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Singapore must amplify influence or else it can “disappear tomorrow, the world will probably continue on just fine” – PM Lee

PM Lee stressed that smaller countries are sovereign or independent by name, but their ability to determine their own destinies will be limited if they do not manage their external relations carefully.

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Addressing the Forum of Small States (FOSS) in New York, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calls for small states to work together and advance their common interests at the same time amplify their influence and act as a collective. This he underscored during the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

PM Lee stressed that smaller countries are sovereign or independent by name, but their ability to determine their own destinies will be limited if they do not manage their external relations carefully.

“This is because small states have no intrinsic relevance to the workings of the international system. Unlike larger and more powerful countries, small states do not set the agenda or decide the trends.”

He said: “If Singapore disappears tomorrow, the world will probably continue on just fine.”

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According to the prime minister countries composed of less than 10 million people are particularly vulnerable to global events compared to larger states. Plus the challenge that climate change brings. “Climate change and rising sea levels are a threat to our very existence,” he said.

Among the threats confronting small nations include wars and the lack of strategic depth to defend themselves and extreme weather wherein its adverse effects will take small states years to rebuild and recover, such as the Bahamas being hit by the recent hurricane Dorian. However, the prime minister also pointed out the advantages of small nations and made clear that they are not helpless.

He said these nations are efficient, can respond more nimbly and adapt more easily to changing circumstances, can also be motivated to deal more decisively with challenges and threats owing to their increased “sense of insecurity, and even paranoia”.

PM Lee said: “With more constrained options, our collective minds are more readily focused.” More importantly, small states are “less hampered by regional interests and differences, or multiple levels of government that bigger countries must grapple with.”

Work as one

Thus, he strongly advocates that countries have to work together to amplify their influence collectively in institutions such as the UN.

“Small states can and must make a contribution to the work of the UN, because it is in our interest to have a strong UN and multilateral system,” the prime minister said. /TISG

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