30 June 2017
The 41 Member Countries of the Australia Group and the European Union met for the 32nd plenary meeting in Paris this week. The Australia Group was established after the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. The work of its members aims to ensure that legitimate trade in sensitive dual-use goods and technology is not diverted to the production of chemical or biological weapons, through coordinated export controls, information sharing and outreach.
Australia Group participants reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening chemical and biological weapons-related counter-proliferation efforts. Among the measures agreed by the Group at the 32nd Plenary were:
- issuing a statement on the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention, expressing the Group's grave concerns about the resurgence in the use of chemical weapons;
- reinforcing efforts to stay ahead of potential proliferators by increasing awareness of emerging technologies, the potential exploitation of the cyber sphere, and scientific developments that could be used for chemical and biological weapons production and delivery;
- intensifying Australia Group focus on preventing the proliferation of goods, technologies and information to terrorists and non-state actors that could enable the production or delivery of chemical and biological weapons or attacks;
- sharing approaches to challenges posed by intangible technology transfers, proliferation financing, procurement, transhipment and broader proliferation networks, including through enhanced engagement with industry and academia;
- renewed commitment to work collaboratively and cooperatively, both domestically and internationally, and to share experiences in enforcing export controls, information, outcomes of investigations and operational activity; and
- agreement to enhance outreach to non-members through more regular Australia Group Dialogues and continued efforts to encourage all states to implement robust export controls and to adopt Australia Group export controls as the model for international best practice.
Licensing and enforcement experts again exchanged experiences and ways to prevent the proliferation of sensitive dual-use chemicals, biological materials and related equipment.
The Group shared approaches for keeping pace with rapidly evolving technologies and discussed the challenges posed by increasingly complex proliferation financing and exploitation of the cyber sphere. Participating experts continued their work to refine controls applied to the chemical and biological items on the Australia Group Control Lists and agreed to enhance efforts to safeguard laboratory security.
Updated Control Lists and the Australia Group Guidelines are available at http://www.australiagroup.net.
Participants welcomed expansion of the Group's focus and ongoing efforts to enhance engagement with non-members, and agreed to continue an active program of international outreach and engagement in 2017-18. Participants agreed on the importance of further enhanced coordination to prevent the proliferation of goods, technology and information that could be used to enable chemical and biological weapons attacks, whilst not hindering trade. Participants reinforced the importance of outreach to industry and academia, noting the rapid development of new technologies and scientific developments.
Following on from the highly productive Australia Group Dialogue in Buenos Aires in February 2017, Australia Group members agreed to consider more regular Australia Group Dialogues as the model for regionally-based outreach and for encouraging all states to implement robust and effective national export controls and to adopt Australia Group export controls as the model for international best practice.
The Australia Group welcomed membership applications from several countries and undertook to engage with them further. No new members were admitted in 2017.
The Australia Group reaffirmed its commitment to encouraging declarations of adherence and the importance of adoption of Australia Group Guidelines and control lists by as many countries as possible. Members agreed to engage, as a priority, countries with developing export control measures and key transit and transhipment hubs, recognising that adherents will be afforded a broader range of information and support from Australia Group participants to assist them in implementing global best practice in export controls.
Australia Group Statement on the use of chemical weapons
Recognising the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Australia Group issued on 30 June a statement expressing grave concern and regret at the evidence and allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria and Iraq and condemning the threat that this poses to international norms against the use of chemical weapons. Members highlighted the important work of the OPCW in implementing the CWC over the past 20 years, which was recognised with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.
Australia Group members expressed concern about the DPRK's chemical and biological weapons capability. The use of VX nerve gas to kill Kim Jong-nam in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February this year adds urgency to the need for action to address the threat of chemical weapons.
Members emphasised the importance of all countries fully implementing the restrictions on the transfer of chemical and biological weapons-related items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology to the DPRK, established in relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, including 1718, 2270, 2321 and 2356.
The Australia Group reaffirmed its view that the horrific use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria and Iraq underlines the necessity to uphold the complete prohibition on the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere at anytime, through universal adherence to and effective implementation of the CWC. Members noted the release of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) report on 29 June, and the statement by the Director-General of the OPCW that "the OPCW FFM has confirmed the use of sarin, a nerve agent, at the 4 April incident in Khan Shaykhun in Syria".
The Australia Group urges Syria to facilitate the complete and verified destruction of its entire chemical weapons program and to resolve all ambiguities in its declaration to the OPCW, and to cooperate fully with the OPCW's Fact Finding Mission and OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, so that the international community will have confidence that Syria is meeting its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 2118, 2209, 2235, 2314, 2319 and the CWC in full.
Australia Group members accepted France's offer to host the 2018 Plenary in Paris on 4-8 June.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.