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Singapore’s commitment and contributions to UNESCO in its domains of Culture, Science and Education

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister For Culture, Community And Youth, & Second Minister For Law, At The 42nd UNESCO General Conference on 8 Nov 2023

  1. On behalf of Singapore, it is my honour to address all of you today.
  2. Let me first congratulate Her Excellency Ambassador Simona Michlescu on her election as President of the 42nd General Conference.
  3. UNESCO’s relevance to the world today

  4. In a global environment that is becoming more unpredictable by the day, we are confronted by a multitude of challenges:
    1. Climate change and natural disasters wreak havoc on entire regions,
    2. Old and new conflicts continue to haunt us,
    3. And disillusionment with globalisation and multilateralism threatens international collaboration.
  5. In such a volatile global environment, UNESCO's mission to foster peace through dialogue and mutual understanding, and also to nurture the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity, becomes more pertinent than ever.
  6. As a small and open city-state, Singapore recognises the importance of a rules-based multilateral system, and the value that inclusive organisations like UNESCO bring to the table. We believe that it is only by working together as an international community, that we can foster the peace, cooperation and understanding that is central to UNESCO’s mission. Together, we can better support UNESCO’s pivotal role in promoting cross-cultural cooperation and creating multilateral solutions for our world.
  7. Singapore’s contributions to UNESCO

  8. As Chair of the Singapore National Commission to UNESCO, I would like to reaffirm Singapore’s strong support for UNESCO's efforts over the years, and we remain committed to doing so.
  9. On the cultural front, we take our responsibilities in conserving, safeguarding, and promoting humanity's common heritage very seriously.
    1. We are committed to preserving the Outstanding Universal Value of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, our first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    2. Following the successful inscription of Hawker Culture in Singapore on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity, we continued to enhance hawker centres, support hawkers, and sustain the hawker trade in Singapore.
    3. We are also committed to contributing actively back to the UNESCO community, such as with the participation of Singapore expert Mr Yeo Kirk Siang in the UNESCO ICH Evaluation Body.
  10. Earlier this year, we jointly nominated the Kebaya, a traditional female garment, with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The close cooperation between these countries exemplifies our joint commitment to our shared cultural heritage, and has helped to raise awareness amongst our citizens on the value of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  11. Singapore has also updated our Tentative List on the World Heritage Convention to include the Padang Civic Ensemble. We will be voluntarily participating in the inaugural Preliminary Assessment process to receive guidance from the World Heritage Centre as well as the Advisory Bodies.
  12. In the field of education, Singapore firmly supports UNESCO's programmes, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all.
  13. We also commend the efforts of UNESCO and member states in developing a Framework for Culture and Arts Education. In Singapore, the arts and culture are an integral part of our education curriculum, across all education stages. We have also launched the new University of the Arts Singapore which will receive its first intake of students in 2024.
  14. On the design front, as a UNESCO Creative City of Design, we are committed to drive innovation and growth for sustainable urban development through Singapore design.
    1. We engage with the network of creative cities and invite members to participate in DesignSingapore Council’s programmes and initiatives, including the signature Singapore Design Week.
    2. We share knowledge with other global Cities of Design to uplift culture, creativity, and design to build not just livable, but also loveable cities.
  15. In the realm of science, Singapore has been an active participant in UNESCO’s Bioethics Programme since 2012. Notably, Emeritus Professor Lee Eng Hin and Mr Charles Lim serve as the Vice-chair for the International Bioethics Committee and Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee Bureaus respectively.
  16. Singapore also participated in the discussions that led to the landmark Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, which was adopted by all member states.
  17. These contributions are testament to Singapore’s steadfast commitment to developing global standards in science and technology, and underscore our support for UNESCO’s commitment to responsible innovation, ethical practices, and the spirit of cooperation.
  18. In terms of climate change, Singapore aims to develop deep professional competence in the field, and actively contributes to the global fight against climate change. For example, Singapore’s Associate Professor Winston Chow serves as co-chair of the bureau of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  19. Conclusion

  20. Allow me to conclude with an observation. UNESCO was born in the aftermath of World War II. Looking at our world today, its mission remains more relevant than ever.
  21. Singapore is committed to the work of UNESCO, and is proud to contribute to this organisation. We firmly believe that the values of peace, dialogue, and mutual understanding that UNESCO represents are essential to a world facing complex challenges. Respect for the UN Charter and for international law has always been a fundamental interest for Singapore.
  22. We would also like to commend UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and her team’s hard work in bringing the United States back to UNESCO, thus strengthening multilateralism and enhancing support for UNESCO’s activities.
  23. I call upon all member states to continue upholding the mission of UNESCO and to support and strengthen its work. Together, we can ensure that UNESCO continues to serve our global community, promoting peace, inclusivity, and understanding for an ever-changing world.
  24. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 09 November 2023