Speeches

Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli BMM, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Home Affairs, at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit on Monday, 19 July 2010, at 8.00 am at Hwa Chong Institution Clock Tower Auditorium

Mr Jonathan Lee,
Chairman, Board of Directors, Hwa Chong Institution;

Mr Desmond Ong,
Chairman, Board of Governors, Hwa Chong Institution;

Dr Hon Chiew Weng,
Principal, Hwa Chong Institution;

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

INTRODUCTION

I am delighted to be here at the 2010 Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit. It is commendable that Hwa Chong Institution has once again brought together a group of outstanding young people and future leaders from 12 countries across different continents to share ideas on pertinent global issues. I commend the school for its good work in organising this important summit.

To all our foreign friends, let me extend to you a very warm welcome to Singapore.

CITIZENS WITHOUT BORDERS: LOCATING THE GLOBAL CITIZEN

The theme of this year’s summit is “Citizens without Borders: Locating the Global Citizen”. In this current climate of economic uncertainties, it is apt that we reflect on our roles and responsibilities as global citizens. We must recognise that we each have a part to play in the recovery of our world and how we each hold a stake in the future. We need to think about how we can emerge from these turbulent times, strong and resilient in our unity, as a global fraternity of citizens, regardless of geographical boundaries. While many of us today are familiar with the notion of a borderless world, the key word in this theme is the word ‘citizen’. What does it mean to be a citizen, and more importantly, a global citizen? I hope that this question will become a springboard for more questions and discussions as you embark on this journey of exchange and inquiry.

It is imperative for the younger generation to possess a global outlook, and be concerned with issues beyond your shores. Globalisation has seen people in different parts of the world growing closer together and participating in more collaborative efforts. The world has become interconnected. Problems such as environmental degradation and the financial crisis affect countries all over the world emphasizing our interconnectedness, What one country does to resolve the problems can impact other countries in varied ways. Hence, it is not too soon for young minds to come together to learn to think and work in a collaborative spirit for they will exert influence as future leaders on how the world will shape up.

The issue of global citizenship is a complex one. This is because each individual’s worldview is inevitably tied to his/her cultural, economic, national and social backgrounds. Thus, in order to reach any common understanding on the roles and responsibilities of the global citizen, one needs to appreciate the diverse vantage points that others bring with them. Summits – such as this – are wonderful opportunities to highlight and synthesize complex issues that are often seen in different lights.

THE GLOBAL CITIZEN: 3 BIG ISSUES

Given the challenges brought on by globalisation, we need to re-examine some of our own assumptions and beliefs about what it means to be a member of a global community. In today’s context, it is important that the global citizen is genuinely concerned about 3 big issues; issues which are pressing, regardless of one’s nationality or background. They are: (1) Security, (2) Inequality; and (3) The Environment.

Global Security

As the world becomes increasingly borderless, threats like terrorism become increasingly real for the individual. Its impact on how we live is profound – people get affected psychologically and economies also are inevitably impacted. World peace is constantly being undermined by the spectra of nuclear arms and the ever-present threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, even as we enjoy the benefits of an increasingly borderless world, global challenges like these still exist. The onus is then on youths like yourselves to come up with ideas to address the issues. While the idea of world peace may seem very clich├ęd and idealistic, it is nonetheless important to remember that as global citizens, one should always strive towards that ideal.

Issue of Inequality

We sometimes recognise poverty to be the root of other inequalities that are occurring in today’s world. After all, no matter how rich or progressive a country is; poverty and inequality exist. The widening gap between skilled and unskilled workers and formal and informal economies compounds this problem.

In this situation, we find that only the rich reap most of the economic benefits, while the poor continue to suffer in silence. While globalisation has indeed reduced the total number of those in abject poverty, the reality is that the poor is still very much with us. Poverty and inequality are complex challenges and there are no easy solutions. The least a global citizen should do is to ask probing questions about these issues and not be satisfied with simplistic answers.

The Environment

Pandemics, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources threaten our survival. As our environment continues to deteriorate, it is apt that we come together as one people to fight environmental degradation. We need to remind ourselves of the importance of conserving the environment. Nature knows no boundaries, so an environmental disaster that affects a country or a region will directly or indirectly affect other parts of the world. As global citizens, everybody has a shared responsibility for the well-being of the world.

SINGAPORE: WHERE PEOPLE, CULTURES AND IDEAS CONVERGE

In Singapore, as part of our Desired Outcomes of Education, we urge all post secondary and tertiary students to “think global, yet be rooted to Singapore”. A global outlook is essential for young global citizens to begin taking steps to show concern, and to take action regarding issues of common worldwide interest.

A forum such as the Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit is a good example of how Singapore seeks to be a point of convergence not just for today’s global leaders, but also the world’s future leaders. Singapore’s Ministry of Education is helping and encouraging schools to collaborate on student and teacher exchanges as well as study trips, among other things. The Hwa Chong-Beijing Satellite Campus is a good example of facilitating a sustained and durable overseas immersion for Singapore students.

CONCLUSION

I would like to leave this thought with you – as you deliberate on the pressing global issues, do not limit your participation to mere classroom discussions, to be forgotten once you return to your respective countries. We can change mindsets by merely changing conversations.

I am encouraged to hear that you have already communicated with one another even before this summit. As you meet each other face-to-face today, I encourage you to take the opportunity to understand each other more, as individuals. This Summit is an excellent opportunity for all of you to develop friendships and networks that will last beyond the next two weeks. As you keep in touch with each other, more exciting exchanges will emerge.

It leaves me now to wish all of you a fruitful and enriching summit, and for our overseas friends to have an enjoyable stay in Singapore.

Thank you.