The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, formally adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at the historic UN Sustainable Development Summit, came into force officially on the 1st of January, 2016.
Built on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs, also known as Global Goals, aim to end all forms of poverty, with the call for action on all countries, poor and rich. In the recognition that ending poverty must go in unison with economic growth, strategies were developed to focus on social needs ranging from education, health, social protection and job opportunities, while putting into the necessity to address climate change and environmental protection.
There are a total of 17 SDGs, and you can find out more about them, and their relations with Singapore.
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Poverty describes more than the simple lack of income and resources. It can be seen in many other forms such as hunger and malnutrition, limited access to basic services, discrimination, exclusion from decision-making processes, and others. While Singapore does not have an official poverty line, social assistance schemes, such as Ministry of Social and Family Development’s ComCare, provide help up to the lowest 20th percentile of households. (http://www.thepovertyline.net/singapore/)
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
1 in 9 people in the world today are undernourished. That fraction of the world population would give a number estimated at 815 million. With Singapore’s population numbers of 5.6 million (2016), imagine the world having more than 145 Singapores, suffering from malnutrition and starvation.
While Singapore imports most of her food, and has initiatives towards development of agricultural technologies as well as the use of community spaces for vegetable farming, such are not common practices. In addition, Food Bank Singapore estimates that food wastage stands at the equivalent of around 140kg per person last year. (http://www.foodbank.sg/index.php/the-big-issues/food-wastage-in-singapore)
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Leading a healthy lifestyle and promoting physical and mental well-being for all at all ages is crucial for sustainable development. Heeding to the call of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Message in 2017, Singapore has embarked on the “War against Diabetes”, with a multi-prong approach to tackle problems and life style related issues that heighten the risk of diabetes. (https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/pressRoom/pressRoomItemRelease/2017/diabetes–the-war-continues.html)
Access to HIV treatment and prevention, with the availability of Truvada™, as well as accessibility to anonymous HIV testing, have been keeping infection rates in check. (http://afa.org.sg/portfolio-item/prep-answered/)
Advocates and campaigns for better understanding of mental health and related diseases have been picking up on an upward trend. (https://www.imh.com.sg/wellness/page.aspx?id=356)
Healthcare costs for the common folks are kept affordable for the masses with government schemes such as MediShield Life, ElderShield and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).
However, Singapore remains one of the highest in terms of workplace stress and working hours. Happy Planet Index and the World Happiness Report 2013 had also ranked Singapore as one of the lowest in terms of happiness of the population.
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
Since its founding in 1965, Singapore has placed education as a cornerstone in the policy decisions of nation building and development. Various options are available to cater to the differing aptitude of students with programmes ranging from gifted education and the various language, science, technology, art, and music electives, to vocational training schools and technical programmes. (https://www.moe.gov.sg/education/secondary/other)
Resources are dedicated towards people with special needs, ranging from specialised institutions of learning such as MINDS, APSN, Lighthouse School and others, to support and integration with mainstream schools. (https://www.moe.gov.sg/education/special-education)
Pre-school education is being made affordable and standardised, with the entry of government-run centres that are on-site at primary schools. Financial assistance is provided to defer the costs of private pre-schools as well. (https://www.moe.gov.sg/education/preschool)
Various education and training schemes are available to the adult population as well. Apart from the traditional aspects of tertiary institutions, programmes offered at the Lifelong Learning Institute and Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability help to cater to the changing needs of the population. SkillsFuture, a government-led initiative, provides training credits to help with acquisition of skills that are relevant to the industries and gives better access to job opportunities. (http://www.skillsfuture.sg/)
That said, despite having one of the world’s highest quality of education, Singapore remains high in the rankings in terms of academic-related stress, with various reports of youth suicides due to cumulating effects of the “paper chase”. Parents, too, play a part in the push, with excessive scheduling of enrichment programmes and tuition.
