25 September 2009
2009 Australia Group Plenary
Representatives of 40 countries and the European Commission held the annual plenary meeting of the Australia Group this week. The Australia Group is a cooperative and voluntary body dedicated to countering the spread of technologies and materials that could assist states of concern and terrorist groups in obtaining or developing chemical and biological weapons. The plenary was co-hosted by Australia and France in Paris.
At the 2009 plenary, Australia Group participants continued their sharing of information on best practices and measures to detect and prevent proliferation attempts by states of concern and non-state actors. Participants discussed the enhancement and continued refinement of the Group's licensing and customs controls.
As in previous years, several changes were proposed to the Group's chemical and biological control lists, and were adopted or referred for further consideration as appropriate. Changes to the Australia Group's control lists will be available on the Group's public website in due course. The Group maintained its particular focus on international developments in the field of synthetic biology, and considered a report from its specialist technical advisory group in this area. Participants agreed to broaden the scope of the advisory group to include a range of evolving technologies.
The Australia Group agreed to enhance cooperative measures to deal with intangible transfers of technology, including preparing a new outreach publication for this purpose. Preventing unauthorised transfers of intangible technology is a priority area in the defence against the proliferation of all forms of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
The Australia Group again emphasised its commitment to ensuring that non-proliferation export controls did not hinder legitimate trade and technical cooperation in the chemical and biological sectors. The Australia Group noted the ongoing importance of engaging industry and academic sectors in support of the Group's work.
No new members were admitted to the Group in 2009. Interest in membership from several countries was noted, and further engagement with these countries was approved by the plenary.
Participants noted that the Group's control lists continued to be an international benchmark for best practice controls on chemical and biological agents, being used increasingly as a guide for international action in this area. The Group noted the ongoing mutual benefit in close cooperation with the UN Security Council and its relevant committees.
International acceptance of Australia Group controls and practices are in part a result of the Group's extensive outreach to non-members and other international bodies. The Australia Group plenary agreed to continue an active outreach program in 2009-10.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.