SINGAPORE - Small states depend on the multilateral system for their security and survival, and must play an active part to strengthen it, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday.
"This international order is imperfect, but it is by far our best bet. If we regress to a world where 'might is right', small states would find it impossible to survive and even big countries will not be better off," he added.
"We must therefore participate actively to strengthen the multilateral system. Maintain as level a playing field as possible, to protect the interests of small states."
PM Lee was speaking in a video message to leaders and ministers attending a reception of the Forum of Small States (Foss) in New York, held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly's high-level week.
The informal grouping, started by Singapore in 1992 to discuss issues of mutual concern and give small states a bigger voice in the UN, began with 16 members and now brings together 108 countries, well over half the UN's membership.
The reception was hosted by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who is attending the UN General Assembly session this week.
In his message, PM Lee noted that Foss commemorates its 30th anniversary this year amid heightened geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainty.
He highlighted how the environment has become more troubled: Russia's invasion of Ukraine violates the UN Charter and undermines the rules-based order. Tensions between the United States and China raise the risk of conflict between major powers. Rising food and oil prices and supply chain disruptions worsen poverty and may even cause famines. Climate change, novel pathogens and cyber threats endanger the safety, security and well-being of billions of people around the world.
"These uncertainties and threats can pose grave dangers to the economies, societies...