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
09 November 2023
On behalf of Singapore, it is my honour to address all of you today.
Let me first congratulate Her Excellency Ambassador Simona Michlescu on her election as President of the 42nd General Conference.
UNESCO’s relevance to the world today
In a global environment that is becoming more unpredictable by the
day, we are confronted by a multitude of challenges:
Climate change and natural disasters wreak havoc on entire
Old and new conflicts continue to haunt us,
And disillusionment with globalisation and multilateralism
threatens international collaboration.
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.
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.
Singapore’s contributions to UNESCO
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.
On the cultural front, we take our responsibilities in conserving,
safeguarding, and promoting humanity's common heritage very
We are committed to preserving the Outstanding Universal
Value of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, our first UNESCO
World Heritage Site.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We share knowledge with other global Cities of Design to
uplift culture, creativity, and design to build not just livable,
but also loveable cities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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