Singapore signs UN pact to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination

Pupils at Anchor Green Primary School in Sengkang dressed in their ethnic costumes to mark Racial Harmony Day on July 21.
Pupils at Anchor Green Primary School in Sengkang dressed in their ethnic costumes to mark Racial Harmony Day on July 21. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore has signed an international agreement committing to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race.

Ambassador Karen Tan, Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on behalf of Singapore on Monday.

Singapore is expected to ratify the UN convention in 2017, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said in a statement today.

The ministry also pledged to work with stakeholders, including through public consultations, to fulfil its obligations under the pact.

"Over the last 50 years, we have built a Singapore where every citizen matters, regardless of race, language or religion. This has been our fundamental approach to nation-building and will continue to guide us into the future," Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said on Tuesday.

"Signing the ICERD further entrenches our commitment to this end, to unequivocally show that racial discrimination has no place in Singapore."

The MCCY also said in its statement that Singapore is committed to preserving a multiracial society where every person is equal, regardless of race, language or religion.

The Republic's memory of racial riots in its early years of independence continues to guide efforts in striving towards a society free of racism and racial discrimination, it said.

"Social harmony is not taken for granted, and we have strived continually to strengthen inter-racial and inter-faith understanding and mutual respect," the statement added.

Singapore first confirmed its intention to consider acceding to the ICERD in 2011.

A number of civil society groups have also called for the Government to sign the agreement.

The ICERD, which was adopted and opened for signature in 1965 and effective since 1969, is a UN Convention that condemns racial discrimination based on race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin, and calls upon states to pursue a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all forms.

Singapore is the 88th signatory to the pact. There are 177 parties to the convention in total. Among the Asean countries, Cambodia and the Philippines have signed and ratified it. Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam have acceded to the pact without signing or ratifying it.