In a year in which the global security environment continued to deteriorate, the department made a significant contribution to Australia’s international security efforts.

Terrorism continued to cast a shadow. The department supported Australia’s international engagement and advocacy on counter-terrorism issues through regional and multilateral forums, as well as bilateral consultations with Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey and France.

As co-chair of the ASEAN Regional Forum’s (ARF) counter-radicalisation priority area and the vice-chair of the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group, the department helped influence regional responses to terrorism. With Indonesia, we co-hosted a plenary meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum which highlighted policy and legal challenges associated with the management of terrorist prisoners. As a member of the counter-Daesh coalition and its Finance Working Group, we promoted a coordinated response to Daesh and the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.

The department contributed to efforts to counter extremist narratives. We listed individuals and groups under Australian and UN sanctions regimes and delivered programs to build counter-terrorism, law enforcement and intelligence capability in South and Southeast Asia and Africa.

Cyber issues featured prominently on the international security agenda. The department contributed to the Government’s Cyber Security Strategy, released in April 2016, which is designed to enhance Australia’s global responsibility and influence in this area. Although not a member of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cyber in 2014–2015, we supported the work of the Group to develop norms for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace in other forums.

We contributed to the ARF’s effort to promote cyber security confidence-building measures and strengthen regional capacity to handle cyber threats. We also raised cyber norms in bilateral cyber policy dialogues with China and India, and through the G20.

The department provided foreign policy and strategic advice on issues considered by the National Security Committee of Cabinet, the Secretaries’ Committee on National Security and the National Intelligence Coordination Committee.

We engaged closely with the Department of Defence in the finalisation of the 2016 Defence White Paper.

As Australia Group Chair, we led outreach efforts to regional countries to advocate robust export control arrangements to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological agents for use in weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and by terrorist groups.

Under the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with the United States and Japan, we continued to advance policy cooperation through meetings of working groups, including on the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

The fourth nuclear test and ongoing ballistic missile launches by North Korea, and North Korean proliferation networks, represent a direct threat to peace and stability. The department implemented targeted activities, including with close partners, to disrupt the illegal trade which financially underpins North Korea’s nuclear program. Chemical weapons use in Syria by the regime and non-state actors is a grave challenge to the long-standing prohibition against WMD use. The nexus between proliferation and terrorism remains a serious concern. Using our role as chair of the Australia Group and close links to the chairs of the other global arms control regimes, the department fine-tuned export control mechanisms to more effectively contain the spread of WMD know-how and technology to non-state actors. We supported India’s bid for membership of export control regimes, including through advocating India’s credentials for membership.

As an International Atomic Energy Agency Board member, we helped resolve issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, facilitating the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Through the Non Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative and other forums, we continued to promote early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Despite delays to entry into force, the treaty underpins the global norm prohibiting nuclear testing.

The department managed Australia’s engagement in conventional arms control regimes and agreements, including contributing to the debate on the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems and their compliance with international humanitarian law.

In the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, we advocated strongly for guidelines for international cooperation on space debris, space weather monitoring and access to satellite orbits and radio spectrum.


Promoting a stable and prosperous regional and global environment by cultivating and deepening our engagement with bilateral and regional partners and multilateral institutions

Arms Trade Treaty

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Philippine officials speaking at a workshop in Bangkok on preparations for implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. [UNRCPD/Vinai Dithajohn]
Philippine Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime representative, Raison Arobinto, and Philippine National Police representative, Lea De Guzman, present on preparations for ATT implementation, Southeast Asia workshop on the ATT, Bangkok, 4 April 2016. [UNRCPD/Vinai Dithajohn]

Arms Trade Treaty

Building on our leadership in negotiating the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013 and bringing it into force in 2014, the department intensified efforts in 2015 towards effective implementation, especially among countries in our region.

Co-operating with the United Nations, regional organisations and civil society groups, we co-funded and participated in four workshops bringing together key government, policy, technical and military officials from our region to examine specific legislative and operational changes needed to set up well-functioning arms trade controls, compliant with the treaty. Participants included policy and technical officials from a range of countries in our region.

Combining diplomatic advocacy with provision of technical expertise to meet legal, export control, border control and reporting challenges, we assisted neighbouring states move towards ratification of and accession to the Arms Trade Treaty. We contributed $499,000 toward the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation, bringing our total contributions to this fund since 2013 to $2.7 million. Our assistance helped strengthen global norms of control over trade in conventional weapons and prevent dangerous accumulation and proliferation of illicit arms in our region.

