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OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia’s international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

1.1.1 International organisations, legal and environment

On this page: Overview :: United Nations: Iraq issues :: Terrorist financing :: International Criminal Court :: Treaties :: People smuggling and trafficking :: Human rights :: United Nations :: Commonwealth issues :: Law of the sea and Antarctic issues :: Environment


The department was at the forefront of the Government's efforts to advance Australia's extensive multilateral and international legal interests.

We made a strong contribution to the development of whole-of-government legal advice in relation to all aspects of Australia's engagement in Iraq. We worked to ensure the United Nations (UN) was given an appropriately targeted and significant role in Iraq after the conflict.

The department supported ministers at the second Bali Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime in April 2003, resulting in agreement on a forward program of practical steps to boost regional efforts to combat people smuggling and trafficking.

We led the Government's successful negotiations to conclude an international unitisation agreement with East Timor, enabling the development of the Timor Sea's Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields. The agreement should provide substantial economic benefits to both countries and give East Timor a reliable source of foreign exchange revenue.

We secured the Vice-Chair position of the UN Commission on Human Rights for 2003, and used this position to advance Australia's human rights objectives in the UN system. We made further progress in our bilateral human rights dialogues and in improving the operation of the UN human rights treaty body machinery.

The department supported the Prime Minister in his role as Commonwealth Chairman-in-Office, and as Chairman of the Troika—with the leaders of South Africa and Nigeria—dealing with the Commonwealth's response to the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. We supported Mr Downer as Vice-Chair of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and assisted ministers in promoting Australia's broader interests in the Commonwealth.

We advanced the Government's interest in practical cooperation on a range of environmental issues and contributed to constructive outcomes in a number of international environmental negotiations, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In international negotiations on climate change, we promoted environmentally effective outcomes which would not undermine Australia's international competitiveness.

United Nations: Iraq issues

Over a sustained period of high-level advocacy, including by our mission in New York, we influenced fast-moving developments in the Security Council as it considered options for dealing with Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions, including contributing to the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. We supported the involvement of Australian weapons inspectors working for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to disarm Iraq, and informed ministerial decision-making through regular contact with key Security Council Ambassadors and UNMOVIC staff on the progress of inspections. We worked to ensure the UN was given an appropriately targeted role in areas where it could best add value in post-conflict Iraq.

The department played a central role in the development of whole-of-government legal advice in relation to all aspects of Australia's participation in international action to enforce Iraq's obligations pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions. This included advice to the Government, tabled in Parliament, on the international legal basis for Australia's engagement in Iraq as well as advice on the conduct of operations and the status of Australia's personnel in Iraq. We also contributed to legal advice on Australia's role in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

The department coordinated the Government's response to the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003. This resolution lifted Security Council sanctions against Iraq, with the exception of bans on arms and related materiel, and provided for the termination of the UN's Oil-for-Food Program. Consistent with Australia's interests, the resolution gave the UN a significant role in post-conflict reconstruction, including in supporting the political transition to an Iraqi government. It also provided for a smooth phase-out of the Oil-for-Food Program, under which Australia had significant outstanding contracts. Through our coordinating role, we ensured that all the arrangements necessary for domestic implementation of Resolution 1483 were completed within a week of its adoption.

Terrorist financing

The department organised and co-hosted with Indonesia a Regional Conference on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing held in Bali on 17 and 18 December 2002 and opened by the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison, and the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr Wirajuda. The conference brought together senior representatives from 31 regional countries, as well as key international organisations, the private sector and non-government organisations. They agreed to improve coordination and capacity-building in the region. The conference was a practical demonstration of the close cooperation between Australia and Indonesia in combating international terrorism.

We continued to administer Australia's international obligations under Security Council Resolution 1373 to freeze the assets of terrorists, as implemented in Australian law through Part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 and under the Charter of the United Nations (Terrorism and Dealings with Assets) Regulations 2002. We maintained close contacts with Australia's financial sector to ensure the system takes account of their legitimate interests.

