Speaking at the General Debate of the 75th United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 26, Singapore's foreign affairs minister Vivian Balakrishnan stressed the importance of multilateralism in overcoming challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key aspect is on working together to defeat COVID-19. "We need to understand that none of us, in nations large or small, will be safe until all of us are safe together. And what we need now is more global cooperation, not less," Balakrishnan said.
He added, that the pursuit of vaccine multilateralism is critical to ensure universal and equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine. This would the maximise the global health impact of an eventual vaccine.
"Singapore and Switzerland have been working with thirteen other like-minded partners as Friends of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility. COVAX, for short. The COVAX Facility seeks to reduce risk and facilitate equitable access to vaccines by all nations."
Balakrishnan also highlighted the need to build more equitable societies. "In the immediate term, we need to help those who have lost their family members, lost livelihoods and had their education interrupted. We should also consider ways to tackle the inequalities which COVID-19 has exposed and in some cases exacerbated."
Noting Singapore's efforts affirming supply chain connectivity and the flow of essential goods with various countries, the minister said that an open, rules-based multilateral trading system is a foundation for sustainable global recovery.
"The system has allowed countries to trade in goods and services in mutually beneficial ways. It has raised hundreds of millions of people from poverty. In the aftermath of COVID-19, we should look at ways to support and strengthen this system to make it work better for the future."