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Agenda 2015: Foundations for the 21st Century

December 31, 2014


Just over the horizon of the new dawn, is the year 2015: Politically, it is perhaps one of the most defining year in this century not just for Singapore, but also for the world. It may be the year that lays down the foundations for what is to come in the next fifty years locally,regionally and globally.

The Jubilee Year


Singapore will be celebrating its fiftieth year of independence come 9th August since 1965. Fifty years is also a good time to look back, to review and reflect on successes and failures. It also presents itself as an opportunity to reconsolidate and chart her path in going forward.

The very survival of the island state nation is nothing less than a miracle, backed with sheer tenacity of her founding fathers that ruled with an iron fist. There is much to thank them for,along with the pioneer generation that has worked hard to bring Singapore from a third world to first, in an unprecedented manner.

Brought up with a different set of environment, experience and social normative, the next fifty years will require a new generation of leaders and doers to ensure the nation’s survivability continues. Essentially, Singapore will need a next wave of pioneers in its own way. Based on the last General Election (GE) held in 2011, be it out of perceived suppression or sowed discord of its citizens, it was a clear that the people of Singapore wanted change, and to have more say in the country’s decision making process. Perhaps a sign of progress, where people are indirectly saying, “ I want to take on responsibility of how my country is being run”.

Hence, besides celebrating how far it has come, the jubilee year will be a chance for the nation as a whole to think how it wants to reinvent herself, going into Singapore 2.0 before the next GE.  As the political parties in Singapore, both existing and soon-to-be ones, attempt to connect to the people and shortlist candidacy that they want to put forward; it citizens, both old and new, must come together and explore how they can work together constructively to build a new layer of foundation.

The ASEAN Economic Community


While all eyes are on China and India in an era deemed by many experts as “The rise of Asian powers”, ASEAN as a bloc should not be neglected despite all the critics surrounding it. With a market of over 600 million consumers and combined GDP of nearly US$3 trillion, ASEAN is a vibrant and growing region; a force to be reckoned with as it gets its act together. In fact, if ASEAN were a single entity, it would rank as the seventh largest economy in the world, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Formed in 1967, ASEAN is a political and economic organisation of ten countries located in Southeast Asia.  Its birth was brought forth because the respective government needed a peace of mind to focus on their respective nation building, and more importantly a strong desire for economic development.

In 2007, to further strengthen the economic development of the region, the bloc adopted a blueprint with the goal of merging the economies of its member states into an integrated economy. This project, a scorecard of sort, is known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and is set to be due in December 2015.

Leaders of the recent ASEAN Summit held inNovember have shared that about 80% of the overall measures of the AEC has been achieved. The gap that remains will require more political will to fulfil as member states will be required to review their respective domestic law. And this will take time.

So while the commitment to complete the AEC blueprint by next year continues, it should be looked upon as a stepping-stone into the future. In fact, member states have already begun making preparations for a post 2015 agenda, which we should stay tuned for. Whatever the achievements of the AEC next year, it will be a significant milestone by itself for the region. It will also be the foundation for further trade barriers to be lowered, connectivity to be enhanced, infrastructure to be built and legal frameworks to be refined to fit the community.

The Climate Change Agreement


Signed in 1997, the well-known KyotoProtocol is an agreement where countries, especially developed ones, commit themselves to an emission target respectively to prevent the average global temperature rise more than 2ºC. A number that is already being agreed by over 80% of the scientific community, that will result in more extreme and difficult environment for us humans to thrive in. Now, into its second commitment period since 2013,it is set to expire in the year 2020.

Despite the agreement, our emission continues to increase. At the moment, we have put out about 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, way above the safe upper limit of 350ppm. Hence, the need is there for a post 2020 agreement of sort to continue pushing down our emissions as a whole.

However, emission targets alone in this new agreement will not suffice as human have already set in motion the impacts of climate change onto our planet. Therefore, the agreement must address the implementation of necessary adaptation measures as well, especially to those that are the most susceptible to its wrath.

Experts and stakeholders have already agreed that there will be an outcome or agreement of sort. However, the key critic lies in whether this agreement will set us on track to deliver a future that is acceptable for the survivability of the human race.

This agreement, set to be delivered by the next climate change conference in December 2015 at Paris, will not be another“be all end all” Copenhagen moment. Rather, it will set the foundation on how states will work together, along with other non-state actors, to achieve their respective and collective desired outcome towards dealing with climate change.

The Millennium Development Goals


As the world approached the end of the last century, it brought together the largest gathering of world leaders ever in history at the Millennium Summit in the year 2000. Its goal was to discuss about the purpose and the role of the United Nations (UN) at the turn of the century.

Then UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, launched the report “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the Twenty-First Century”after a two year consultation prior with over 1,000 non-governmental (NGOs) and civil society organisations  (CSOs) from more than 100 countries. The report identifies issues that require governments to work together and have them addressed, in which the United Nations is aptly positioned to facilitate such efforts. Guided by the report, the world leaders adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership with a series of time-bound targets that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a deadline due in 2015.

Despite not fully achieving everything on its scorecard, one can safely note that much progress has been made towards achieving the MDGs including a decline in global poverty, increase in primary school, child mortality drop and increased access to safe drinking water.

With the MDGs concluding at the end of2015, world leaders have called for an ambitious and long-term agenda, to further improve people’s lives and protect the planet for future generations,building on the momentum generated by the MDGs.

Therefore at the Special Summit onSustainable Development in September next year, world leaders will be expected to adopt a Post 2015 agenda that will provide a framework for countries embark on new pathways for actions to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment and address climate change. The new scorecard will be called the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs).


As we wind down the year and indulge ourselves in the festive holiday seasons with our loved ones, where we give and receive blessings, reflect upon the past year and give ourselves a little pat on our shoulder for making through the year.

In an increasingly interconnected world, we no longer just hold the citizenship of any country, we must come to realise and accept that we do hold a common citizenship of this planet. And as a global citizen, it would perhaps be wise to take a little step back and look at the ever changing political landscape in the coming year and the key events that are set to unfold, for they will affect us one way or another, whether we know it or not,whether we like it or not.

Happy New Year.



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