Statement by the Chair of the 2016 Australia Group Plenary
10 June 2016
The 41 Member Countries of the Australia Group and the European Union met for the 31st Plenary meeting in Paris this week. The Australia Group was formed after the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. Its work aims to counter the spread of technologies and materials used for chemical and biological weapons through coordinated export controls, information sharing and outreach.
Among the measures Australia Group member countries agreed to take at the 31st Plenary to strengthen chemical and biological weapons counter-proliferation efforts were:
- intensifying the Australia Group focus on emerging technologies that can be used for chemical and biological weapons and on impeding chemical and biological terrorism;
- sharing approaches to challenges posed by intangible technology transfers, proliferators’ procurement of unlisted items, proliferation financing, online procurement, and transhipment; and
- expanding outreach to non-member countries and relevant international fora, as well as industry and academia, to highlight the threat posed by state and non-state actors seeking to acquire the ability to develop chemical and biological weapons.
As at past Plenary meetings, licensing and enforcement experts shared experiences and information to strengthen efforts to prevent proliferation of sensitive dual-use chemicals, biological materials and related equipment. The Group reviewed proliferation risks associated with new and emerging technologies. Participating experts continued their work to refine controls applied to the chemical and biological items on the Australia Group Control Lists.
Updated Control Lists and the Australia Group Guidelines are available at www.australiagroup.net.
The Australia Group agreed to continue an active program of international outreach and engagement in 2016-17 to further enhance coordination in preventing the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Particular emphasis was given to encouraging adherence to the Australia Group Guidelines, fighting the growing threat of chemical and biological terrorism, the need for catch-all controls and the importance of outreach to industry and academia. Agreed actions include:
- sharing information between member states on domestic outreach to key industries and academia;
- alerting non-members to the importance of their own domestic outreach activities to prevent proliferation; and
- reaching out directly to international industry and academic forums to raise awareness of proliferation issues.
The Australia Group recognised Kazakhstan’s formal adherence to the Australia Group Guidelines at the 2014 Plenary. Encouraging such adherence is important to increase coordination with the growing number of non-participants using the Australia Group control lists and guidelines as the benchmark for global best practice chemical and biological export controls. Greater consistency in implementing export controls reduces loopholes that proliferators and terrorists can exploit.
Adherents will be afforded a broader range of information from Australia Group participants to assist them in implementing global best practice in export controls. Australia Group participants urge all countries to adhere by informing the Australia Group Chair, in writing, of their political commitment to control the export of all items on the Australia Group common control lists according to the Australia Group Guidelines, including subsequent changes.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention & Chemical Weapons Convention
Australia Group members reiterated their strong support for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), the cornerstones of the international legal regime banning chemical and biological weapons; called on all states that are not yet Parties to the Conventions to join without delay; and affirmed their commitment to strengthening the BTWC at its 8th Review Conference, taking place in November 2016. They affirmed that the work of the Australia Group directly contributes to fulfilment of members’ obligations under Article III of the Convention and is fully consistent with the undertakings of its Article X. They urged the upcoming Review Conference to take steps to strengthen implementation of Article III, including elaborating elements necessary for the ‘effective national export controls systems’ called for by the 7th Review Conference.
The Australia Group affirmed its view that the horrific use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria and Iraq underlines the necessity for the complete eradication of chemical weapons for all time by all countries through the universal adherence to and effective implementation of the CWC. Since Syria’s 2013 accession to the CWC, the Australia Group welcomes the progress made in the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons program. However, attacks using toxic chemicals continue in Syria and Iraq. The Australia Group supports ongoing efforts through the UN/Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify the perpetrators. Members agreed to intensify the Australia Group focus on preventing the proliferation of materials and technologies to state and non-state actors.
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, so that the international community will have confidence that Syria is meeting its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 2118 and 2209 and the CWC in full.
During the Plenary discussion, Australia Group members expressed concern about DPRK’s continued chemical and biological weapons activity. Members emphasized the importance of all countries complying with 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 and 2270. The relevant lists – S/2006/853 and S/2016/308 – are available at https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1718/prohibited-items and will soon be available on the Australia Group’s website under “Publications.”
The Plenary discussed recommendations from the 2015 Wilton Park Conference to improve efficiency and strategic planning in the Australia Group. Members agreed the conference was valuable in offering non-governmental perspectives on the work of the Australia Group.
The Plenary agreed to hold the next Intersessional Implementation Meeting, New and Evolving Technologies Technical Experts Meeting and Australia Group Dialogue in Argentina. This will also represent an opportunity for the Australia Group to engage more closely with non-members in the Latin America and Caribbean region.
Australia Group members accepted France’s offer to host the 2017 Plenary in Paris.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.