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Introduced in 1961, the Women’s Charter in Singapore’s legal system has provided judicial protection for the various rights of women, ranging from protection of rights under the institution of marriage to persecution against human trafficking and sexual offences. Its regular and timely revision, with the latest date of commencement in 2017, has kept the Act relevant with the current needs of the society. (https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/WC1961)
Human rights advocate groups, such as the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), have been making regular submissions of recommendations and commentaries on the issue of gender equality in Singapore, with respect to various fields from access to key leadership positions in the public and private sectors to wage differences and national conscription. (http://www.aware.org.sg/research-advocacy/)
Social service organisations, such as the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA), have been providing assistance to families in need to empower women and bridge gaps in the community. (https://www.awwa.org.sg)
Despite the efforts in the reconciliation of lacunae, many issues remain unresolved, such as the access to opportunities and resources for single parents. Recent reports have identified the stagnation of wage gaps between genders for the past decade. (http://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/no-improvement-in-singapores-gender-pay-gap-since-2006-report)
The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) committee has called on Singapore to take steps in legislation and implementation in 2017. (https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/un-committee-renews-calls-gender-equality-spore)
Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
Being an island state, Singapore has very limited access to resources in her nation building years. Access to water sources remains a key issue in bilateral negotiations and agreements with neighbouring Malaysia. With the devotion of technology and research, various avenues have been explored and implemented. Out of the current demand of 430 million gallons per day (1 gallon≈3.79 litres), Singapore is self-sustaining at 65%, with the use of desalination facilities and high-grade reclaimed water (NEWater). Infrastructural and facilities construction are still underway to increase efficiency of collection and output to meet 80% of the nation’s needs in 2030. (https://www.pub.gov.sg/watersupply/singaporewaterstory)
Water quality is ensured by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and the National Environment Agency (NEA), with high quality assurance whereby water from taps are readily drinkable without the need for additional filtration or treatment. (https://www.pub.gov.sg/watersupply/waterquality) (http://www.nea.gov.sg/public-health/piped-drinking-water-quality)
Waste water treatment, sanitation, and protection of water catchment areas are also managed by the 2 government statutory boards. (https://www.pub.gov.sg/usedwater)
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Energy is central to many aspects of development, from industrial manufacture and food production to jobs, security and daily livelihood, amongst others. It has to be not only affordable and reliable, but clean, sustainable and renewable to last us all for the days to come.
The Energy Market Authority (EMA), a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, works to ensure that these goals are met. Singapore’s energy needs are mainly supplied by electricity, generated mainly by natural gas, also used for cooking and heating. Gross efficiency of electricity has been improving on an upward trend, from 39% in 2001 to 46.5% in 2016. Solar energy uptake rates has also gone up, with the number of grid-connected solar photovoltaic installations going from 30 in 2008 to 2109 at the end of 2017. (https://www.ema.gov.sg/Statistics.aspx)
Singapore, being a tropical nation with a sunny weather all year round, can certainly move towards a greater uptake on solar energy. Green technologies are also incorporated in existing construction projects, as well as retrofitting old buildings. These technologies enable projects to be self-sufficient in their energy needs. Hence, they are coined with the term “Zero Energy Buildings”. (https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/whatiszeb.html)
Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
Economic growth results from employment opportunities, financial injection from investors and consumption of products. However, vulnerable communities have a tendency to trail behind in the fiscal marathon. As of end 2017, the resident unemployment rate in Singapore stands at an annual average of 3.1%. (http://stats.mom.gov.sg/Pages/Unemployment-Summary-Table.aspx)
The Employment Act, Singapore’s main labour law, gives provisions on basic terms and conditions to protect employees. Provisions cover a range of issues such as minimum age to work, rest days, annual and sick leave, maternity protection and benefits, hours of work, and payment of salary among others. The Ministry of Manpower also spearheads the WorkRight initiative to help vulnerable groups to better understand their employment rights, and seek redress with non-compliant employers.
In policy decision, relevant parties are represented and engaged in the decision making process to ensure that views and concerns are highlighted in a fair manner. Through the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), legislators, employers and union representatives are brought together in partnership to put into effect fair employment practices.
To deal with changes and disruption in the job market, initiatives such as Workforce Singapore’s Adapt and Grow help retrenched workers to get back into the workforce after economic restructuring, by providing training and upgrading opportunities.
Empowering persons with disabilities, the Enabling Masterplan provides recommendations and strategies to improve their quality of life. Started in 2007, the blueprint is currently in its 3rd revision, addressing various concerns such as access to developmental opportunities, support of caregivers, as well as the use of technology to empower individuals with disabilities in living actively within an inclusive society.
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
nfrastructural development, be it conventional, digital or otherwise, is essential in attaining sustainable growth. Through the use of a robust network, goods and services can be better distributed from its producers to the desired consumers with efficiency and efficacy. Singapore has long prided herself at a logistical hub in world trade, with her strategic location along major sea trade routes that connects the East and West. The improvement in aerospace technology has also brought about the development of her airport into one of the world’s largest air freight hub.
