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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.9 International organisations, legal and environment

Overview

The department made a strong and constructive contribution to the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth and other multilateral forums on a broad range of issues, including human rights, international security and environmental issues.

We supported Australia's hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and supported Australia's efforts in securing strong policy outcomes including agreement to strengthen the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

Promotion of Australia's strong credentials for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) remained a priority. We led Australia's advocacy on human rights issues through the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Human Rights Council and bilateral human rights dialogues. The department supported Australia's participation in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and advanced Australian priorities including on oceans and food security.

We fostered strong regional cooperation on people smuggling and trafficking in persons. A key achievement was agreement by the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime to establish a Regional Support Office in Bangkok to help address these issues.

The department continued to advocate an end to all forms of commercial whaling and contributed to the Government's action in the International Court of Justice against Japanese whaling. We provided legal advice to the Government on international sea and environmental law issues. We also hosted and chaired the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM).

Public consultations were conducted on Australia's autonomous sanctions regulatory framework and on the significant expansion of Australia's autonomous sanctions regimes targeting Iran and Syria.

United Nations

Australia continued its deep engagement in the UN. The department promoted Australia's national interests in major international negotiations and debates, and supported the engagement of the Foreign Minister at the UN General Assembly and other multilateral forums.

We continued to lead an active campaign to secure a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for the 2013–14 term. With elections scheduled to take place in October 2012, the tempo of the campaign increased over the past twelve months. Australia's diplomatic missions, in particular Australia's Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, have been engaged in promoting Australia's candidacy. In 2013–14, the UNSC will deal with issues directly relevant to Australia's interests, including Afghanistan.

Photo of RAMSI Special Coordinator, Mr Nicholas Coppel, briefs UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in September 2011. Photo: Tom Perry

RAMSI Special Coordinator, Mr Nicholas Coppel, briefs UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in September 2011. Photo: Tom Perry

The department worked closely with the Australian Civil Military Centre to produce a report entitled 'Partnering for peace: Australia's peacekeeping and peace building experiences in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, and in Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste'. Former President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Mike Kelly, were keynote speakers at the official launch of the report in New York on 5 June 2012.

With AusAID, we continued to promote awareness of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle in our region and through the UN. R2P is aimed at preventing the four mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

We supported the hosting of a regional conference on R2P in Bangkok by the Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P at the University of Queensland, in conjunction with Chulalongkorn University, in May 2012. The conference explored approaches to R2P in the region and among ASEAN countries. On 19 June 2012, Australia co-hosted a panel event in Geneva, moderated by Professor Gareth Evans, to explore further the potential role of the Human Rights Council in advancing R2P. The department represents Australia on the R2P Group of Friends in New York.

The department worked with the UN Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) to advance its agenda of fostering mutual respect and understanding among religions and cultures. We supported then Foreign Minister Rudd's participation in the Fourth AoC Forum in Doha in December 2011. This included co-hosting with Turkey a special session of the Forum on the 'AoC: A New Paradigm to Manage Intercultural Relations'. We also participated in the AoC Partners Forum in Turkey in May 2012, and announced that Australia would contribute $250 000 to support AoC interfaith and intercultural projects in the Asia-Pacific region.

The department led Australia's engagement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through our mission in Paris and supported the Australian National Commission for UNESCO.

Photo of Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Gary Quinlan (second from left), Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Dr Mike Kelly (right), and former Chair of Solomon Islands National Peace Council, Mr Paul Tovua (left), listen as the former President of Timor-Leste, Dr José Ramos-Horta, shares his experiences at a seminar hosted by the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York on peacekeeping and peacebuilding, June 2012. Photo: Paulo Filgueiras

Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Gary Quinlan (second from left), Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Dr Mike Kelly (right), and former Chair of Solomon Islands National Peace Council, Mr Paul Tovua (left), listen as the former President of Timor-Leste, Dr José Ramos-Horta, shares his experiences at a seminar hosted by the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York on peacekeeping and peacebuilding, June 2012. Photo: Paulo Filgueiras

Perth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

The department worked closely with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Commonwealth Secretariat to support Australia's hosting of the Perth CHOGM in October 2011. With a theme of 'Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience', CHOGM attracted some 4000 delegates from 50 Commonwealth countries for the week-long event.

