Home > Speeches > Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at World Cities Summit Opening Plenary on 3 June 2024

Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at World Cities Summit Opening Plenary on 3 June 2024

Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat


Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen


  1. Good morning everyone, and welcome to the World Cities Summit (WCS).

  2. It is indeed our privilege and honour to be the host for the summit this year. I hope that you had some time to explore our city and its attractions.

    1. In fact, we have just launched i Light Singapore at Marina Bay last Friday. i Light Singapore features light art installations by artists from 11 different countries, and they also host other events. I invite you to visit it if you have some time in the evening.

  3. Just yesterday, I welcomed mayors and city leaders from 96 cities from almost every continent on the planet at the Mayors Forum. More of you have joined us today, and I look forward to our discussions and exchanges throughout the course of the WCS.

  4. World Cities Summit 2024

  5. This year marks our 9th edition of the WCS. At our last summit in 2022, we discussed how cities can remain resilient and emerge stronger from periods of crises and disruptions.

    1. Back then, many of us were still grappling with the effects of COVID-19.

    2. The situation has stabilised, yet other crises had emerged. Geopolitical conflicts and tensions have intensified, impacting international relations, supply chain certainty and many of our economies.

    3. At the same time, we need to manage the complexities of longer-term trends and challenges, such as increasing urbanisation and climate change.

  6. Amidst these challenges, how can we rejuvenate our cities so that they remain liveable for city dwellers, both today and in the future?

    1. And how can we apply these lessons and insights to designing new cities and urban centres?

    2. This is what we hope to discuss at this year’s WCS, themed “Liveable and Sustainable Cities: Rejuvenate, Reinvent, Reimagine”.

  7. Later on, our Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Heng Swee Keat, will speak about the trends and challenges that cities across the world face, as well as guiding principles that may help us navigate the future and seize the opportunities ahead.

  8. After that, we will hear from an esteemed panel of ministers, mayors and city leaders from across the world, as well as experts from academia and the private sector. They will discuss how we can continue to drive growth in our cities amidst the challenges ahead, while ensuring sustainability and inclusivity.

  9. Beyond this Opening Plenary, we have an exciting series of other plenaries and deep-dive sessions with academics and industry experts, government leaders, and many others.

    1. These are organised according to our five thematic tracks for the summit – (i) Cities for People; (ii) Resilient and Regenerative Cities; (iii) Smart Cities; (iv) Sustainable Financing of Cities; and (v) Future Cities.

  10. I hope that all of you will be able to make full use of these opportunities at this summit to learn more about the exemplary work that each of us from different countries, cities and regions are doing, and to take back insights, ideas and lessons that we can apply back in our own cities.

  11. International Collaboration and Learning

  12. In the spirit of encouraging learning across borders, today, I would like to take this opportunity to announce the updated Singapore Liveability Framework. This can be found in our new e-publication titled “Building Liveable and Sustainable Cities: A Framework for the Future”.

    1. We first developed our Liveability Framework more than ten years ago. It distilled key insights and lessons from Singapore’s urban transformation since our independence in 1965.

    2. It has served as a useful reference for city planners and policymakers both in Singapore and in other countries. In fact, we often use it as a teaching tool for our programmes for both local and foreign city leaders – things we have done well, things we have not done well, and the lessons we have learnt.

  13. Over time, the issues that cities around the world face have grown more complex, and our understanding of liveability has evolved too. This is why we reviewed the framework, incorporating current and emerging perceptions of liveability from city leaders and experts around the world, as well as from members of the public.

    1. Our revised framework reflects an expanded understanding of what constitutes a liveable city, as well as an updated set of recommendations to achieve it.

    2. We have also compiled many examples of good practices by leading cities across the world.

    3. This is Singapore’s small contribution to the global discourse on urban sustainability and liveability, and we hope that this refreshed Liveability Framework will provide useful insights and lessons to support the growth of cities globally, for the benefit of current and future citizens

  14. Beyond learning from one another, we also recognise the need to foster greater dialogue, closer partnerships and deeper collaboration across cities. We all face common challenges across the planet. This is how we are able to forge common consensus in dealing with the challenges ahead, many of which are transborder in nature.

    1. This year, we are excited to launch the City Network for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize (LKYWCP Network). This will be a community of practice for urban leaders and practitioners to collaborate on various projects, while providing opportunities to shape global dialogue on important urban issues. At the same time, it will foster deeper partnerships across cities, and enable knowledge sharing and capability building within the network.

    2. To date, the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize has recognised 7 Laureate cities and 20 Special Mention cities. They have demonstrated good governance, innovation and foresight in tackling the challenges that we face.

    3. I am glad that the 7 Laureate cities have agreed to come forward as founding members for the network. I also welcome the 20 Special Mention cities to be part of this initiative. Collectively, these cities come from different continents and backgrounds, and offer a rich source of knowledge and experience in dealing with a broad range of urban issues.

    4. To foster excellence in urban planning and policy in cities across the world, we will, in the future, invite selected cities to join the Network too.

    5. In this network, Singapore will work together with member cities to embark on a variety of multi-city projects. Potential projects might include joint research and pilots on sustainable urban rejuvenation, and publications on approaches to provide quality and affordable housing. We hope such initiatives will not only enable cities to tackle current and future urban challenges, but also build strong inter-city relationships across different levels – governors, mayors, city halls, planning departments, and knowledge organisations.

    6. We will hold our inaugural Knowledge Forum with founding members of the network this afternoon, and I look forward to our exchange today to kickstart this initiative, an initiative of action.


  15. The challenges of the future may be daunting, yet they also present opportunities for us to rejuvenate, reinvent and reimagine our cities. Let us continue to seize them, so that we can build more liveable and sustainable cities for current and future city dwellers.

  16. On that note, we look forward to an exciting plenary today and a day chockful of activities and events for all of us to participate in. Thank you, and I hope everyone will have a fruitful experience at the 9th WCS, and please enjoy our city.