The Australia Group met for its annual plenary in Paris from 7-10 June to further strengthen participating countries’ export control measures for preventing the production and spread of chemical and biological weapons.
The Australia Group welcomed five new members – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovenia. All new members participated in the 2004 Plenary, expanding the reach of the Group’s activities.
The 2004 Plenary was held against the backdrop of significant developments in global non-proliferation – including Libya’s decision to forgo its chemical weapons program, the revelation of the Khan proliferation network and unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. The resolution calls on states to establish effective national export controls, among other non-proliferation measures. The work of the Australia Group will play a key role in international efforts to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.
Against this background, participants noted growing acceptance of Australia Group measures as the international benchmark in relation to export controls directed at chemical and biological weapons, owing in large part to the Group’s ongoing outreach activities. Accordingly, participants agreed strategies for better targeted training and assistance, particularly at a regional level, to assist key supplier and transhipping countries and other interested countries outside the Group to enhance their export controls.
In response to increasingly sophisticated procurement activities, the Australia Group agreed to consider the issue of brokering controls. Such controls could play a key role in curtailing the activities of intermediaries and front companies.
As part of the Group’s ongoing efforts to keep its common control lists up to date and scientifically relevant, participants agreed to add five plant pathogens to the control lists – the first such addition since 1993 – and to expand medical exemptions for one of the controlled toxins. Participants also advanced consideration of further additions to the control lists, including airborne spraying and fogging systems capable of dispersing biological agents in aerosol form.
Discussions dealing with information sharing and enforcement provided clearer insights into proliferation behaviour by state and non-state actors and mechanisms for more effectively enforcing export controls.
The next plenary meeting of the Australia Group – to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Group – will be held in Australia in 2005.