Perth CHOGM delivered significant outcomes designed to reform and strengthen the Commonwealth to ensure its continued relevance. A new strengthened mandate for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) was agreed to enable CMAG to more effectively address the full range of serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth values.

Agreement was reached to conclude in 2012 a 'Charter of the Commonwealth', as proposed by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG). Thirty EPG recommendations to reform the Commonwealth were agreed as well as a process to consider the remaining EPG recommendations. The department worked with other agencies and Commonwealth partners to secure agreement to the Perth Declaration on Food Security Principles.

We supported a number of side events at CHOGM hosted by then Foreign Minister Rudd, including separate meetings with Caribbean, Pacific and African Foreign Ministers and a meeting of Indian Ocean Rim countries to discuss piracy. In partnership with AusAID, the department organised the Commonwealth and Developing Small States Foreign Ministers Meeting, chaired by Mr Rudd. The meeting was a platform for small states to exchange views on the major challenges to their sustainable development, particularly the impact of climate change and threats to the marine environment.

Photo of (L-R) Prime Minister Gillard, Her Majesty The Queen, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Kamalesh Sharma, and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar, arrive for the CHOGM 2011 Opening Ceremony in October 2011 in Perth. Photo: Getty Images

(L-R) Prime Minister Gillard, Her Majesty The Queen, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Kamalesh Sharma, and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar, arrive for the CHOGM 2011 Opening Ceremony in October 2011 in Perth. Photo: Getty Images

Commonwealth

We worked actively to implement the commitments made by Leaders at the Perth CHOGM. We have led the Commonwealth process to take forward the Charter of the Commonwealth and the remaining EPG recommendations. The department also facilitated Australia's national consultations on the Charter in early 2012.

The political situation in the Maldives was the first test of the strengthened CMAG mandate, and we supported the Foreign Minister's participation in CMAG discussions on the Maldives. The Secretary of the department participated in a high-level CMAG mission which visited the Maldives in February 2012.

The department supported Mr Rudd and Senator Carr's participation in CMAG meetings in September 2011 and April 2012 respectively. We supported Senator Carr's chairing of a meeting of a Commonwealth Ministerial Task Force in June 2012, which progressed the text of the Charter and consideration of remaining EPG recommendations.

Human rights

Australia continued its strong support of multilateral efforts to promote and protect human rights. The department led Australia's participation in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, preparing Australia's national statement on human rights, contributing to negotiations on a range of matters and co-sponsoring 33 resolutions, including on Myanmar, Iran, the DPRK, gender issues, the rights of Indigenous peoples, disabilities and children.

Australia co-sponsored the inaugural presentation to the Third Committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's consensus resolution on combating intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, reflecting our support for international interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

The department led Australian participation in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. Australia co-sponsored numerous HRC resolutions, including resolutions on the rights of the child, participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities and freedom of religion or belief. Australia led a resolution on national human rights institutions, which was widely co-sponsored, and co-hosted a well-attended event on the HRC's role in supporting the practical implementation of the Responsibility to Protect.

Australia co-sponsored the HRC's March 2012 resolution on Sri Lanka. The resolution called on Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report.

Australia continued to engage strongly in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in the HRC, recognising it as a unique opportunity to engage with other countries on human rights, both to highlight Australia's concerns and to acknowledge improvements. The UPR was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006 as a process through which the human rights records of the 193 Member States of the UN would be reviewed. There were two UPR sessions in 2011–12 and Australia participated in 30 of the 31 country reviews at those sessions.

We engaged in other thematic UN meetings, including assistance to Australia's delegation to the 56th Session of the Commission for the Status of Women in February–March 2012. Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, led the delegation for Australia's appearance before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2012.

An Australian delegation, including two Indigenous DFAT officers, attended the 11th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in May 2012. Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York spoke at the high-level commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in May 2012. Benson Saulo, the 2011 Australian Youth Representative to the UN, was the first Indigenous Australian to hold this role. Mr Saulo delivered a statement on behalf of Australia to the UN General Assembly's High-Level Meeting on Youth in July 2011.