For better conventional connectivity, development of physical infrastructure is always ongoing. With the construction projects such as the 5th terminal at Changi Airport, the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail, extensions of new and existing train lines, the Outer Ring Road system and North-South Corridor, transportation time for products and human traffic within and transiting Singapore will significantly reduced.
In the age of information and digital technological advancements, a strong network and connectivity is needed to facilitate the flow of data between users and content providers. With the restructuring and formation of the Infocomm Media Development Authority to implement the Infocomm Media 2025 plan, coordination efforts are centralized to give better regulatory control and development opportunities under one umbrella, including upholding consumer privacy under the Personal Data Protection Commission. The embrace of financial technology (FinTech) through the various schemes offered by Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Smart Financial Centre initiative allows for the testing and implementation of new technologies to minimize the impact of sudden and disruptive entries, providing opportunities of collaboration.
Promotion of innovation is achieved through many schemes providing grants and support for entrepreneurs and startups. Through Startup SG under Enterprise Singapore, startups and entrepreneurs can connect to investors, infrastructure, technical support, research and development partners, as well as other potentials to develop their business.
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
The Gini coefficient is used to statistically measure the income and wealth distribution within the population, and is a common tool to determine inequality, with 0 being perfect equality of totally even distribution, while 1 being maximal inequality where all wealth is concentrated with 1 person.
Using the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) method, based on the Squared Root Scale, Singapore’s 2017 Gini coefficient for before taxation and transfer is at 0.417, and 0.356 after.
In addressing inequality, various help groups have been set up to help the disadvantaged and marginalized, such as Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community (Yayasan MENDAKI), Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), and the Eurasian Association. These help groups provides assistance in a range of services, from education and tuition schemes, to assistance to families and seniors.
Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Cities have long been the convergence of people to conduct trade, advance science and culture, socialise, and to improve their quality of life. The high number of people gathered in a single location puts immense strain on land and resources. Hence, prudence in urban planning and development is crucial to tackle challenges such as housing, congestion, infrastructure and provision of affordable basic services.
Relatively affordable housing is achieved through the public housing schemes provided by the Housing Development Board (HDB). Founded in the early years of nation building. HDB has introduced various schemes through the years, from providing housing for people relocating from land acquisition of kampong villages, to rejuvenation of mature estates through Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), as well as Built To Order (BTO) apartments. Construction of projects has also been evolving to achieve completion faster with better results, such as the fabrication of modules off-site and its subsequent assembly, giving less waste in a shorter time-span.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) regulates the land use and oversees conservation efforts. Guidelines to use of building gazetted as conservation areas as well as planning land use help to preserve local cultures in the face of rapid development in land-scarce Singapore.
City accessibility for all has also been in focus of urban development. With publishing of the Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment 2013, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) aims to create barrier-free access for an inclusive society with persons with disabilities and the aged in mind.
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Sustainable consumption and production aims to create a better quality of life for all with lowered use of resources to produce higher gains through increasing net efficiency. Efforts for effective and efficient of resources intend to reduce wastage while increasing efficacy to allow for better resource management, and these efforts need the involvement of all parties, from the communities at ground level to national legislative bodies and trans-national associations.
Singapore has been addressing the lack of natural resources since her founding, with multiple campaigns launched through the decades to tackle resource management. Mascots such as Captain Green to champion efforts for a “Clean and Green Singapore”, Water Wally for water conservation and Zap the cat for saving energy are developed to engage the masses, both young and old.
Industrial waste management is regulated by national legislation under the Environmental Public Health (Toxic Industrial Waste) Regulations. Control measures for common toxic wastes, as well as specialized wastes such as asbestos-based and biohazards, are in place with adherence to international standards. (http://www.nea.gov.sg/anti-pollution-radiation-protection/chemical-safety/toxic-industrial-waste/toxic-waste-control)
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects everyone and everywhere. Changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, and increasingly extreme weather events have impacted lives all around the globe. To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/parisagreement22april/)
Remember the major flooding at Orchard Road back in 2011? That prolonged dry spell without rainfall for 27 consecutive days back in 2014? That water spout that blew trash bins and sailing boats into the air at National Sailing Centre in 2018? While we do not experience major weather events such as typhoons in Philippines and forest fires in Australia, climate change affects Singapore with pressing issues like rising sea levels for an island state surrounded by the sea, impacting sea trade and increasing maintenance costs at the coastal areas.
