Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan to the Cook Islands for the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, 9 to 11 November 2023

11 November 2023

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan visited Cook Islands from 9 to 11 November 2023 to attend the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting, marking the first time that Singapore participated in the PIF Leaders Meeting as a Dialogue Partner.


Minister Balakrishnan delivered remarks at the 2050 Pacific Prosperity High-Level Thematic Dialogue on 10 November 2023. He highlighted that Singapore viewed relations with the PIF as strategic. As fellow Small Island Developing States, Singapore and the Pacific Islands share a commitment to tackling global challenges, particularly the existential issue of climate change. Over the past 30 years, Singapore has shared our development experience with more than 5,800 Pacific officials under the Singapore Cooperation Programme.


Minister Balakrishnan announced the launch of a three-year customised technical assistance package for the Pacific named the “Singapore-Pacific Resilience and Knowledge Sharing” (SPARKS) package. The SPARKS package comprises courses in climate resilience, cybersecurity and international law. These courses will support the Pacific’s capacity building efforts in priority areas under the PIF’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, the blueprint for charting the region’s future. The transcript of Minister Balakrishnan’s remarks and a factsheet on the SPARKS package are at Annexes A and B.


During his visit, Minister Balakrishnan met several leaders from the Pacific, including PIF Chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, French Polynesia President Moetai Brotherson, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau, New Caledonia President Louis Mapou, Tonga Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni, Palau Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Gustav Aitaro, Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Jeremiah Manele, and PIF Secretary General Henry Puna. Minister Balakrishnan had good discussions with these leaders on the Pacific’s priorities as well as how Singapore can work with them both bilaterally and multilaterally.


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11 NOVEMBER 2023



Photo captionMinister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan delivering remarks at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Cook Islands, 10 November 2023

Photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore



Annex A





1 Thank you, moderator. Let me first say that Singapore is very gratified to be the latest Dialogue Partner of the Pacific Islands Forum. Thank you all for your warm welcome. Thank you for your guidance and hospitality, and the chance for me to visit this part of the world for the first time. I recall the words of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka of Fiji – he talked about the Pacific being once referred to as “the corner of the world”, but now actually being the centre of the future.



2 Singapore, like many of you, was colonised because we missed the Industrial Revolution. That is why we all speak English today. Secondly, like many of you, we were also the theatre of war during the Second World War and (while) we were not privy to those political conflicts, we were victims nevertheless. Our third similarity is that, for most of us, we would claim our independence in the last five or six decades. Our key goal from thereon has been development — to give our people the skills to master the technologies of the future, jobs, and especially for young people, prospects for the future. A fourth area of similarity is that as small island states, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, climate change is a clear and present threat. The rising sea levels, the high frequency and intensity of storms and droughts, are clear, present and future threats to all our well-being.



 3 In the case of Singapore, we view our relations with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) as strategic, and it will make a difference for our collective future. Although we are the latest Dialogue Partner, we have longstanding relationships with many of you. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the leaders and Foreign Ministers in this room over the past decade or so.



4 Singapore, as a Dialogue Partner, wants to work with you on human capacity development. We established the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) in 1992 as a way to pay forward the assistance which Singapore had received decades earlier from the international community and from the multilateral organisations, many of which are represented here today. Over the past 30 years, we have welcomed more than 5,800 Pacific Island officials to Singapore under the Singapore Cooperation Programme.



5 With our accession as a Dialogue Partner, I am pleased to announce that we will launch a new Singapore-Pacific Resilience and Knowledge Sharing (SPARKS) package, which will be a specially customised three-year programme for the Pacific to support your priorities in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. This programme will run from 2024 to 2026 and focus on three areas: first, climate resilience, second, cybersecurity, and third, international law.



6 On the first point, we will run a modular programme on urban governance, on planning and development to enhance climate resilience. Second, we will make available placements in Singapore’s Cybersecurity Agency’s Cyber Leadership Programme to equip officials with the knowledge on cyber and digital security to support national policymaking and participation in international discussions.  I think if any of us think we have not yet been penetrated, it just means we have not discovered it yet. It is a clear and present threat, and we need to approach this both at the operational level – (with) the engineers, and also at the policy level. We hope to share and exchange ideas with leaders and officials from the Pacific Islands. The third area in which we want to work with you is in international law, and with a particular focus on climate and sea-level rise issues. We will disseminate a factsheet with more details on the SPARKS package separately and welcome feedback from all of you on how we can improve the package and make it more relevant for your needs at the national and regional levels.



7 I hope we will be a positive and constructive Dialogue Partner for the PIF, and I invite all of you to visit us on your many expeditions around the world. Thank you very much.


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Annex B 





At the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) 2050 Thematic Dialogue on 10 November 2023, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment as a PIF Dialogue Partner to enhance engagement with the Pacific, guided by the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Singapore supports the PIF Leaders’ Vision for 2050 to develop a new generation of leaders who are able to tackle the unique needs of the Pacific to build a resilient Pacific Region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity.


To that end, Minister Balakrishnan announced that Singapore will launch a special Singapore-Pacific Resilience and Knowledge Sharing (SPARKS) package. The SPARKS package will be provided under the auspices of the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), through which Singapore has served as a partner to the Pacific on its development journey for the past 30 years. The SPARKS package, which will run from 2024 to 2026, will focus on supporting the capacity building efforts of the Pacific in the priority areas of climate resilience, cybersecurity and international law to address challenges identified in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. For a start, the SPARKS package will comprise the following programmes:


(a) Climate Resilience. Singapore will offer a customised 3-year modular programme for city leaders and senior officials from PIF members to enhance capacity building in urban governance, planning, and development to achieve climate resilience. The programme, which comprises one module each year over three years, would cover policy frameworks as well as implementation strategies to help cities formulate their development plans, including through preliminary draft planning of their city action plans with the assistance of domain experts. Participants will also learn more about the longer-term strategies for climate resilience and climate change adaptation.


(b) Cybersecurity. Singapore will offer placement to senior officials from PIF members in Singapore Cyber Security Agency (CSA)’s newly launched SG Cyber Leadership Programme to be delivered through the ASEAN-Singapore Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence in Singapore from 2024 to 2026. The programme will comprise Foundational-level and Advanced-level modules which seek to equip officials responsible for national cyber and digital security-related policies with the broad-based training on the operational, technical, legal and diplomatic aspects of cyber and digital security, with the view of providing tools to support national policymaking and participation in regional and international discussions. As part of the programme, participants will have the opportunity to engage with key representatives from industry and various international organisations, as well as other senior officials from regions across the world. Participants in the SG Cyber Leadership Programme can also look forward to future Alumni programmes and resources that will be set up following the first run of the programme in 2024.


(c) International Law. Singapore will offer up to three runs of an online course on international law, covering topics of direct relevance to the Pacific, such as Climate Change and Ocean issues, the work of the UN International Law Commission on Sea-Level Rise, the preservation of maritime zones, and climate change litigation before domestic and regional courts and human rights treaty bodies. The course aims to provide participants with an understanding of how international law can help address challenges posed by climate change, particularly rising sea levels.



For more details on the SPARKS package, please contact the Technical Cooperation Directorate at the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Ms Charmaine Yeow, Technical Cooperation Officer at For enquiries on the cybersecurity programme, please contact CSA’s International Cyber Policy Office via Mr Vikneswaran Selvam, Manager at, Ms Clara Ho, Manager at, and Mr Nasri Sadi, Assistant Manager at


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