Singapore to organise second edition of high-level forum on social cohesion in two years' time

The inaugural International Conference on Cohesive Societies last year was attended by delegates from nearly 40 countries. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The second edition of a high-level forum to promote harmony and cohesion will be organised by Singapore again in two years' time, announced President Halimah Yacob on Saturday (Dec 5).

The upcoming International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) will focus on "gathering best practices and supporting participants with the tools and networks to advance social cohesion", said Madam Halimah, who had mooted the idea of the inter-faith forum, which was first held last year in Singapore.

"We want to continue using this platform to bring together religious and community leaders from around the world, as well as practitioners and policymakers to foster discussions on building stronger and more cohesive societies," she said.

She added that the inaugural conference, which was attended by almost 1,000 delegates from nearly 40 countries, had provided opportunities for diverse perspectives to be heard and shared, and the forging of networks across communities.

"Strength from diversity can only grow from dialogue and mutual understanding," said Madam Halimah, who was speaking to participants and guests of a hackathon organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

The hackathon is aimed at supporting community-building projects, and follows the first edition of the ICCS and its Young Leaders' Programme.

Over 200 participants worked in teams to propose projects to foster social cohesion, and on Saturday, 10 selected teams presented their projects to a panel of judges.

The top three teams were awarded up to $50,000 in grants to implement their projects, and the remaining seven will receive up to $30,000 in grants.

Proposed projects include an online site to bring together people of different communities through shared experiences like heritage trails, cooking or dining experiences, or a mobile game where gamers play as characters of a different race, religion or gender.

President Halimah Yacob speaking at the finale of Mission:Unite, a hackathon organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, at the National Library Drama Centre Theatre on Dec 5, 2020. PHOTO: MCCY

Participant Chwa Wei Jie, 27, said his team will use their grant money to develop their project idea, a website that would support more inter-faith and inter-racial collaborations in charity projects.

"We hope this can be a bridge for people of different faiths to engage in meaningful conversations and understand each other," said Mr Chwa, who joined the hackathon with his colleagues from The Bible Society of Singapore.

Madam Halimah added that the hackathon was a timely one, bringing young people together and encouraging them to draw from their diverse social networks and different perspectives.

"Your enthusiasm and creativity give me confidence that our youth are committed to forging a cohesive society," she said.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.