S’pore will defend principles of UN Charter & uphold rules-based multilateral system: Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore remains committed to the guiding ideals of the United Nations (UN) Charter, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan stated on Wednesday (Sep 21), marking Singapore’s 57 years of United Nations membership.

“We will defend the principles of the UN Charter and uphold the inclusive, rules-based multilateral system that we all depend on for peace and prosperity,” posted the Minister while attending the 77th UN General Assembly in New York.

“The rules-based multilateral system is our best bet in addressing the multiple crises we face today – rising geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis and growing protectionism,” he added, referring to how the UN can foster effective multi-country alliances aimed towards particular goals too complex for any one country to achieve by itself.  

“Small states like Singapore are most vulnerable when the multilateral system based on international law is replaced by the idea that ‘might makes right’,” Minister Balakrishnan elaborated.

A consistent stance

Minister Balakrishnan’s statement reflects the Government’s consistent and fundamental belief in the necessity of multilateralism.

Where small countries make up over half of UN membership, a system where small sovereign states like Singapore have an equal voice to, and settle disputes peacefully with, larger countries according to international law and agreed rules is essential for keeping national interests stable.

So, when Singapore initially joined the UN in 1965, the first Foreign Minister of Singapore S Rajaratnam told the General Assembly that Singapore would join with other UN members to preserve peace through collective security, promote economic development through mutual aid and safeguard the right of every country to self-governance.

In 1992, these bedrock principles led to Singapore establishing the Forum of Small States together with a cross-regional group of countries. This Forum, as Minister Balakrishnan mentioned at the 2020 UN General Assembly will keep speaking up for a stronger UN and for greater multilateralism.

Indeed, large nations benefit from the multilateral system too. These nations gain political legitimacy and moral authority when helping the common good through international peace, research and prosperity efforts.

Building contemporary multilateralism

And so, while Minister Balakrishnan attends the 77th Assembly, he is making international friends and seeding international initiatives for Singapore.

Among others, he has spoken with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan on renewable energy, electric cars, climate finance and carbon innovations as solutions against climate change.

Minister Balakrishnan has also talked with Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod about the possibility of cooperating on green technology and climate adaptation and (as hailing from like-minded small states) about the free and open trade and a rules-based international order. His meeting with Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto similarly focused on international developments and reaffirming the importance of multilateralism as well as recalling Singapore and Finland’s strong cooperation in R&D, education, urban planning and social policies.

All this on the first day of the 77th Assembly.

And Minister Balakrishnan will, in conjunction with the 77th Assembly, meet with Australia’s former Prime Minister and the current President and CEO of the Asia Society today (Sep 23) for an address and discussion viewable here.

All this is to say that the Government is at the very highest level of international diplomacy proactively looking out for Singapore’s national interests while still not compromising on our nation’s fundamental principles; not taking sides — but taking a stand.  

Cover photo credit: Vivian Balakrishnan Facebook