘Let’s Act’, the one-day forum was jointly organised by Curtin Sarawak and the United Nations Association of Singapore (Unas) for about 150 students of Curtin Sarawak and local secondary schools.

In his address to the participants, guest-of-honour Datuk Lee Kim Shin, who is also Assistant Minister of Communications and chairman of Curtin Sarawak’s management board stressed the importance of sustainable development for the betterment of the community.

He highlighted the need for everyone to play a part, such as conserving energy and practising the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle).

“The state government acknowledges the relevance of sustainable development. We have various policies and laws on sustainable development to safeguard not only our community but the environment as a whole,” said Lee.

In relation to social capital, Lee said it was an important aspect of community life. He cited the John Curtin Leadership Academy (JCLA), Curtin’s leadership programme that grooms students to be leaders as a good example of promoting social leadership and volunteerism.

He urged forum participants to put their environmental awareness into practice to protect the environment.

The Secretary-General of Unas, Yap Kwong Weng, meanwhile addressed the climate change issue.

“Concrete action must be taken to tackle the problem because all living beings are greatly endangered by this major environmental crisis,” he cautioned.

On social capital, Yap said now is the time for all to collaborate to build social capital in conjunction with the United Nations International Year of Forests 2011. He said each individual must participate and collaborate to create social capital.

“Social capital, in turn, creates the ripple effect which can be exemplified by the spirit of volunteerism, one of the main values of social capital. When you volunteer, everyone will benefit from it, and furthermore it empowers the local community,” he explained.

Yap praised the local community for its support of Miri’s ‘No Plastic Bag’ campaign, adding that the city could be a role model for other cities.

Five speakers from Singapore and Malaysia presented keynote papers during the forum: Dr Jude Chua Soo Meng (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Policy and Leadership Studies Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University), Dr Tony See (Senior Lecturer and Degree Course Coordinator, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts), Dr Mohammed Razi (Head of Human Resource and Volunteer Management, Mercy Malaysia), Beena Giridharan (Dean of the School of Foundation and Continuing Studies, Curtin Sarawak) and Dr Tang Fu Ee (Civil and Construction Engineering Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering and Science, Curtin Sarawak).

Yap said he was convinced the participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves, judging from their engagement and enthusiastic responses.

“I believe they left the forum feeling empowered. More importantly, the forum has created an opportunity for students of different backgrounds to network together,” said Yap.

Event co-organiser Beena said: “There is the possibility that these students will network and work together on future projects on sustainability and leadership. We have given them the chance to listen to diverse presenting styles and explore different subjects connected with the real world, and hopefully given them aspirations to pursue higher education.”

Also present was the Pro Vice-Chancellor and chief executive of Curtin Sarawak, Professor Ian Kerr.

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