Report of the Conference of Small States, held in New York – 01/10/2012

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of FOSS in 2022, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan launched the “FOSS for Good” technical assistance package at the 76th UNGA in September 2021. The package will run from 2022 to 2023 under the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP). In 1992, the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) was established to bring together under one framework the various technical assistance programmes offered by Singapore.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore

Report of the Conference of Small States, held in New York

Forum of Small States (FOSS)

Date 1 October 2012

I. Introduction

1. Established in 1992, the Forum of Small States is a diverse, non-ideological and informal grouping at the United Nations. The Forum provides a platform for small States to share information and strategies, to work together on issues of mutual interest and to lend a greater voice to their views and concerns. Currently, the Forum has 105 member States; they are listed in the appendix.

2. The Forum’s Conference on Small States was convened at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 1 October 2012 as the capstone event of the grouping’s year-long twentieth anniversary celebrations. The aims of the Conference were to raise the international profile of small States and start a dialogue on the role and contributions of small States to the international agenda. Well over 250 participants from more than 120 countries, international organizations and non-governmental bodies participated in this inaugural Conference, which was open to the full membership of the United Nations and interested parties.


IV. Working lunch on small States and mediation

7. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, delivered the keynote address at the working lunch. The session was moderated by Chew Tai Soo, Ambassador-at-Large of Singapore, who highlighted the qualities that made Mr. Ahtisaari an accomplished negotiator, including his realism, pragmatism, fairness, toughness and decisiveness. Mr. Ahtisaari also had an excellent sense of timing, particularly with regard to the right juncture to intervene for “frozen conflicts”.

8. In his address, Mr. Ahtisaari noted that small States faced a variety of development challenges and vulnerabilities due to their inherent limitations. However, they were more flexible and adaptable to global challenges. In addition, well-organized small States could play a constructive role in the resolution of conflicts. He pointed to Singapore’s initiative to establish the Forum of Small States as an example of how small nations could create a big, benign impact. Small players in international relations did not always have to be pawns on the chessboard, as long as they demonstrated the capacity to cooperate, to be trustworthy, and to be good sports. It was in the interest of small States to promote the observance of international law as they thrived best in a world where law and consensus were the norms underpinning international relations. He firmly believed that all conflicts could be resolved. However, he acknowledged that some difficult conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only be resolved with the joint effort of major Powers and other parties.


10. Riyad H. Mansour, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, asked what role small States could play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly when bigger States had been unable to make any progress. Mr. Ahtisaari said that small States had to maintain a principled approach and keep to all the principles that had been accepted by the international community. Abdulkhaleq Bin-Dhaaer Al-Yafei, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations, noted that there had been little progress in the Middle East peace process and asked for Mr. Ahtisaari’s views on how it would evolve in the middle to long term. Mr. Ahtisaari said that small States, being innovative, could come up with new ideas to move the Middle East peace process forward.

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