International Criminal Court

The department coordinated Australia's ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 1 July 2002, the same date on which the Statute entered into force. We made a strong contribution to drafting important instruments for the Court's functioning, including Elements of Crimes and Rules of Procedure and Evidence, ensuring that these instruments were compatible with Australian concepts of justice. These instruments were adopted by the first meeting of the Court's Assembly of States Parties in September 2002. We participated in the subsequent two meetings of the Assembly in February and April 2003, when the first bench of 18 judges and the inaugural Prosecutor of the Court were elected. We will continue to promote the Government's interests in the effective development of the Court.


The department continued to coordinate Australia's treaty-making processes. Of the 33 treaties Australia signed during the reporting period, 19 were bilateral, including the Singapore–Australia Free Trade Agreement. Twenty-seven treaties came into force for Australia, eight of them multilateral. Four of these concerned aspects of terrorism or security, reflecting the Government's commitment to the fight against terrorism. Social issues were also prominent: Australia signed six bilateral social security or health-related treaties, and nine similar treaties entered into force.

We developed a new system for categorising tabled treaties and refined briefing material for the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), facilitated by public access to the Australian Treaties Database. These innovations helped JSCOT operate more efficiently and were welcomed by the Committee.

People smuggling and trafficking

Photo - See caption below for description
Departmental staff member, Pablo Kang, Ms Prianti Gagarin Djatmiko-Singgih, Director for Non-United Nations Inter-Governmental Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations, Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, John Buckley, at the 2nd Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, held in Bali in April 2003.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department continued its active role in supporting the Government's efforts to combat people smuggling and irregular migration. The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues led the Government's efforts to implement the outcomes of the first Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, held in Bali in February 2002. This resulted in increased regional cooperation in information exchange, law enforcement and legislative development.

Ministers reviewed this activity at the second Conference, held in Bali from 28 to 30 April 2003. The department supported Mr Downer in co-chairing the Conference with his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Wirajuda. Twenty-eight ministers from 32 Asia-Pacific countries, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) participated, reaffirming the clear sense of shared regional purpose in combating these crimes. Future activities will include workshops on public awareness and legislative development, and further work on returns and document fraud prevention. The Conference exemplified the excellent cooperation between Indonesia and Australia on these important regional issues.

Through our network of overseas posts and in close cooperation with other relevant departments, we worked with host government authorities to disrupt people smuggling operations and bring suspected people smugglers before the courts. We helped extradite two alleged people smugglers and continued efforts to secure the prosecution of another.

The department contributed to the Government's ongoing efforts to develop a coordinated strategy to deal with trafficking in persons, and will be seeking to use the Bali process to promote greater regional cooperation to combat trafficking.

Our input to and coordination of the Government's response to reports by the special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention helped counter inaccuracies contained in those reports.

Human rights

Australia was elected Vice-Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights for 2003 and played a key role in improving the functioning of the Commission's annual session in March and April 2003. The department, notably through Australia's Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, helped ensure that outcomes on contentious, highly politicised issues (most notably Iraq) were handled as constructively as possible. We were able to achieve good outcomes on many issues important to Australia but were disappointed that the Commission was unable to adopt a resolution on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

The department continued to promote the importance of good governance and national human rights institutions, including through lead sponsorship of resolutions on both issues at the Commission on Human Rights. The high level of support for these resolutions reflects our effective advocacy of the link between strong institutions and good governance and observance of human rights. We worked closely with national human rights institutions, particularly in our own region, including through our policy and advocacy support for the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

We continued to promote reform of the UN human rights treaty body system in order to strengthen the UN's ability to deal with the most egregious human rights abuses. While there is still a long way to go, encouragingly, many of our ideas have now been taken up by relevant parts of the UN system and member states as part of mainstream efforts to reform the international human rights machinery.

The department led the inaugural Australia–Iran bilateral human rights dialogue in December 2002. The sixth round of our dialogue with China was held in August 2002 and the second round with Vietnam in June 2003. These dialogues contribute to improved understanding of human rights issues in these countries and, through technical cooperation programs (in China), have assisted modest, practical improvements on the ground.

Australian missions overseas again made representations on individual human rights cases and issues of concern throughout the year. The department continued regular human rights consultations with non-government organisations and civil and community groups on human rights issues of mutual interest. These consultations provided us with a valuable additional source of advice and information on human rights issues.

United Nations


The department, including though our mission to the UN in New York, worked effectively with the UN Secretariat and other member states to achieve adoption of the Secretary-General's second-term reform package. The package will increase the efficiency of UN operations, including through termination of outdated programs. We continued to argue for full implementation of reform measures, including in the specialised agencies, and restoration of budgetary discipline.

