President Halimah Yacob’s 2023 S Rajaratnam Lecture emphasized Singapore’s commitment to non-alignment, expanded diplomatic efforts, and the importance of domestic resilience in navigating geopolitical challenges.
President Halimah Yacob delivered the 2023 S Rajaratnam Lecture, honoring Singapore’s first Foreign Minister and chief architect of its foreign policy. She highlighted Singapore’s commitment to non-alignment and its diplomatic efforts, including expanding its diplomatic footprint and supporting fellow small states. President Yacob emphasized the challenges Singapore faces in an uncertain world, such as rising geopolitical tensions, technological disruptions, and transboundary crises. She stressed the importance of domestic resilience in shaping foreign policy and called for unity in building a strong and inclusive society.
The lecture paid tribute to S Rajaratnam’s visionary perspective, recognizing Singapore as a “Global City” that could thrive by engaging with the entire global community. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has strengthened relationships with neighboring countries and expanded its diplomatic presence. Notable initiatives include opening a new Embassy in Tel Aviv to enhance innovation partnerships with Israel and establishing a Representative Office in Ramallah to support the Palestinian Authority. Singapore has also championed the interests of small states through the Forum of Small States and the Global Governance Group.
President Yacob highlighted the challenges Singapore faces in an uncertain world, including rapid technological advancements, geopolitical tensions, and transboundary crises like COVID-19 and climate change. She emphasized the complexity of diplomacy and the need to address protectionist and nationalist sentiments that threaten open markets and globalization. Misinformation and disinformation through social media further complicate matters, requiring a discerning population and a strong Singapore core to counter falsehoods effectively.
The lecture emphasized the importance of domestic resilience in navigating these challenges. President Yacob acknowledged Singapore’s successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic, attributing it to trust in the government and compliance with safety measures. Strengthening resilience and trust within society is crucial for Singapore to respond effectively to the uncertain external environment and safeguard its independence and sovereignty. President Yacob called for finding common ground, striving for consensus, and fostering social cohesion to prevent internal divisions that could be exploited by external forces.
The lecture concluded on an optimistic note, recognizing Singapore’s contributions to global solutions. President Yacob highlighted the potential for greater economic integration and liberalization through partnerships with like-minded countries. Despite the challenges, she expressed confidence in Singapore’s ability to navigate the uncertain world by leveraging its diplomatic efforts, protecting its diversity, and seeking global cooperation. The role of youth in fostering interfaith and intercultural dialogue was emphasized, as well as the importance of learning from other countries’ experiences in promoting social resilience.