The department led Australian delegations to the Australia–Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in Hanoi and the Australia–Laos Human Rights Dialogue in Vientiane, both in April 2012. The dialogues facilitated exchanges on human rights matters, including: individual cases of concern; arrest and detention of political dissidents; freedoms of speech, assembly, the press, association and demonstration; prison conditions; use of the death penalty; legal and judicial reform; and other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

In advance of these Human Rights Dialogues, in April 2012 the department invited submissions from, and held consultations with, Australian NGOs on Vietnam and Laos. Following the April 2012 Human Rights Dialogues with Vietnam and Laos, we held consultations with NGOs to brief them on the Dialogues.

The department provided input into the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Dialogues with China and Vietnam.

We worked closely with AusAID on the Human Rights Grants Scheme, which in 2011–12 included providing $3.7 million for projects in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. We also worked closely with the Attorney-General's Department on the National Human Rights Action Plan.

People smuggling and trafficking in persons

The department continued to foster regional engagement as co-chair of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. Together with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Attorney-General's Department, we worked to deliver an active work program aimed at strengthening member countries' border management and document integrity processes, legislative frameworks and victim protection and support. Significantly, the Bali Process agreed to establish a Regional Support Office to implement practical measures to enhance capacity across the region to better respond to irregular migration, people smuggling and trafficking in persons and protect the victims of these crimes.

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues advanced Australia's interests in building effective and practical international cooperation to combat people smuggling and trafficking in persons, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, including as co-chair of the Bali Process.

The department continued to encourage strong international responses to trafficking in persons and support for protection of victims through bilateral dialogues, the Bali Process, advocacy in the UN on human rights issues and the work of the Global Ambassador for Women and Girls. Domestically, we engaged in Australia's whole-of-government anti-trafficking strategy through the Anti-People Trafficking Inter-departmental Committee and the fourth National Roundtable on People Trafficking in November 2011 which was attended by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially in women and children. We took this opportunity to highlight to the Special Rapporteur and civil society Australia's work on people trafficking.

Environment

Sustainable development

The department, together with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, led the Government's preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in June. Rio+20 marked the 20th anniversary of the original Rio 'Earth Summit' and brought together world leaders and ministers to agree a new global framework for sustainable development – 'The Future We Want'. The Prime Minister led Australia's delegation to Rio+20. In the lead-up to Rio+20, we promoted Australia's priorities including on oceans, food security, disaster risk reduction, women's economic empowerment, Indigenous knowledge, mining for sustainable development, and sustainable development goals. Commitments agreed at Rio+20 reflected Australia's contributions in these areas.

Australia contributed in particular to Rio+20's call on states to eliminate fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, and to refrain from introducing any such new subsidies. We also contributed directly to Rio+20's commitment to reduce significant marine debris and Rio+20's recognition of the importance of ocean acidification and the need for increased international cooperation in this area. The department supported efforts to reform the UN institutions responsible for sustainable development, including replacing the Commission on Sustainable Development with a new high-level political forum and strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme.

The department supported Mr Rudd's participation on the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability. The Panel's report 'Resilient People Resilient Planet' was launched on 30 January 2012 and was an input to Rio+20.

Ocean and marine conservation initiatives

The department supported the Government's increased engagement on regional marine conservation initiatives, including the Coral Triangle Initiative (an Asia-Pacific conservation partnership for food security and economic development) and the Pacific Oceanscape Framework (an initiative aimed at establishing an integrated framework for oceans governance, food security, poverty alleviation and impacts of climate change in the Pacific). We also worked with AusAID in its engagement with the World Bank's Global Partnership on Oceans, launched in February 2012.

We advocated the Government's opposition to all forms of commercial whaling. We contributed to the Government's action against Japanese whaling in the International Court of Justice. Japan filed its written submission with the Court on 9 March 2012. Australia's submission was made in May 2011. Oral hearings are expected to be scheduled in the latter half of 2013, at the earliest. The department conveyed Australia's concerns about the entry of Japanese whaling-related vessels into Australia's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone to Japan. We provided consular assistance to three Australian anti-whaling protesters who boarded a Japanese vessel on 8 January 2012 and worked with the Japanese authorities to help secure their transfer to an Australian vessel. Australia continued to work within the International Whaling Commission to improve whale conservation and to promote an end to all commercial whaling.