Promoting a stable and prosperous regional and global environment by cultivating and deepening our engagement with bilateral and regional partners and multilateral institutions

Harnessing international cooperation to strengthen the management of terrorist prisoners

Case Study
Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism Miles Armitage with DFAT staff and delegates attending a MIKTA Meeting of Experts on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing in Melbourne. [MAN WITH A CAMERA PHOTOGRAPHY/Simon Woodcock]
Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism Miles Armitage (8th left, back), keynote speaker Roger Wilkins AO (left), National Manager International Operations Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, John Visser (6th left, front), with departmental staff and delegates, MIKTA Meeting of Experts on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing, Melbourne, 30 April 2016. [MAN WITH A CAMERA PHOTOGRAPHY/Simon Woodcock]

Harnessing international cooperation to strengthen the management of terrorist prisoners

The effective management of terrorist prisoners is a key factor in countering the growing threat from terrorism in Australia’s region and globally. There is increasing international recognition of the potential for prisons to become ‘incubators of radicalisation’ and for terrorist prisoners to expand their networks and plan terrorist attacks. The January 2016 terrorist attacks in Jakarta were orchestrated from prison.

As co-chair (with Indonesia) of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum Detention and Reintegration Working Group, the department designed and piloted an innovative training program aimed at reducing the risk of prisoner radicalisation and managing terrorist prisoners more effectively.

We trialled the program in Kenya (February 2016) and Indonesia (May 2016) where a cohort of 25–30 corrections officers were trained on how to identify and respond to radicalisation in prisons. Feedback on the training program was overwhelmingly positive and it has now been incorporated into the core curriculum at Kenya’s prison training college. Our program also attracted significant interest from other partners with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands providing financial support.

The success of the training program has demonstrated the value of avoiding a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach towards counter-terrorism capacity building. We learned that we could improve buy-in from recipient countries if training content was sufficiently flexible to be tailored to country-specific circumstances. The department will look for opportunities to shape appropriate training for other groups in the year ahead as part of our counter-terrorism agenda.

Strengthening international frameworks and norms that promote human rights, gender equality, democratic principles and the rule of law, international security, and open and transparent global markets

International security and cyber

Case Study

International security and cyber

Cyberspace offers unprecedented opportunity. But cyber threats are serious and growing. The borderless and interconnected nature of cyberspace means that no country can address the threats alone.

Over the past year, the department has worked with a range of countries, bilaterally and in multilateral and regional forums, to progress the development of a common understanding of the rules that apply to cyberspace. In our joint AUSMIN statement with the United States, Australia endorsed the consensus report of the 2014–15 UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cyber. Australia also reiterated the view that no country should conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information to provide commercial competitive advantage. This approach was previously agreed by the United States and China and endorsed by G20 leaders.

In recognition of our strong credentials in this field, a departmental officer will participate on the next Group of Governmental Experts on Cyber, following an invitation to Australia by the UN Secretary-General. The group will further elaborate how international law applies to states’ conduct in cyberspace and continue its work on confidence building measures. The department plans to use this as an opportunity to reinforce global norms in cyberspace and to contribute to the growing international consensus in this priority area.

Analysis and outlook

Complexity and uncertainty characterise the Indo–Pacific strategic environment. The department’s contribution to the Government’s new Defence White Paper and cyber strategy, and to dialogues on maritime security, highlighted foreign policy challenges and opportunities for Australia and the region. We will continue to promote a rules-based international order as key to regional security and prosperity. Enhancing engagement with regional partners and institutions including through forums such as the EAS, ARF and Trilateral Strategic Dialogue will remain a priority.

The threat of terrorism in our region grew over the past year. This was underscored by the Daesh-sponsored terrorist attack in Jakarta on 14 January 2016. Daesh’s operational and ideological influence in Southeast Asia is increasing and the reach of Daesh and its affiliates, including in the Indian Ocean rim, is further cause for concern. The prospect of home-grown terrorists and the international movement of terrorists reinforce the importance of cooperation with partners in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The department succeeded in strengthening Australia’s bilateral engagement with Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore and pushed for a stronger regional and global response to the increased threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. We also promoted new approaches to countering violent extremism through the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum and under the framework of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Notwithstanding a continued geopolitical divide on key issues on the international cyber agenda, the department’s work in the ARF led to ministers adopting the first work plan on ICT security. We will continue to focus international effort to address the challenges posed by cyberspace, particularly through multilateral and regional forums. International engagement on cyber issues is one of the three governance pillars of the Government’s new Cyber Security Strategy.

In 2016–17, we will support the new Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and develop an international cyber engagement strategy and a cyber cooperation program.

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