subpage banner


Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister For Finance & Minister For Manpower, At The 32nd Singapore Lecture by UNDP Administrator The Right Honourable Helen Clark

13 Mar 2012

The Right Honourable Helen Clark

Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme


Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.  It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to the 32nd Singapore Lecture.

2.  Ms Clark, it is an honour to have you here with us this afternoon. On behalf of the organisers, I thank you for agreeing to deliver the Singapore Lecture during what I know is a very short and busy visit to Singapore.

3.  Ms Clark is well-known to Singapore. Prior to her appointment as the UNDP Administrator, she served as the Prime Minister of New Zealand for three successive terms, from 1999 to 2008. Under her steady leadership, New Zealand achieved significant economic growth, low unemployment levels, and increased investment in education and health. She also strongly advocated for New Zealand's comprehensive programme on environmental sustainability and for tackling the problems of climate change. Since then, New Zealand has become one of the world's leading nations in these areas.

4.  In the region, recognising the growing political and economic importance of the Asia Pacific, Ms Clark prioritised New Zealand's greater engagement with the region. New Zealand was the first country to conclude a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore in 2001. In 2005, both countries entered the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement with Brunei and Chile. This has since expanded into a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership, spanning nine countries together with the US, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia. On the ASEAN front, Ms Clark played an instrumental role in driving New Zealand's entry into the East Asia Summit in 2005. It was also under her watch, in 2004, that the Leaders agreed to start negotiations on the ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), which were eventually concluded in 2009.

5.  Throughout her career, Ms Clark consistently demonstrated her passion for advancing human development. Her dedication in this area made her an ideal candidate to take up the post of UNDP Administrator in 2009.

6.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) holds an integral place within the United Nations system. With a presence in 177 countries, the UNDP is the global development network of the United Nations. At its core, the UNDP's mission is a simple but fundamental one. It seeks to help and equip people from all corners of the world to build better lives for themselves.

7.  But to translate this mission into real and impactful outcomes, the work that the UNDP does is both varied and extremely daunting. It ranges from combating poverty and AIDS to the protection of human rights, capacity development and the empowerment of women; as well as assistance in crisis prevention and recovery. We should also not forget the integral role that the UNDP is playing in pushing forward the Millennium Development Goals.

8.  Singapore has certainly benefitted from the work of the UNDP. The UNDP had been a valuable source of economic advice in the early years of our independence. It remains a long-standing development partner, as we now in turn help other developing countries in areas where we have expertise. Since 1992, Singapore and the UNDP have jointly trained about 1200 government officials from 86 developing countries in a diverse range of fields.

9.  We are therefore privileged today to have Ms Clark deliver the Singapore Lecture on "The Importance of Governance for Sustainable Development". This is a timely but complex topic, as sustainable development cuts across economic, social and environmental issues. It is a universal concern, which has serious implications for future generations. As the cornerstone of global governance, the role of the United Nations in addressing the challenges of sustainable development cannot be understated.

10.  The UNDP has undertaken several initiatives in this area, such as the Poverty-Environment Initiative, which provides financial and technical assistance to government partners to set up institutional and capacity strengthening programmes; and the Africa Adaptation Programme, which works with 20 African countries to strengthen capabilities crucial to designing and implementing a resilient development agenda, just to name a few.

11.  But the UN cannot tackle the challenges of sustainable development by itself. Each country needs to do its part and work with organisations, such as the UNDP, to put in place effective policies and develop the necessary capabilities to create a good and sustainable living environment for themselves and future generations.

12.  Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I invite Ms Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, to deliver the 32nd Singapore Lecture.