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.