Profile: Martin Khor Kok Peng (1951-2020)

I was born in Penang (Malaysia) in 1951 and am a Malaysian citizen. My father, Khor Cheang Kee, was an eminent journalist, having worked in Malaysian papers The Star, Straits Times, Straits Echo and Pinang Gazette. My mother, Margaret Hon, was a History teacher in a Convent school.

I went to school at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang, and for two years at National Junior College (Singapore). I was further educated at Cambridge University, UK, obtaining a B.A. and M.A. in Economics. I also obtained a Masters in Social Sciences (Economics) in Universiti Sains Malaysia (Penang).

I worked at the Ministry of Finance, Singapore (1974-1975), then as a Lecturer in Economics in Universiti Sains Malaysia (l975-1978). I then worked as Research Director at the Consumers’ Association of Penang, and later as Director of the Third World Network. I was Editor of the South-North Development Monitor in Geneva (2005-2009). I became Executive Director of the South Centre in Geneva (2009-2018). From 2018 I rejoined the Third World Network as Advisor.

Due to my studies and especially my work in various places, I developed an interest in a broad range of subjects. Among the books/papers I consider important (at least for myself) are the following. On the economy, my book The Malaysian Economy: Structures and Dependence tried to capture the colonial and post-colonial periods. Globalisation and the South was an early critique of the then emerging world order based on “globalisation”. I spent a lot of time in monitoring and analysing the international trade negotiations. The Multilateral Trade System: A Development Perspective (which I edited and co-wrote with C Raghavan and B L Das) summarised the inequities of the WTO rules and system. The book Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements: Critical Issues is an analysis of how the new versions of free trade agreements are damaging to developing countries. On climate change, the paper “The Equitable Sharing of Atmospheric and Development Space” argues that there must be fairness in the global efforts to tackle the climate crisis. On sustainable development, the paper “Sustainable Development and the Limits to Globalisation” is perhaps my most comprehensive. On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I had presented a paper to the G77 and China on behalf of the South Centre on the SDGs it could put forward. Many of these proposed in the paper eventually were adopted by the UN.

The obituaries and tributes published following Martin’s death on 1 April 2020 may be read and viewed here.