The 13th Asia-Pacific Programme for Senior National Security Officers (APPSNO) was held at Marina Mandarin Singapore from 8 to 12 April 2019. Organised by the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), with the support of the National Security Coordination Secretariat at the Prime Minister’s Office, the theme for APPSNO 2019 was “National Security in the Age of Disruption”.
The 13th edition of APPSNO enabled panels to explore and understand the impact of disruption to national security from a multi-disciplinary perspective, while also fostering dialogue on the need for adaptation and innovation in an era of change. Issues discussed included the challenges and opportunities presented by geopolitics and globalisation, tackling cross-ideological connectedness across extremist groups, the importance of cyber protection and resilience, and the threat of climate change towards national security.
A carefully curated group of international and domestic speakers were invited to share their insight and experience on the various topics. The week-long event gathered 63 senior national security officers and 20 speakers from 28 countries from the Asia Pacific and beyond for intensive discussions and networking opportunities. Coming from a spectrum of countries spanning New Zealand to Norway and Chile to Cambodia, the foreign participants were joined by their Singaporean counterparts from various ministries and agencies.
Amb Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS, opened the event. In his introduction, he stressed the need to “understand disruption from a multi-disciplinary perspective. To confidently face challenges to national security, governments and institutions need to explore and develop tools to channel disruptions into opportunities for innovative, adaptive – and above all, responsive – policymaking.”
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, delivered the opening address to commence the programme. In his speech, he said: “Today, a new technological revolution is upon us, and we are seeing an exponential rise in pervasive computing, an explosion in big data, as well as breakthroughs in automation, robotics, new computational techniques, smart technologies. This in turn is leading to another cycle of social and political disruption, and it will have profound implications for national and global security.”
In addition to engaging with the insights proffered by speakers, international participants also gave country presentations. These presentations provided a snapshot of the national security policies and challenges from the perspective and context of their individual states. This breadth of international perspectives engendered constructive exchanges between participants.
The programme had a lunch panel discussion on “Singapore’s National Security: Past, Present and Future in the Age of Disruption” composed of senior CENS researchers Dr Shashi Jayakumar, Dr Norman Vasu, and Mr Benjamin Ang. Professor Joseph Liow, Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Tan Kah Kee Chair of Comparative and International Politics, Nanyang Technological University, gave a lunch lecture on “Sign of the Times? Disruptions, Discontents, and Directions of the International Order”. Offering a practitioner’s perspective on leadership and managing national security challenges, Sir John Scarlett delivered the Distinguished Dinner Lecture on “Strategic Leadership: Managing Disruption for National Security”.
The exchange of knowledge and views extended beyond formal discussions during the conference. Conversation continued through informal networking sessions as well as group activities. One such activity was the Perspectivity Challenge, a board game designed to encourage players to think differently about national security approaches. Local and international participants participated in a Singapore Bicentennial Tour – a tour which showcases Singapore’s rich history since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles 200 years ago. Participants also learned about cyberattack prevention scenarios through a visit to the SingTel Cybersecurity Institute.
Rounding off the event was the Certificate Presentation Ceremony and Closing Dinner hosted by Amb Ong. Overall, there was a consensus among speakers and participants alike that APPSNO was a stimulating, thought-provoking, and valuable event.