Climate change

The department worked with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to support the Government's objectives of securing a global response to climate change. We participated in negotiations under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, in November–December 2011. Australia played an active role in these talks which achieved a longstanding Australian objective, a mandate to negotiate a new legal agreement covering all countries. The negotiations on the new agreement are scheduled to be completed by 2015, with the new agreement to come into effect from 2020.

We supported Mr Marles' participation in a UN Security Council debate on the impact of climate change on peace and security. Mr Marles highlighted the particular vulnerability of Pacific island countries to the effects of climate change.

Photo of The Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Marles, attends a UN Security Council Meeting on the impact of climate change on peace and security in New York, July 2011. Photo: UN Photos

The Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Marles, attends a UN Security Council Meeting on the impact of climate change on peace and security in New York, July 2011. Photo: UN Photos

Convention on Biological Diversity

The department worked with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, to facilitate Australia's signature of the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization. The Nagoya Protocol is an international regime to facilitate access to and share the benefits of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations in New York signed the Nagoya Protocol on 20 January 2012.

Sea law, environment law and Antarctic policy

The department advocated Australia's interests in relation to the international law of the sea through multilateral and bilateral channels. This included: contributing to the ongoing negotiation of an international rebuilding strategy for southern bluefin tuna stocks; negotiations on a subsidiary agreement to the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement to enhance regional cooperation on fisheries enforcement; and work through the UN on rules relating to maritime areas beyond national jurisdiction. We also contributed to Australia's proclamation of 11 million square kilometres of continental shelf on 24 May 2012.

We provided legal advice to the Government on international sea and environmental law issues. These included Australia's rights and obligations under the legal framework established by the Timor Sea Treaty to promote the joint development of petroleum resources with Timor-Leste; Australian activities in areas adjacent to our maritime boundaries; and the establishment of marine protected areas within Australian waters. We advocated, and secured agreement to, the establishment of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

We provided legal and policy leadership on Australia's substantial involvement in Antarctica, working closely with Australia's Antarctic Division on Australia's strategy for the future in Antarctica. Australia hosted, and the department's Senior Legal Adviser chaired, the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in Hobart in June. The ATCM is the primary forum for the discussion of Antarctic matters and plays a key role in ensuring ongoing cooperation on environmental protection, peaceful use and scientific research. Australia has consistently been at the forefront of Antarctic research and cooperation, as well as having a strong interest in maintaining Antarctica as a pristine environment. The ACTM agreed to develop a Multi-Year Strategic Work Plan to guide the future work of the Meeting.

Photo of Departmental Senior Legal Adviser, Mr Richard Rowe (centre), Australia's Head of Delegation, Dr Greg French (far right), and Heads of Delegation to the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Hobart. Photo: Richard Jupe/Australian Antarctic Division

Departmental Senior Legal Adviser, Mr Richard Rowe (centre), Australia's Head of Delegation, Dr Greg French (far right), and Heads of Delegation to the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Hobart. Photo: Richard Jupe/Australian Antarctic Division

Sanctions and transnational crime

Sanctions

The department arranged for amendments to Australian law to reflect UNSC sanctions in relation to Côte d'Ivoire, Libya and Somalia. We contributed an expert to international meetings relating to sanctions including on Iran, convened by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Iran in Singapore in April 2012, and on Proliferation Financing, convened by the Government of South Korea in Seoul in May 2012.

We continued to progress reform of Australia's autonomous sanctions legislative framework. Throughout August and September 2011, the department conducted public consultations on the new Autonomous Sanctions Regulations, including briefings for industry, the tertiary education sector and state governments in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney and considered written submissions from the public. The regulations were made in December 2011. The final transition of autonomous sanctions measures to the new regulations was completed in March 2012 with the transfer of responsibility for targeted financial sanctions from the Reserve Bank to the department.

