Singapore, 6 December 2021 (TDI): The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan addressed the fifth Indian Ocean Conference (IOC). He participated in the conference, virtually. The IOC is hosted in Abu Dhabi this year with the theme of “Indian Ocean: Ecology, Economy and Epidemic”.

Whilst addressing the conference, the Singaporean Foreign Minister reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as well as climate change. He underscored the significance of a multilateral rules-based order. Aside from that, an open international trading system for sustainable and inclusive growth is also very important.

Moreover, Vivian Balakrishnan highlighted the need to leverage digital technologies. Such an effort will ensure to promote sustainable development and bridge the digital divide. He said that the Indian Ocean is an essential conduit for culture, trade, language, geostrategic influence, and religion over the past five to six centuries. Ergo, the theme of IOC is salient.

The Foreign Minister highlighted that COVID-19 has deteriorated the situation along with many pre-existing trends, like nativism, nationalism, and anti-globalization. The threat imposed by the virus transcends borders. Specifically with the outbreak of the new Omicron variant that illustrates that no one is safe until everyone is safe. For that, collective action is the need of the hour.

Vivian Balakrishnan pointed out that Singapore has also been an early advocate for vaccine multilateralism. On climate change, he said that it’s an existential threat what with the Indian Ocean warming up at a rate to be three times higher than the Pacific. Consequently, the rising sea levels will lead to more frequent floods in low lying areas and severe coastal erosion.

The recent 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC or the COP26 underscored the importance of a multilateral rules-based response, and that is optimistic. Singapore is committed to helping the developing countries in implementation of the climate pledges, through its Climate Action Package.

In addition, he expressed that Singapore is now focusing on post-pandemic economic recovery. The COVID-19 has disrupted the global supply chains as well as increased energy prices. Such drastic changes will have long term implications for the global economy.

Also, regional peace and prosperity is key factor in determining the collective ability to cooperate under the dictates of a rules-based international order. Singapore welcomes the US and China’s statements to work together to deepen cooperation and to prevent conflict.

He further emphasized that adherence to frameworks, like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is absolutely vital for an inclusive and stable region.