Small? Become extraordinary

Small? Become extraordinary
Singapore defines itself as a multiracial meritocracy and we organise ourselves on the basis of these principles. We take these principles seriously. They are what make Singapore, Singapore. They also make us extraordinary because our neighbours organise themselves on the basis of very different principles.

SIZE - physical size - matters and small states are intrinsically irrelevant to the workings of the international system.

It is impossible to conceive of a world without large countries like the US, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil or Russia, or even without medium-sized states like Australia, Japan, France or Germany.

But the world will probably get along fine without Singapore as a sovereign and independent country. After all it has only had to put up with us for 50 years.

For small states, relevance is not something to be taken for granted but an artefact: created by human endeavour, and having been created, preserved by human endeavour.

The creation and maintenance of relevance must be the overarching strategic objective of small states.

The majority of states are small. Slightly more than two decades ago, Singapore established the Forum of Small States (FOSS) at the United Nations, "small" being somewhat arbitrarily defined as having a population of 10 million or less.

It now has 105 members out of a total UN membership of 193 states. The international relevance of many members of FOSS is defined primarily by their vote in the UN. A vote in the UN is just that: not to be sneezed at, but still only one vote.

Singapore is exceptional as a small country in that our international identity and relevance is something more than just our UN vote. We have options beyond our single UN vote and that is why we were able to establish FOSS in the first place.

How do we create relevance?

There is no magic formula.

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