Updated: 11/20/2012 23:00

Not feasible for states to return to days of acting alone on narrow basis of national interests: PM Lee

Not feasible for states to return to days of acting alone on narrow basis of national interests: PM Lee

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has cautioned that it is not feasible for the world to go back to the system of states acting only on a narrow basis of national interests and absolute sovereignty.

If that happens, he warns that small countries will be especially disadvantaged in such a world.

Addressing leaders at the first ASEAN Global Dialogue session in Phnom Penh, he says countries' interests now go beyond national boundaries and they touch on areas like financial stability, public health, terrorism which affects everyone.

Also, the global shift of power has further complicated global governance and it is unclear how the world order will evolve.

But he adds that world affairs can no longer be settled by just a few states and the United Nations system or new groupings like the G-20 are at best partial answers to this shift.

That's because such systems respect the interests of all states, big and small.

They are also legitimate, inclusive and predictable and based on the rule of law

Mr Lee says as a small country, Singapore values institutions like the UN, IMF and the World Bank.

That's because all countries big and small have a seat at the table, and work together to resolve challenges that affect everyone.

But there's a need to strengthen these institutions to deal with new challenges, and enhance their facilitation of collective decision-making and norm-setting.

And countries should also complement the global institutions with a network of regional organisations and groupings which have a better grasp of the regional landscape and are better-placed to promote practical cooperation.

In this regard Mr Lee says smaller regional groups like ASEAN have been valuable despite their limitations.

He adds that the political commitment to integration is essential, but it takes time to build and cannot be wished into effect overnight.

The ASEAN Global Dialogue which is a Cambodian initiative, brings together leaders from the region and also the heads of various institutions together for a discussion on global financial, economic and political challenges.

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