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Regional architecture

ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)

Established in 1994, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is an important platform for security dialogue in the Indo-Pacific. It provides a setting in which members can discuss current security issues and develop cooperative measures to enhance peace and security in the region.

The ARF is characterised by consensus-based decision-making and frank dialogue. It comprises 27 members: the 10 ASEAN member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam); 10 ASEAN Dialogue Partners (Australia, Canada, China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the United States); Bangladesh, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.

Australia's Involvement in the ARF

Australia was a founding member of the ARF. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility for ARF policy, in consultation with the Department of Defence and other relevant agencies. The ARF has five work streams: Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime; Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Security; Disaster Relief; Maritime Security; and Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Australia has been an active participant in the ARF's discussions and activities since its founding. In recent years this work has included:

  • Supporting ARF efforts to develop preventive diplomacy tools, including as a key drafter of the ARF Work Plan for Preventive Diplomacy.
  • Co-chairing and hosting the 2nd ARF Workshop on Nuclear Risk Reduction (22-23 March 2023, Brisbane).
  • Co-chairing the 4th and 5th ARF Workshop on Implementing UNCLOS and other International Instruments to Address Emerging Maritime Issues (30 November 2022 and 9 November 2023, Hanoi/hybrid)
  • Co-chairing the ARF’s ICT work stream in 2021-22.
  • As co-chair, along with Vietnam and the EU, of the ARF's Maritime Security Work Stream for the period 2018-2021, Australia:
    • hosted the 2018 Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security on 27-28 March in Brisbane
    • co-chaired, with Malaysia and Timor-Leste, an ARF workshop on Dispute Resolution and Law of the Sea (27-28 February 2020, Dili)
    • co-chaired with Vietnam and the EU four ARF workshops on Enhancing Regional Maritime Law Enforcement Cooperation (18-19 January 2018 in Nha Trang, Vietnam, 12-13 March 2019 in Da Nang, Vietnam and 16-17 March 2021, held virtually, and 6-7 April 2022, also held virtually)
    • co-chaired, with Vietnam and the EU, the 2022 ISM on Maritime Security on 12 May held virtually
    • co-chaired, with Vietnam, two workshops on Implementing UNCLOS and other Legal Instruments to Address Emerging Maritime Issues on 26-27 February 2019 in Nha Trang, Vietnam and 1-2 June 2021, held virtually
    • co-chaired, with Indonesia and India, a workshop on Law of the Sea and Fisheries, held virtually on 7-8 December 2021.
  • IN 2023, Australia co-sponsored an ARF Foreign Ministers' statement on the Commemoration of 30 Years of the ASEAN Regional Forum.
  • In 2021, Australia co-sponsored an ARF Foreign Ministers’ statement on Promoting the Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda.
  • In 2020, Australia co-sponsored ARF Foreign Ministers’ statements on Enhancing Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Infectious Disease Outbreaks and The Treatment of Children Recruited by or Associated with Terrorist Groups.
  • In 2019, Australia co-sponsored ARF Foreign Ministers' statements on Preventing and Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism, and Promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the ARF.

ARF meetings and processes

Over the inter-sessional year, an ISM is held for each of the five work streams, along with numerous workshops and activities. Each stream adopts a multi-year work plan, which identifies priority areas and co-chairs for that period.

The Inter-Sessional Support Group (ISG) is the key annual meeting for ARF working-level officials. Australia last co-chaired the ISG in 2020-21 with Brunei. Held approximately one month before the ARF Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM), the primary function of the ISG is to table and consider new work plans, activity proposals, CBMs and preventive diplomacy initiatives, which are then submitted to the SOM for further consideration. The ISG also provides an opportunity for the co-chairs of ARF meetings and activities completed over the preceding inter-sessional year to report on the key discussions and outcomes from these events.

As the key preparatory meeting in advance of the ARF Ministerial Meeting, the SOM plays a central role in managing the ARF process. The main functions of the SOM are to endorse proposed ARF activities and meetings for the following inter-sessional year; consider proposed ARF ministerial statements; discuss ARF institutional matters; and exchange views on regional security issues at the senior officials' level.

The ARF year culminates with the annual Foreign Minister-level ARF, which is held in conjunction with the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) and the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

The chair of ASEAN is also the chair of the ARF. The role of ASEAN chair rotates annually between the ten ASEAN member states. The principal formal ARF outcome document is the ARF Chair's Statement, issued at the conclusion of the ARF Ministerial Meeting.

At the 2020 meeting, Ministers adopted the ARF Hanoi Plan of Action II (2020-25) as the overarching guiding document for the forum's five work streams.

The most recent Ministerial Meeting of the ARF was held in Jakarta on 14 July 2023. The meeting focused on regional issues including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Myanmar crisis, the Korean Peninsula, South China Sea, Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Security.

Laos is the current chair of the ARF. The next Ministerial Meeting will be hosted by Laos in mid 2024.

ARF Related Bodies

The ARF has a Track 1.5 body (consisting of government officials and non-government representatives) called the ARF Experts and Eminent Persons group (the EEPs), which meets annually to provide advice and recommendations to ARF officials (known as Track One). The ARF EEP group most recently met virtually on 13 July 2022, co-chaired by Brunei and China. Track Two (i.e. non-official) institutions, such as the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN ISIS), and ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (ASEAN-IPR) also generate ideas and input for the ARF's consideration. The Track Two institutions and networks conduct a number of seminars and working groups on regional security issues, involving academics, security specialists and officials participating in a personal capacity. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has supported the activities of AUS-CSCAP (the Australian Member Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific) since its establishment in 1992.

ARF Documents

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