Singapore reaffirmed its commitment to the elimination of racial discrimination during its presentation of its first State Party Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) at its 105th session in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The CERD is an independent body of experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by State Parties. The ICERD is a United Nations convention that obliges States Parties to take measures to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination and submit regular reports to the treaty body.
- Singapore signed the Convention on 19 October 2015 and ratified it on 27 November 2017. Ratifying the ICERD underscores Singapore’s commitment to fostering a harmonious multi-racial society. In December 2018, Singapore submitted its first State Party report to the CERD, as part of our obligation under the ICERD. The report provides an overview of Singapore’s multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, the significant investments the Government has made in our housing, healthcare, and education policies to ensure we meet the needs and aspirations of all Singaporeans, regardless of their race or religion, and how the Government partners with the community to develop and run programmes that strengthen social harmony.
Presentation of Singapore’s First State Party Report to the CERD
- Initially scheduled for the 101st Session of the Committee in April/August 2020, Singapore’s first review was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs Dr Maliki Osman led a multi-agency delegation including officials from AGC, MCCY, MFA, MHA, MINDEF, MINLAW, MOE, MOM and MND to present Singapore’s first State Party report on the ICERD to the CERD from 18 to 19 November 2021.
- During a two-day dialogue with the CERD, the delegation elaborated on how Singapore was founded on the ideals of a multi-racial, multi-religious society, and how our policies including more recent measures have served to strengthen and protect our racial and religious harmony. The delegation also received feedback from the CERD on areas of progress as well as suggestions on further measures to eliminate racial discrimination.
- Head of Delegation Dr Maliki Osman said, “Singapore appreciates the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with the CERD, and to reaffirm our commitment to uphold multi-racialism as a basic tenet of our society. Singaporeans understand we must continue to pursue policies and programmes that preserve racial harmony, and we are committed to strengthening the bonds between various racial communities.” The CERD will subsequently make its concluding observations , which Singapore will review and consider carefully.
- Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law said, “As a multi-racial society, Singapore harnesses strength from our diversity, which has become core to our national identity. All of us have a role to play in addressing racial discrimination, and the Government will continue to work with community partners and all Singaporeans to continue being one united people.”
- Dr Janil Puthucheary, Chairman of OnePeople.sg, a ground up advocacy body for racial harmony said, “OnePeople.sg welcomes the presentation of Singapore’s initial report to the CERD. It signifies Singapore’s commitment to a multi-racial society free from all forms of racial discrimination. We appreciate the longstanding support of the Government for civil society in the area of racial harmony, and we look forward to continued partnership and progress in this regard.”
During his visit to Geneva, Head of Delegation Dr Maliki Osman also met the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Mr Daren Tang and President of the 15th cycle of the Human Rights Council Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan (Fiji).
Factsheet on CERD and Singapore’s ICERD Report
1. What is the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)?
The CERD is a committee of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the ICERD. All States Parties, including Singapore, are required to submit periodic reports to the Committee (www.mccy.gov.sg/icerd).
2. How is the ICERD monitored in Singapore?
An Inter-Ministry Committee on the ICERD (IMC-ICERD), chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, was formed in 2015. This Committee reviews our laws and policies to ensure that our obligations under ICERD are fulfilled.
3. What are some of the key areas/policies mentioned in Singapore’s First ICERD Report?
The Report describes the Government’s holistic approach to preserving and strengthening social cohesion, which is anchored on three pillars: legislative safeguards for racial and religious harmony; policies that foster social integration; and programmes that mobilise the community to work together for the common good.
The Report also highlights key measures that Singapore has undertaken to eliminate racial discrimination and strengthen racial harmony; please refer to the attached summary table.
Singapore’s initial report can be found at:
Key Areas/Policies highlighted in the report
|| Key Measures
| Uphold key principles of equality and meritocracy:
• Equality of all before the law and non-discrimination enshrined in the Singapore Constitution
• Principles of meritocracy and providing opportunities for all emphasised in our policies
|Support efforts to uplift individual community while contributing to the common good:
• Ethnic-based Self-Help Groups provide community-based support
• Government works with partners to strengthen racial harmony through projects supported by the Harmony Fund
• More support given to those with greater needs or in disadvantaged circumstances
| Implement policies to facilitate integration, and growing the common space:
• Ethnic Integration Policy in public housing to ensure a balanced ethnic mix across public housing estates and prevent the formation of racial enclaves
• Legislation to address hate speech and hate crime
• Public institutions maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards racial enmity
• Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) looks into allegations of racial discrimination at the workplace.
|Ensure minority interests are represented and supported:
• Minority interests considered by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Scheme, and Reserved Presidential Elections
|Promote shared norms, mutual respect and support for racial and religious diversity through education:
• A common educational experience in national schools to foster strong bonds, shared understanding and emphasise the unity and diversity of a multi-racial society
• Through History, Social Studies and Character and Citizenship Education syllabus in national schools students learn the importance of harmony and to respect differences.
• Bilingual policy in national schools enables the learning of one’s Mother Tongue Language along with English, so as to maintain an awareness of one’s cultural heritage
• Madrasahs cater to the needs of the Muslim community for religious school system
|Partner the community to enhance racial/religious harmony on the ground:
||• Platforms such as the National Steering Committee and Working Committee on Racial and Religious Harmony, the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles and the National Integration Council help to build strong bonds at different levels of society and community
• Different communities can strengthen ties through projects supported by the Harmony Fund and/or the Community Integration Fund
• Working with partners to raise awareness and educate the wider community on racial discrimination