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Olive T.R.E.E Forum 2021


Have mankind become the product of our products? 

Humanity Matters (HM) held its second Olive TREE Forum (OTF) today in conjunction with the United Nations’ 2nd World Olive Tree Day, which seeks to encourage the appreciation of the values embodied by the Olive – its social, cultural, economic and environmental significance to humanity.


The Olive Tree programme strives to address local social and security concerns and challenges by exploring their multi-dimensional character viz the human and social related elements including motivations, vulnerabilities, demography, histories and cultures.  The aim is to deepen knowledge, broaden perspectives and enhance shared understanding of varying complex phenomena, and in turn better inform how security strategies and interventions, and social initiatives and engagements, can help balance against imminent and evolving threats, and in tandem, accommodate ways to avoid alienation of vulnerable communities and constructively connect with them to enhance mutual confidence, cohesion and resilience.


This year’s OTF focused on ‘Disinformation’, which is a prevailing and mounting social and security concern.  HM collaborated with internationally renowned The Soufan Centre (TSC) to share on the increasing intensity, incidences and interest in the area, through the Distinguished Lecture by TSC’s founder Mr Ali Soufan.  OTF’21 also featured Dr Shashi Jayakumar, Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), on its Distinguished Panel to deliberate on and discuss the threats, challenges and impacts on Singapore and Singaporeans, along with their respective roles and responsibilities especially in relation to national security and social confidence, cohesion and resilience.  For instance, during the Covid-19 episode, in Singapore alone, 6 in 10 people received fake news during the pandemic period, cutting across all ages, races, faiths and genders.  Additionally, an IPSOS survey in 2018 showed that while 80% of Singaporeans are confident that they could spot fake news, 90% of them failed when put to a test.  Mediacorp’s Deputy Chief News Editor, Mr Sujadi Siswo, moderated the forum session.


In his welcome note, Chairman of HM, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, drew attention to the subversive threat of Disinformation in a digitally connected world – “With the proliferation of social media, where facts, fiction, fallacies and falsehoods flow freely, there is a real need to ensure that technology is used to help uplift societies rather than tear us down, fragmenting into toxic silos fuelled by bigotry and hatred.    Disinformation and misinformation, through irresponsible and unethical behaviours, have caused angst, anxiety, animosity and agony amongst communities, societies and even between nations.  Given its increasing intensity and scale, the effect of disinformation is an immediate and escalating social, security and sovereign concern.”


The physical event, held at Furama Riverfront Hotel, was attended by 50 leaders and representatives from the faith, community, corporate, public and youth sectors including the chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony (PCRH); senior personnel from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and the People’s Association. Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Mr Desmond Tan, graced the occasion as the guest-of-honour and delivered the keynote address.


At the inaugural World Olive Tree Day last November, HM presented the premiere of an original and real-life film-and-forum called ‘Seeking The Imam’ which featured on self, youth and cyber radicalisation.  Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Ms Josephine Teo, physically graced the event, with visiting fellow of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Dr Noor Huda Ismail, as the distinguished speaker.

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