S’pore Ambassador Rena Lee Named As 1 of 100 Most Influential People of 2024

When you think of the most influential people in the world, you probably think of major celebrities or influencers like Taylor Swift and Angelababy, right?

Well, actually, Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people features more than just your usual social media influencers and celebrities.

Reader: Then why is it called the list of the most influential people? Shouldn’t it be mostly influencers?

While social media influencers may influence you to join trends or buy certain products, there are many people who influence others on more “important” matters.

Reader: Ok, like what?

Climate change and the environment, for example.

Reader: Easy, Greta Thunberg.

Image: Instagram (@gretathunberg)

Greta Thunberg isn’t on this year’s list. She did, however, make it onto the 2019 Time 100 List.

You know who is on the list this year, though?

A Singaporean.

Singapore Ambassador Rena Lee on 2023 Time 100 List

Image: Screenshot from Youtube (@mfasingapore)

Rena Lee, who made it onto the 2023 Time 100 List, is Singapore’s Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues and Special Envoy of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

She specialises in the practice of public international law, covering areas including law of the sea, and environmental and climate change law.

Rena Lee is also a member of the Legal and Technical Commission of the International Seabed Authority and the chief executive officer of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.

In 2018, she was elected as President of the UN Intergovernmental Conference on an International Legally Binding Instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).

Image: un.org

Ms Lee presided over the BBNJ in March last year and successfully concluded negotiations on a new global agreement.

“With calm dignity, determination, and grace, Lee successfully led deliberations to legally protect biodiversity within the blue heart of the planet,” Ms Lee’s Time 100 List blurb, written by Sylvia Earle, reads.

Nearly two-thirds of the ocean and its unique species and ecosystems are in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This means no nation is responsible for the management of these areas.

Fragmented legal frameworks have left biodiversity in these areas vulnerable to growing threats such as climate change, plastic pollution, oil spills, overfishing, habitat destruction, ocean acidifications, and underwater noise.

Rena Lee is applauded for her ability to accomplish tasks, instead of just talking away (like many of the people you know). And, true enough, Ms Lee showed she’s all about getting things done during last year’s BBNJ.

After 36 riveting hours of debate, UN Member States were finally able to agree on a new treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, ending nearly two decades of discussions.

Two decades!

“Thunderous applause and cheers erupted from those attending the historic meeting”, where, after negotiations concluded, Lee announced: “The ship has reached the shore.”

Image: mfa.gov.sg

“We all should applaud her heroic moves, breaking decades of deadlock over governance of human actions that impact not just the future of tunas, sharks, squids, and whales, but that of all of life on earth—humans included,” Ms Earle added.

Rena Lee has been widely recognised for her efforts in leading discussions on this treaty, and has earned the respect of many.

When the new treaty comes into force, it will allow the creation of marine protected areas in waters beyond national jurisdiction.

The treaty first needs 60 countries to ratify it. Only four countries – Belize, Chile, Palau, and Seychelles – have done so.

Time 100 List

Time’s annual Time 100 List started 25 years ago in 1999 as a result of a debate among American academics, politicians, and journalists.

Time’s editors ask cultural and political icons to highlight the changemakers of the past year and “spend months discussing” who should make the cut, before deciding which 100 end up on the list.

This year’s list is divided into the following categories: Artists, icons, titans, leaders, innovators, and pioneers.

Rena Lee was under the “leaders” category alongside Yulia Navalnaya, Narges Mohammadi, William Lai, Marina Silva, Ajay Banga, Giorgia Meloni, and Lauren Blauvelt, among others.

Some other names on this year’s list are:

  • Entertainer Dua Lipa
  • Photographer Motaz Azaiza
  • F1 Racing driver Max Verstappen
  • Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki
  • Fashion designer Tory Burch

There are individuals who have appeared multiple times on the annual list, including:

  • Xi Jinping (listed 13 times)
  • Barack Obama (listed 11 times)
  • Oprah Winfrey (listed 11 times)
  • Hillary Clinton (listed 10 times)
  • Angela Merkel (listed nine times)

Some other famous entertainers who have appeared on the list before are Ed Sheeran, Simu Liu, Taylor Swift, Zendaya, Channing Tatum, and Adele.