From 1 March 2012, the department assumed responsibility for administering new restrictions on financial transactions involving Iran under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Regulations 2008. In February and May 2012 we briefed Australian banks on the operation of the restrictions.

We conducted public consultations throughout May and June 2012 on new autonomous sanctions on Syria and Iran. The consultations took the form of industry briefings in mainland state capitals and consideration of written submissions from the public. The regulations are expected to be in place in August 2012.

The department handled a doubling in the number of formal inquiries and applications for permits in relation to Australia's sanction laws, largely due to the commencement of the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 on 15 December 2011 and the introduction of financial countermeasures targeting Iran on 1 March 2012.

Transnational crime and counter-terrorism financing

Over the past 12 months, the department continued to raise awareness of Australia's laws criminalising bribery in international business transactions through its 'trading with integrity' outreach program. In November 2011 and May 2012, we partnered with the Global Compact Network Australia to deliver anti-corruption seminars in Sydney and Melbourne. In May 2012, we delivered a similar seminar in Brisbane with the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. We provided training to departmental staff posted in Africa, the Middle East and Europe on Australia's anti-bribery laws and other Australian extraterritorial offences.

In November 2011, the department made its first report to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) on the operation of the counter-terrorism financing sanctions regime under Part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945. The INSLM is appointed under the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010 to review the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia's counter-terrorism and national security legislation on an ongoing basis.

We initiated a project to deliver best practice guidance to APEC economies to combat terrorism financing vulnerabilities in non-financial businesses and professions, such as lawyers, accountants and trust services companies.

International law

The department, together with the Attorney-General's Department, supported the International Criminal Court in its efforts to end impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. Australia played an active role in conjunction with other member states to support the operations of the Court. We co-hosted, with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth Secretariat, an outreach event for Pacific island states to promote accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the implementation of Rome Statute obligations under domestic law.

We continued to lead Australia's contribution to an international regulatory framework for private security companies, including through efforts to establish an Independent Governance and Oversight Mechanism for regulating the private security industry in complex security environments.

We provided legal advice both internally and to other agencies on issues of public international law, including international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international human rights law. We also provided legal advice to government agencies on negotiating agreements and arrangements on a range of topics, including taxation, social security, air services and film co-production.

Treaties

The department continued to support the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). We provided briefing for JSCOT's review of 38 new treaties. We also facilitated the signing of 23 treaties, including the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement, the Extradition Treaty with Vietnam and a plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, along with nearly 160 memorandums of understanding. We supported consultation with the Australian states and territories on treaties under negotiation, consideration or review, and government agencies were advised on treaty implementation and interpretation, including through an information seminar for government officials.

Outlook

Australia will be the CHOGM Chair-in-Office for 2012–13. Delivering on the commitments made in Perth CHOGM during Australia's term as Chair will be a priority for the department.

We will maintain our active engagement in UN forums on human rights and continue to work with international and regional partners to strengthen human rights. We will continue our bilateral engagement on human rights issues, including through our Human Rights Dialogues. The department will lead Australia's delegation to the 14th Australia–China Human Rights Dialogue in July 2012. We will continue to engage with Australia's NGOs on international human rights issues.

If Australia is elected to the UN Security Council for a two-year term (2013–14), a priority for the department will be to support an effective contribution by Australia to the work of the Council, starting in January 2013.

In this tenth anniversary year of the Bali Process, we will continue to work closely with regional partners to implement the work program of the Regional Support Office, including the delivery of foundation projects which will help develop regional responses to people smuggling and trafficking in persons.

The department will contribute to discussions in the UN to take forward the agreements reached at Rio+20, particularly on oceans and the development of universal sustainable development goals. We will support the Government's engagement on regional and global oceans conservation initiatives, including efforts through the UN General Assembly to strengthen the conservation and sustainable management of marine biodiversity on the high seas.

The department will support work on negotiating a new legally-binding agreement on climate change and on building bilateral and regional cooperation on climate change.

We will lead with Belgium the development of the Multi-Year Strategic Work Plan to be considered by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in 2013 hosted by Belgium. We will continue to support work on the International Court of Justice Whaling case.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade