Govt should match fund raised by NGOs – Masidi

KOTA KINABALU: The government should seriously consider giving a matching grant to all the money or fund raised by the private sector or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for Forever Sabah, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Forever Sabah is a 25-year, USD100 million programme that will build a fair, prosperous and sustainable Sabah by pioneering the State’s transition into a diversified green economy.

Forever Sabah encompasses catalyzing positive institutional change through a ground-up, project based approach; building capacity to sustainably manage Sabah’s natural resources; protecting and restoring Sabah’s natural habitats; as well as enhancing social and ecological resilience in the face of a changing climate.

The economic activities under the Forever Sabah theme include food and agriculture, renewable energy, tourism, especially community and eco-tourism, as well as water, waste and soil.

Masidi said there have always been perceptions that conservation efforts should be done by the government but it was actually a job for all Sabahans.

“Sabah doesn’t belong to the government, Sabah belongs to the people, irrespective of who the government is,” he said after a panel session on ‘Bridging the Heart of Borneo (HOB) and Forever Sabah at the International Conference on HOB+5 and Beyond: Shaping and Nurturing Sabah’s Future Together here yesterday.

“Perhaps one way to make sure we have a sense of ownership and conservation programme is partnership with the government and the people at large, say NGOs, associations, companies, whereby the government may want to consider matching the fund voluntarily donated and raised by the NGOs and people at large,” Masidi said.

He added that the government was in a better position to raise money.

Nonetheless, he emphasized on transparency in the process and there should be no question on how the money raised was utilized.

“We create a trust fund, administered by the government, private sector or people at large.”

He said the trust fund could be made to get tax exemption status, thus inviting more to donate as donating to the trust fund could save them money.

However, Masidi said further detailed discussion would be necessary before the proposal was forwarded to the government, adding that he does hope the idea was initiated from bottoms up rather than the government instructing what to do.

Masidi said Forever Sabah initiative was good as it reminded the people what we have done right or wrong and suggested ideas of what needed to be done in the future.

The discussion was moderated by Darrel Webber from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), while the panelists were Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan, founder and executive director of Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP); Cynthia Ong, executive director of Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah (PACOS Trust), Anne Lasimbang; director of the Royal Society’s South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP), Datuk Dr Glen Reynolds; founder of Avoided Deforestation Partners (ADP), Jeffrey S. Horowitz; and chairman of the Board of Trustees WWF Malaysia, Professor Dato Dr Abd Latiff Mohamad.

Speaking on Forever Sabah, Ong said the initative had reached the conceptual level and the next two years, 2013-2014, would be used to develop an action plan and budget.

“The next two years in the foundation for 25 years,” she said.

Ong pointed out that Forever Sabah sought partnerships, not financial aids or donations.

What Forever Sabah wants is local, regional or international partners in realizing this model for Sabah, Borneo or even worldwide.

“I feel strongly that the society needs to shed from being reactive to proactive.

“We have the access, mobility and network. We will innovate, inspire, bring in partnerships, and engage deeply in the shared issues in the state or region,” Ong said.

On the other hand, Lasimbang said PACOS Trust sees Forever Sabah as a window of opportunity for the voices of the communities to be heard and merge indigenous knowledge with modern systems.

Among the approaches that would be taken to implement the project are inclusiveness among the community, government, NGOs and industries, capacity building, custodianship, integrity, market-based approaches, shared responsibility and evidence-based solutions.

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