The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, with statutory boards the National Environment Agency and Public Utilities Board, have planned to adapt with the changes and combat further damage with campaigns and policies to reduce emissions. Working hand in hand, the National Climate Change Secretariat, under the Prime Minister’s Office, has come up with plans and strategies. (https://www.nccs.gov.sg/resources/publications/plans-reports)
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
Oceans, amongst other properties, provide livelihood, food, and act as a sink for carbon dioxide in the buffering of greenhouse gas effect.
Singapore, an island state, is surrounded by the seas all around. Located along the major freight lines, the seas have been a contributing factor to the Singapore Story, which began as a small fishing village. Rich biodiversity is available in the coastal and intertidal areas as well as coral reefs. (https://www.nparks.gov.sg/biodiversity/our-ecosystems/coastal-and-marine)
Research is dedicated towards the various branches of marine science at the Tropical Marine Science Institute, with its outstation research facilities located on the St John’s Island. (https://www.tmsi.nus.edu.sg/)
Mangrove forests, a key coastal feature of the tropics are managed by the National Parks Board (NParks), with a dedicated reserve region at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, though this only spans an estimated area of 100 hectares. Wetland restoration projects, such as the Coastal Protection and Restoration of Mangrove Biodiversity at Pulau Tekong, are also underway, using innovative methods to restore mangrove forests. (https://www.nparks.gov.sg/biodiversity/our-ecosystems/coastal-and-marine/mangroves)
Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
Forests act as a carbon dioxide sink to buffer the greenhouse gas effect, provide food security and shelter, and are important factors in the protection and preservation of biodiversity. The Amazon, largest of the tropical rainforest areas, has an area of 5.5 mil km2. However, it constitutes less than 9% out of the 64 mil km2 of habitable land area on Earth. Adding in deforestation and desertification, which shrinks both forested and habitable lands, poorly managed and unsustainable human development activities affect the natural environment drastically, which in turn haunts us in full circle through climate change, loss of biodiversity and catastrophic weather events.
Singapore, in the protection of her natural heritage, has various policies in place. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) manages these policies with enforcement and border control with the Singapore Customs. The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act is an act to give effect the judicial and enforcement legality to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. (https://statutes.agc.gov.sg/Act/ESIEA2006)
The National Parks Board (NParks) manages the natural reserves and areas within Singapore.
Also under NParks’s helm is the National Biodiversity Centre, located within the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
Singapore is relatively well-known for having institutions that are corrupt-free. Within the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches are outlined, with protection from external influences and a system of inter-branch checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. (https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/CONS1963)
Internationally, the World Justice Project‘s Rule of Law Index 2017-2018 ranked Singapore at the 13th position, while the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 placed Singapore at the 6th position.
Accessibility and safeguarding of financial institutions was made available early in the founding era of Singapore, with the enactment of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act in 1970, establishing Singapore’s central bank.
One of the oldest agencies of such nature in the world, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau is the only agency authorised to investigate corruption offences, be it public or private sectors, in Singapore. While it is an agency under the Prime Minister’s Office, CPIB is vested with functional independence in the discharge of its operational duties.
In the mission to ensure access to justice for all, the Law Society of Singapore established the Pro Bono Services Office in 2007, with the undertaking to provide free legal assistance to those in need. Apart from law awareness initiatives for the public, the Pro Bono Services Office also runs free legal clinics, and does legal representations under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.
Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Global partnerships are essential in producing effective results in sustainable development. Quoting John Donne, “No man is an island”, protectionism policies may provide immediate to short-termed results to appease the populists and reclaim some political bargaining chips, but the long-termed impact on the global economic climate and the straining of ties built between countries over the century would be the costs to bear.
Singapore’s involvement in global and regional partnerships is not new. From the founding days, Singapore has identified that she is a country with a lack of physical resources, and partnerships such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded in 1967, and the formation of Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) in 1971, helped to contribute to the region’s economic growth and stability. This, in turn, provided Singapore with the possibility of growth in the tumultuous period of nation building, coupled with good internal policies and relatively stable political environment to bring about the confidence of investors and injection of foreign investments.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a Free Trade Agreement between 11 countries, namely: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. All 11 countries are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The newly inked, multi-national deal was concluded on 23 January 2018 in Tokyo, Japan, and signed by Singapore on 9 March 2018 in Santiago, Chile.
The CPTPP seeks to enhance trade among countries in the Asia-Pacific, resulting in more seamless flows of goods, services, and investment regionally, with the substantial elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers for goods, improved access for service suppliers in a wide range of sectors, greater facilitation of investments, and improved access to government procurement contracts. (https://www.mti.gov.sg/MTIInsights/Pages/CPTPP.aspx)