The need to strengthen global chemical and biological non-proliferation measures underscored by the chemical weapons situation in Syria dominated the Australia Group’s annual plenary meeting, which concluded today in Paris. Chaired by Australia and hosted in Paris by the French Government, the Australia Group seeks to counter the spread of technologies and materials that may facilitate the development or acquisition of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) by states and terrorists. The Plenary welcomed Mexico as a new participating state in the Group.
Among the measures AG participants agreed to take to strengthen CBW non-proliferation measures are:
The Australia Group affirmed its view that the horrific use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria 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 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Since Syria’s accession to the CWC, the Australia Group welcomes the progress made in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. However, until Syria facilitates the complete and verified destruction of its chemical weapons programme and resolves all ambiguities in its declaration to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international community will not have confidence that Syria is meeting its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2118 and the CWC in full. The Australia Group Plenary also expressed concern about continued reports of the use of chemical agents in the ongoing conflict in Syria. The AG Plenary considered lessons that could be learned from Syria's chemical weapons programme and agreed on measures to further strengthen non-proliferation export controls.
The Group continued its process of review of the proliferation risk associated with new and emerging technologies, and participating experts continued their review of lists of chemical and biological items that are to be subject to export control. Updated lists as well as the Australia Group Guidelines are available at www.australiagroup.net.
As in past years the 2014 Plenary enabled licensing and enforcement experts to share experience and information to prevent attempts to proliferate sensitive dual-use chemicals, biological materials, and related equipment. This year participants conducted a table top exercise to evaluate responses to various enforcement challenges and welcomed a comprehensive handbook on the identification of Australia Group listed items prepared by the United States. Australia Group participants affirmed their commitment to ensuring that their export controls did not hinder legitimate trade and technical cooperation in the chemical and biological sectors.
Australia Group participants agreed to amend the AG Guidelines to increase the prominence of “catch-all” controls on exports of unlisted items that may contribute to CBW, and put particular priority on “catch-all” implementation. They also agreed to enhance national efforts to control transfers of AG-listed technology in intangible forms or by intangible means, including via the provision of training. The Group also will continue to share information on approaches to visa vetting and to the control of proliferation-sensitive brokering services. Participants also clarified the implementation of the Group’s “no-undercut” policy, which promotes uniformity in the implementation of export controls.
Consideration was given to potential new members that have formally expressed interest in joining the Australia Group.
The Australia Group agreed to continue an active program of international outreach and engagement in 2014-15 to further enhance efforts to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, with particular emphasis on encouraging adherence to the AG Guidelines, the threat of CBW terrorism, the need for “catch-all” controls, and the importance of outreach to industry and academia.
AG members accepted Australia’s offer to host the next Plenary in Perth, Western Australia, in 2015 to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Australia Group.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.