The Australia Group

Fighting the spread of chemical and biological weapons. Strengthening global security.

2006 Australia Group Plenary

Entering its third decade of work to stop the spread of chemical and biological weapons, the Australia Group held its annual plenary in Paris from 12-15 June. The plenary recognised the important role of the Group in forging responses to new and emerging proliferation threats, including from terrorists. Participants also considered and agreed upon a number of important measures for deepening the implementation and enforcement of national export control systems.

In response to the need to ensure that export controls keep pace with new and emerging threats, participants shared information on the development and spread of new technologies posing a potential proliferation threat. The plenary recognised the role of niobium as an increasingly key element in chemical manufacturing equipment suitable for the production of chemical weapons, and agreed to introduce controls on such equipment. Several biological agents capable of being used to produce biological weapons were also added to the control lists.

Participants undertook to take a common approach in controlling exports to distributors and agreed to hold a seminar to discuss best-practice measures to control brokering activities. Tighter controls on the activities of such intermediaries will help to combat increasingly sophisticated procurement methods used by proliferators, including terrorists. Participants also agreed to explore the possibility of “labelling” controlled equipment to help address the challenge of managing trade in second hand equipment.

The Australia Group welcomed the renewed mandate of the Committee established by UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and affirmed the Group’s commitment to support the Committee in promoting robust global implementation of export control systems.

Increased acceptance in recent years of Australia Group measures as the international benchmark for export control standards relating to dual-use chemical and biological materials and technologies has in large part been due to the outreach activities of the Group. Acknowledging the effectiveness of targeted, regional approaches to outreach, participants agreed on outreach strategies for the coming year and exchanged information on planned activities.

The Australia Group website has proved an increasingly valuable outreach tool, and participants welcomed its availability in all official UN languages, with translations into Arabic, Chinese and Russian now online. The meeting agreed to expand information on controlled items contained on the website in order to increase its usefulness as a reference tool for enforcement officers. Further developments to the Australia Group Information System were also agreed to facilitate increased sharing of secure electronic information among the Group.

Discussions dealing with information sharing and enforcement provided clearer insights into proliferation behaviour by state and non-state actors, as well as practical measures for responding to these activities. Controlling the transfer of know-how and technical information relevant to the production of chemical and biological weapons without impeding legitimate scientific research was acknowledged as an important challenge. The plenary agreed to continue to exchange ideas and experiences relating to the implementation of controls in this area.

Participants reiterated their commitment to continue to ensure that non-proliferation export controls did not hinder legitimate trade and technical cooperation in the chemical and biological sectors.

Further information on the Australia Group’s activities is available at www.australiagroup.net.