In a constantly changing world, our relevance to the world needs to be continually refreshed. Only when we remain successful and relevant to the international community, can a small country like Singapore continue to make our voice heard on issues that are critical to our survival.
To this end, we strive to be an active, constructive and responsible international stakeholder that adds value to the international community. Singapore’s approach is to find a common purpose amongst different stakeholders, connect like-minded partners and focus on mutual cooperation and benefits.1 Hence, we helped to establish the Forum of Small States, and Global Governance Group to amplify the voices of small and medium-sized states. In an increasingly contested geopolitical arena, such groupings are important platforms for small states like Singapore to navigate the multilateral space. We were also one of the founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when it was formed on 8 August 1967, along with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
The Forum of Small States (FOSS)
In 1992, Singapore co-founded an informal grouping of small states in New York known as the Forum of Small States (FOSS) which consisted of an initial 16 countries.2 Singapore has since served as Chair of FOSS. Today, FOSS comprises 108 countries which meet regularly to discuss issues of concern to small states. Apart from New York, FOSS Chapters have also been established in Geneva, Vienna and London. 3
In 2015, Singapore launched the FOSS Fellowship Programme to foster better understanding and closer cooperation among FOSS states. Under the Fellowship Programme, Ambassadors based in cities where FOSS Chapters exist are invited to Singapore for study visits, where they can exchange views on development challenges with Singapore’s leaders and policy makers. As of 2023, Singapore has hosted more than 100 Ambassadors under the Fellowship Programme.4
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of FOSS in 2022, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan launched the “FOSS for Good” technical assistance package at the 76th UNGA in September 2022. Running from 2022 to 2023, the package will provide a peer-learning platform for FOSS states to share experiences, best practices and solutions to tackle the unique development needs and challenges of small countries, such as COVID-19 recovery and digital transformation.5
Watch a short video by Ministry of Foreign Affairs to learn more about
Watch MFA’s video on Voices of FOSS below to find out what other countries have to say about FOSS.
The Global Governance Group (3G)
In 2009, Singapore set up the Global Governance Group (3G) which comprised 30 small- and medium-sized members of the United Nations (UN). The 3G was formed mainly to promote greater transparency and inclusivity in the G20 process by encouraging stronger dialogue and linkages between the G20 and the broader UN membership.
As the Convenor of 3G, Singapore has been hosting the 3G Ministerial Meeting annually on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Week, involving 3G members, the G20 Troika, as well as the President of the UNGA, since 2009.6 From 2021, Singapore also convenes the Dialogue with the G20 Troika involving 3G and G20 Heads of Mission and chaired by the Foreign Minister.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
ASEAN is a cornerstone of Singapore’s foreign policy where we collaborate actively with ASEAN Member States and partners, provide a forum for all stakeholders to enhance cooperation and maintain cordial relations amongst the Member States. 7
Singapore was one of the founding members of ASEAN on 8 August 1967, along with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. As a small nation-state, Singapore strongly supports ASEAN’s goal of building a strong, prosperous and rules-based ASEAN. 8
Today, ASEAN has 10 members, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam (in alphabetical order). In November 2022, ASEAN agreed in-principle to admit Timor-Leste to be the 11th ASEAN Member State, in accordance with an objective, criteria-based roadmap, and granted Timor-Leste observer status to attend all ASEAN meetings in the interim. ASEAN’s international standing and voice have grown over time. ASEAN has established Dialogue Partnerships with eleven parties: Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia,the US and the UK. There are also ASEAN-led platforms such as ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.9
By playing an active role on the regional and global stage, Singapore is able to have a bigger voice in world affairs relative to our size and strategic weight. Singapore’s ability and success in playing the role of interlocutor and bridge-builder will earn us international space, credibility and relevance.10