Minister of State (MOS) for Community, Culture and Youth Sam Tan visited Bali, Indonesia from 29 to 30 August 2014 as Head of the Singapore delegation to the Sixth Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC).
At the Forum, members of the UNAOC Group of Friends adopted the Bali Declaration on the Alliance of Civilisations, reaffirming their commitment to support the UNAOC’s mandate of promoting greater understanding and respect among civilisations, cultures and religions. MOS Tan delivered a statement, expressing Singapore’s support for the UNAOC and its efforts in advocating tolerance and mutual understanding to counter extremism globally.
At the side-lines of the Forum, MOS Tan met the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Ms Irina Bokova. They had fruitful discussions on Singapore’s cooperation with UNESCO in the field of heritage preservation. MOS Tan also met with the High Representative of the UNAOC, Mr Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. They exchanged views on the role of the UNAOC and the Group of Friends in working towards the common goal of a more peaceful and socially inclusive world.
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs
30 August 2014
SINGAPORE NATIONAL STATEMENT DELIVERED BY MINISTER OF STATE FOR CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH SAM TAN AT THE UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILISATIONS GROUP OF FRIENDS MINISTERIAL MEETING IN BALI, INDONESIA AT 2PM ON 29 AUGUST 2014
My fellow Group of Friends Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 It is a great pleasure and honour to address all of you on the occasion of the Sixth Alliance of Civilisations Global Forum in Bali, Indonesia. Singapore joined the Alliance in 2013, and this is the first Global Forum that Singapore is attending. Singapore would like to thank the Government of Indonesia for hosting the Global Forum in Southeast Asia for the first time. We would also like to thank the Governments of Spain and Turkey for initiating this important platform, and extending the invitation for Singapore to join the Alliance.
2 Singapore would like to congratulate the Alliance on its ongoing efforts to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, as well as advocating tolerance and mutual understanding to counter extremism globally. We would also like to thank the UN and UNESCO in particular, for championing the cause of “cultural diversity as the common heritage of humanity”. As pointed out by UNESCO Director-General Bokova and former High Representative Sampaio in a joint article, “learning to manage diversity is a necessity and not a choice”. We support UNESCO’s efforts to promote cultural diversity in order for it to be a power for peace, security and development for all. We would also like to thank High Representative Al-Nasser for his active leadership in enhancing the role of the Alliance and extending its activities to a wide range of stakeholders.
3 The Alliance’s goals of fostering dialogue and mutual understanding are not new to the Southeast Asia. These goals are also shared by ASEAN as we work towards achieving an ASEAN Community by 2015. In the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint, one focus area is to strengthen the ASEAN’s appreciation for our shared cultural heritage and shared values. One way to achieve this is through the teaching of common values and cultural heritage in our schools and to develop courses on ASEAN Studies. Another is to have regular exchanges of cultural performers and scholars. Through these activities, we can develop “cultural literacy” to better appreciate the diversity amongst ASEAN countries.
4 Let me now touch on the relevance of the Alliance’s work to Singapore, and how cultural and religious diversity in Singapore is maintained. Singapore’s population is composed of peoples of many ethnicities, religions and languages. Living in close quarters with other peoples of different ethnicities and religions has been Singapore’s way of life since our independence in 1965. Naturally, the issue of managing and maintaining peaceful racial and religious relations became a core issue for us.
5 Fundamentally, Singapore is of the view that our religious groups should be free to practise their beliefs so long as they do not cause feelings of ill-will against other religious groups. Our approach has enabled Singapore’s many ethnic and religious communities to practise their customs and beliefs without compromising national interests or infringing on the sensitivities of other groups. We have enacted legislation to enforce this principle through the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act. Singapore has instituted the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony to safeguard the harmony among the various religious groups. We have also established the Presidential Council on Minority Rights to ensure that legislation is not prejudicial to any racial or religious group. Overall, we believe that our policies have preserved the peace in our multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society.
6 However, maintaining good intercultural and inter-religious relations both domestically and internationally remains a constant challenge. The role of technology, social media and migration is evolving and should be studied carefully. We appreciate Indonesia’s efforts to expand discussions at this Forum on the Alliance’s four priorities of education, youth, media and migration. We are confident that these discussions will contribute to the discourse on forging deeper respect and understanding amongst different civilisations, cultures and religions.
7 To conclude, Singapore is confident that this Sixth Global Forum in Bali and the outcomes of the Bali Declaration will provide a guide to the Alliance’s strategic outlook for the future, and add to the elaboration of the United Nations’ Post-2015 Development Agenda. The theme “Unity in Diversity” echoes one of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals that promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. We look forward to fruitful discussions at this meeting, and learning about innovative policies on how we can celebrate diversity, identify commonalities, and bridge the divide between communities.
8 Thank you.
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