UN agencies

We coordinated Australia's engagement with a range of UN programs and agencies, promoting a greater focus on the development needs of the Asia-Pacific region. Continuing our track record of obtaining seats for Australia in international organisations, we played a lead role in securing Australia's election to the Governing Council of the International Telecommunications Union.

Commonwealth issues

The department supported the Prime Minister in his role as Commonwealth Chairman-in-Office, and as Chairman of the Troika—with the leaders of South Africa and Nigeria—dealing with the Commonwealth's response to the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. In light of lack of progress on political reform and worsening human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, we worked to maintain Zimbabwe's suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth.

We supported Mr Downer in his role as Vice-Chair of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and in his participation in other Commonwealth meetings. We maintained CMAG's focus on important regional issues, including developments in Fiji and Solomon Islands, and encouraged Pakistan, which is suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth, to continue on its path back to democracy.

The department, including through our high commission in London, was active in ensuring the implementation of key recommendations of a High Level Review Group on Commonwealth activities. This has led to a significant reorganisation of the way the Commonwealth conducts its business and will result in priority activities being delivered in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

Law of the sea and Antarctic issues

Major achievements for the department during the year were the entry-into-force of the Timor Sea Treaty on 2 April 2003 and the establishment of the administrative machinery for the Joint Petroleum Development Area it brought into being, and the signature by Mr Downer on 6 March 2003 of the related international unitisation agreement for the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields—the first of its kind for Australia. The department provided extensive policy support for Mr Downer and the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources in their crucial meetings with East Timorese leaders on these agreements and led the officials-level negotiations. These instruments have created the legal basis necessary for developing oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea, including the major Bayu-Undan and Greater Sunrise deposits, for the benefit of Australia and East Timor. They will greatly assist East Timor's economic development and promote Australia's interests in stability in the region by ensuring that East Timor has a significant and reliable stream of foreign exchange revenue.

The department also continued to lead the Australian team in the negotiations to delimit permanent maritime boundaries with New Zealand.

We continued to play an active role in promoting international cooperation against illegal, unreported and unauthorised fishing, including coordinating international action leading to the apprehension of two Russian-flagged vessels (the Volga and the Lena), which were fishing illegally in Australian waters off Heard Island. We contributed to defending successfully an action against Australia before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg in relation to the Lena.

The department coordinated action within the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna aimed at working with 'cooperating non-members' to promote the recovery of this important and valuable stock.

In cooperation with the Department of Environment and Heritage, we played a key role in finalising the legal framework for the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the Antarctic Treaty, to be based in Argentina.

The department worked with the Department of Environment and Heritage to enhance the focus of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on the conservation of whales. We helped develop the Berlin Initiative on Strengthening the Conservation Agenda of the IWC, which was adopted in June 2003.


Climate change

We continued to lead Australia's effort to build support for global action against climate change that will be environmentally effective and not undermine the competitiveness of Australian industry. We played a constructive role in the Eighth Conference of the UN Climate Change Convention in New Delhi which helped lay the basis for a more positive dialogue with developing countries about how they could address the causes of climate change. Australia continues to chair the Umbrella Group of countries on climate change (Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States). We advanced practical cooperation on climate change, including through bilateral arrangements with the United States, the European Union, Japan and New Zealand. The department also contributed to the development of the Government's climate change forward strategy.

World Summit on Sustainable Development

The department played an important role in the success of efforts to focus the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002 on the links between good governance, trade and investment flows, poverty alleviation and environmental protection. We worked closely with developing countries to highlight the environmentally harmful and trade-distorting effects of agricultural subsidies, as well as to minimise the risk that environmental measures be used for trade protectionism.

Other environment negotiations

We worked closely with industry and developed alliances with other countries to protect Australia's environmental and trade interests across a range of other negotiations. We continued our efforts to reduce the risk that the Biosafety Protocol could lead to unnecessarily burdensome rules for exporters without contributing to its environmental objective. Australia has no timetable for consideration of accession of the Protocol, which entered into force in September 2003. We also continued to work under the Convention on Biological Diversity and other UN instruments to ensure that environmental protection measures are effective, practical and not used for protectionist purposes.


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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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