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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Watters and Tonami
An Overview of Singapore’s Arctic Engagement
To date, Singapore has not publicly articulated an overall Arctic policy or strategic direction,
therefore it is useful to briefly summarise the actual activities of the Singaporean government.
In December 2011, Singapore submitted a request to the Arctic Council to be considered for
permanent observer status at the next Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in May 2013, under the
current Swedish Presidency.
In January 2012, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed a Special Envoy for Arctic
Affairs, Ambassador Kemal Siddique
(Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2012)
. This position
lies within the MFA, heading up a Working Group that includes officials with area responsibility in
Europe and Southeast Asia.
However, a wide range of government agencies, the private and
academic sectors cooperate on Arctic issues.
Singapore joins China, Japan, Korea, the EU and Italy in seeking permanent observer status.
However, due to changes in the Arctic Council’s Rules of Procedure from May 2011, Singapore may
not attend Arctic Council meetings or working groups as an ad hoc observer.
This rule does not
apply to states that applied for observer status prior to May 2011.
Singapore is viewed as an active candidate for the Arctic Council and as having diligently embraced
the application criteria set out in the May 2011 SAO report.
The Singaporean government, for its
part, has been encouraged by the response to their application and acknowledgement of their
‘legitimate interests’.
Singapore officials have attended meetings in Sweden during the Swedish
Arctic Council chairmanship (albeit in the margins), joined a High North Study Tour to Svalbard
organized by the Norwegian government in August 2012 and participated in the 10
Conference of
Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region in September 2012. A number of representatives of the Arctic
Council’s Permanent Participants visited Singapore at the government’s invitation in May 2012.
These efforts and the appointment of an Arctic Envoy indicate an assessment by the Singaporean
government that achieving a consensus decision by Arctic Council states on Singapore’s status
requires a dedicated diplomatic effort. Singapore’s future participation in Arctic Council matters will
rest on Council member’s general position on inclusivity towards non-Arctic states. In this regard,
the Nordic members have proven most open to granting permanent observer status to applicants
that live up to the criteria adopted at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in May 2011.