New book edited by Tommy Koh shows how small states punch above their weight

SINGAPORE – In rankings of countries with the highest per capita incomes, best education systems, most competitive economies, least corrupt societies and highest gender equity, small countries dominate the top 10 spots.

At the Beijing Winter Olympics, Norway won the most medals.

And at the Tokyo Olympics, 113 out of a total of 340 medals were won by athletes from 25 small countries and territories.

Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh on Wednesday cited these examples of how small countries, with populations of below 10 million, have punched above their weight and prove that size is not destiny.

They have shown that it is possible to overcome the handicap of size and become very successful, he added at the launch of a book of essays he edited, titled Small States In A Big World: Size Is Not Destiny.

It contains 40 essays by 46 authors from 29 small countries. They include contributions on Bhutan’s concept of gross national happiness, Costa Rica’s leadership in environmental protection and Qatar’s building of the world’s best airline.

“The world treats small countries as second-class citizens,” Professor Koh said, noting that while there are many groups for big countries on a global stage, there are few groups for small countries.

This was why in 1992, Singapore’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Mr Chew Tai Soo, took the initiative to establish the Forum of Small States (FOSS). It turns 30 this year.

Over the years, FOSS has grown from its initial 16 members to 108 members, representing a majority of the membership of the UN, said Prof Koh as he thanked Mr Chew, who was at the launch at the National Library on Victoria Street.