Minister: It's been a very busy and hectic one week. I've had about a dozen bilateral meetings. We've had regional meetings with ASEAN, then meetings with the Pacific Alliance, with MERCOSUR, CARICOM � the Caribbean countries. We also hosted the Pacific Islanders in our Mission. So it was a hectic round of meetings bilaterally and regionally. We also celebrated our 25th anniversary of FOSS, the Forum of Small States, which was founded by Singapore 25 years ago. It's now grown to include 107 members of the United Nations, so in fact just over a majority of the UN member states are members of FOSS. We also convened our annual meeting of the Global Governance Group (3G). This is about 30 medium to small countries who engage with the G20 on a regular basis. So this is another occasion, another opportunity for us to play a go-between between the larger economies and the rest of the UN membership to ensure that our views are heard. In all these meetings, the key point is to advance the interests of small states to make sure our voices are amplified by having a common platform, and also to make sure that the important bits of the agenda which have specific resonance to small states are heard on a global stage.
The next point was my speech to the UNGA. There were basically three points that I wanted to emphasise. The first was the importance of a rules-based, multilateral world order. This is particularly essential for small states like us, to give us that sense of predictability, security, and a chance to secure the peace and to advance the interests of our citizens. The second point was to advance the cause for an open global architecture, where all states would have a chance to cooperate, to collaborate, to pursue issues of common interest in a win-win collaboration, as opposed to the alternative model, which is a world divided into rival blocs, zero-sum games, proxy wars. So the point here again was to argue and to make hopefully a persuasive case that the world will be safer, more prosperous, and more peaceful if we had an open global architecture where we looked for opportunities to do things together and achieve win-win outcomes. The third point was on the need for inclusive economic growth. You may think that this is really more of a domestic issue, which it is. Which is basically to ensure that no segment of our society feels left behind by the process of globalisation and the technological revolution, which are going on now. But this domestic focus is essential because if you don't give people that assurance, then you will find that individual countries can't make the commitment for globalisation, for economic integration, for free trade, and all the other things which we believe are essential for a stable and peaceful world order. So those were the three points � multilateralism, open global architecture, and inclusive economic growth for all.
The third thing which I want to deal with is on the hot button issues that came up. The first one was there was concern, tension over what's happening in the Korean Peninsula. From our perspective, we believe that all of us need to fully comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and we hope that North Korea will do so and we hope ultimately that cool heads will prevail, because that's the only way you can get a peaceful resolution to this very long 70-year-old conflict. So there's no question that this is a period of increased tension. But in our opinion, this calls for a greater compliance with the United Nations principles and the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and hopefully that cool heads will prevail.
The other hot button issue obviously was the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar. And we had extensive discussions both at regional level, as well as and especially at the ASEAN level. And I would just like to emphasise some key areas where there were clear consensus within ASEAN and indeed beyond ASEAN. First, the violence has to stop. And it has to stop now. There has been too much loss of life, damage to property, destruction of homes, displacement of refugees. So there was no question � total consensus � the violence has to stop and it has to stop now. The second area where there was very clear consensus is that humanitarian assistance is needed. It needs to be delivered now. It needs to reach all affected communities � both those who have been displaced to the Bangladesh side of the border as well as the affected communities within the Rakhine State itself. On the ASEAN side, we have activated the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre and this will enable ASEAN to also play a role in delivering assistance to the affected communities, to all affected communities, and here I want to emphasise, without discrimination. Everyone in need should receive assistance. The third area where there was consensus is that you need a long-term political solution. This can only occur through reconciliation, and constructive and positive dialogue. There was complete consensus. I think you may have been aware of some of the statements which have emanated since then. I wouldn't overreact to that. I think there are clearly differences in the nuances, in the emphasis amongst the different ASEAN States, but on the three areas that I highlighted, there was complete consensus.
One other area I wanted to emphasise was that on this occasion I also lodged our instrument of ratification for the Minamata Convention, and we also registered a treaty that Indonesia and Singapore had entered into earlier this year, delimiting our maritime boundaries under what we call the eastern boundary territorial limits. What both these treaties really mean to us � it reflects the importance of the UN and of international law to securing Singapore's long term interests. So all in all it's been a very busy and eventful one week.
Straits Times: Well, that was an incredible summary but could I ask one last quick question � in your UNGA speech you mentioned a time of great uncertainty, challenges from non-state actors and so on and so forth � could you give us a sense of how the governments in our region in Southeast Asia are actually seized of this and are reacting and responding in terms of policy and action.
Minister: Well, I think top on everyone's agenda is the threat of extremism and terrorism. Within Southeast Asia itself we know what's happening in the Southern Philippines, the situation in Marawi city is not yet resolved and has been going on for months; the situation in the Rakhine State � again if that situation is allowed to fester or to get worse � the anxieties that that would become another potential sanctuary or breeding site for extremism and for terrorism. So that's one, I mean those are clear areas of concern. There are also areas of what I would say are unconventional threats in cyberspace, threats of self-radicalisation, hate messaging and its ability to influence people who would not otherwise have been exposed to such messages, or to even embark on such violent causes. So that's another area which people are, you know, states both within ASEAN and beyond are concerned with.
Beyond this there's still the economic agenda, and I think one key challenge we need to decide is for a long while it was taken almost for granted that economic integration, free trade, was a given and was a recipe to raise hundreds of millions of people from poverty into a new middle class. I think now primarily because of the digital revolution and because of perceived fears for middle class jobs and middle class wages, that consensus is fraying. And this is the point that I made earlier that at a domestic level, every country has to sort out its own economic strategy, its own social security, and its social safety nets, ensure first that no one gets left behind, and then to give the population the confidence, the hope, the skills, so that we can acquire those new jobs, grow our economies, grow a confident middle class that is confident of the future and also has a sense of hope, especially for the next generation.
So we live in a time of uncertainty, because there are so many things happening on the political front, economic front, on the security front, in cyberspace. It requires more engagement, not less. It requires a more integrated world not a more isolated world. We need more dialogue, we need cool heads to prevail because unfortunately the world is not short of hot spots, and we hope that these things don't run out of control. Thank you.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore