Members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank the Committee for the honest, open, and insightful dialogue we have had yesterday and today. While Singapore has made great improvements in ensuring its children’s rights and wellbeing in many areas, there is always room for improvement. The Committee’s comments have been most helpful in highlighting potential areas of improvement. We welcome the comments and will consider these comments seriously as we review our policies.
I also thank the Committee members who acknowledged and commended Singapore’s significant progress in advancing children’s rights since our last review, including introducing amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act to better protect our children, establishing the Family Justice Courts, and investing significantly in the Early Childhood Education sector.
II. SINGAPORE’S PROGRESS IN CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
As we have emphasised repeatedly over the past two days, every child is precious to us. Singapore has in recent years focused on building an endearing home for our children, for this generation and the ones to come. A home where every child is safe and secure, and has the opportunities to fulfil their dreams and succeed.
We will continue to provide our children with a good start, regardless of their situation at birth. Our children have the right to be given means and opportunities to succeed. Where some may need additional help, we have invested in programmes to give them a head start.
We will do more to provide our children with a nurturing environment where they can thrive. We invest in strengthening our families and their ability to care for their children. We also seek to build a good physical, social and cultural environment so that our children can grow well and do well.
We will enhance the protection of and support for our children who are vulnerable. These children deserve especial care, and we have strengthened our support for them through our legislation and programmes.
We will strengthen our partnerships with civil society and NGOs to provide strong communities and support networks for our children. Some of our NGOs have submitted alternative reports, and are here to observe our country’s session. Like the government, they are committed and dedicated to our children, and they are valuable advocates for our children.
We continue to pay close attention to other emerging challenges that may affect the well-being and rights of our children, which have also been raised by the Committee, such as the dangers that face our children in the digital environment, and the issue of mental health. Singapore will continue to refine, strengthen, and adapt our approach to safeguard children’s rights and development. We look forward to further dialogue with the Committee on these issues.
III. SINGAPORE’S COMMITMENT TO CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
Before I conclude, I would like to acknowledge that our principles of governance, and the way we care for citizens and children, protect their human rights and preserve our social harmony, may be different from how other societies have organised themselves. But our approach has delivered good outcomes for us. Singapore is ranked 9th on the latest UN Human Development Index and 1st on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index last year – in that report the World Bank assessed that a child born in Singapore today can be expected to fulfil 88 per cent of their potential to be productive when they grow up if they enjoyed complete education and full health. In 2018, international NGO Save the Children ranked Singapore the best country for children to grow up in. Our view is that every country must deal with its own development and advance human rights in its own way, taking into account its unique social and cultural context.
Let me reassure the Committee that Singapore is fully committed to promoting and advancing the rights of the child. We believe in the best interest of the child as the first and paramount consideration. We believe in the right of our children to non-discrimination; to assurance of their best interests; to survival, development and protection; and to participation and self-expression.
We acknowledge that we do not have all the answers, and we must continue to review our practices and policies, learn best practices from other countries, and adapt to the changing times. We look forward to further interactions with the Committee after the Concluding Observations have been issued, to learn and study from the Committee and best practices adopted around the world.
We appreciate the Committee’s work and its dedication to the promotion of children’s rights. We look forward to our journey together. A journey of learning and progress, to better the lives of our children.