Annual Report 2005-2006

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.7 International organisations, legal and environment

OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia's international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

1.1.7 International organisations, legal and environment

On this page: Overview :: United Nations :: Environment :: Law of the sea and Antarctica :: International law and transnational crime :: Treaties and outreach :: Human rights :: People smuggling and trafficking :: Avian and pandemic influenza :: Commonwealth issues :: Outlook


The department continued to provide support for the Government's efforts to advance Australia's multilateral interests in the United Nations and the Commonwealth, combat people smuggling and trafficking, prepare for a possible avian influenza pandemic, promote human rights internationally and promote Australia's interests in environmental negotiations.

The department was closely involved in efforts to reform the UN system, particularly through the UN World Summit in September 2005. We promoted Australia's interests in good governance, democratisation, counter-terrorism and other areas at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Malta in November 2005.

The department played a lead role in establishing the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate and hosting its inaugural ministerial meeting in January 2006. The Partnership brought together the major countries of our region to advance, in an integrated manner, the key issues of clean development, energy security and climate change.

We played a lead role in negotiations on an international regime for trade in genetic resources at the eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, advocating a preference for national laws over the establishment of a new treaty. With the Department of the Environment and Heritage we coordinated a major international lobbying campaign before and at the 2006 International Whaling Commission meeting, which succeeded in ensuring continued protection for whales from commercial whaling.

The department, including through our UN Missions in New York and Geneva, made a strong contribution to the establishment of the new Human Rights Council. We led the Australian delegation to a bilateral human rights dialogue with Vietnam and began preparations for the tenth round of the human rights dialogue with China.

The department cooperated with the Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-For-Food Programme (the Cole Inquiry) through the provision of departmental records and evidence by departmental officers.

Through the Bali process, the Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues continued to work closely with her Indonesian counterparts and Australian agencies to promote practical regional cooperation to combat people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. This process continued to build strong networks, habits of cooperation and capacity among regional operational agencies dealing with these transnational challenges.

The department was actively involved in the Government's preparations for a possible avian influenza pandemic.

United Nations

The department coordinated the Government's substantial contribution to the outcomes of the UN World Summit, held in New York in September 2005. Drawing on the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and the UN Secretary-General's follow-up report In larger freedom, the Summit endorsed a range of important initiatives to reform the UN system, although it fell short of our goals in some areas. The department participated actively in pre-Summit negotiations and has been heavily engaged in implementation of Summit outcomes, including: the establishment of the UN Peace Building Commission to enhance the UN's efforts in post-conflict situations; and reform of the UN's management systems via the review of UN mandates and the review of UN Secretariat rules and regulations.

The creation of the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) in 2005 represented a significant enhancement of the UN's promotion of democracy. The Government strongly supported UNDEF's establishment, including through a contribution of $10 million, and Australia will take up a position on the inaugural UNDEF advisory board.

The department continued to promote core Australian interests across the UN system, including in relation to the situations in Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan and in multilateral conferences and negotiations on disarmament, counter-terrorism, migration, development, human rights and the environment. We provided substantial input to the UN Security Council's consideration of the situation in East Timor which led to the roll-over of the mandate of the UN Office in Timor-Leste and discussions towards a successor mission.

The department worked with UN specialised agencies to promote and defend our national interests. We secured Australia's election to the International Maritime Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council. Our presence in these organisations will position us to advance our interests in international maritime and environmental issues. Our ongoing presence on the management bodies of other specialised agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization, give us a platform to advance Australia's interests in international health and labour issues.

The department continued to provide secretariat functions to the Australian National Commission for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The National Commission advises the Government on UNESCO matters and liaises with organisations interested in UNESCO's activities. Through the Australian Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in Paris, we pursued national interests at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in October 2005. For example, the department contributed to the adoption of the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport, the UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, creating norms governing international behaviour.


Climate change

The department, including the Ambassador for the Environment, played a lead role in establishing the groundbreaking Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The partnership brought together for the first time key developed and developing country greenhouse gas emitters and industry to promote practical technological efforts on climate change. Australia hosted the partnership's inaugural meeting, which was a significant international event attracting ministers from all partner countries and unprecedented participation by senior business leaders (see box below).

In multilateral negotiations the department continued to promote a more comprehensive and inclusive international response to climate change. We made a constructive contribution at the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Montreal in November 2005 and the Twenty-Fourth Session of the Subsidiary Bodies to the UNFCCC in Bonn in May 2006. Bonn also hosted the first session of a new UN dialogue on future global climate change action, co-chaired by a senior Australian official. We retained our prominent leadership role as chair of the Umbrella Group of countries (Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States), an influential bloc in international climate change negotiations. The department played a lead role in advocating internationally an amendment to the Protocol to the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution to allow for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide within the sub-seabed, a key technology for reducing atmospheric emissions. We have built a strong coalition to support the amendment, which requires a two-thirds positive vote to pass at the first meeting of the Protocol in October 2006.

AP6: practical cooperation between governments, productive partnerships with business

On 12 January 2006 ministers from Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States launched the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) in Sydney. The AP6 partner countries produce around half of global gross domestic product and greenhouse gas emissions and represent around half of the world's population. AP6 partners will drive practical cooperation on the low and zero-carbon technologies needed to mitigate the effects of climate change, while promoting economic growth, energy security and clean development. A key feature of the partnership is its positive engagement of industry, which will be vital in driving investment decisions towards low-carbon economies. Prime Minister Howard opened the AP6 and committed $100 million over five years to support its work.

Ministers and industry participants expressed enthusiasm and strong support for the partnership model. A high degree of consensus at the meeting enabled the establishment of eight public-private task forces to accelerate clean technology deployment and share best practice in key sectors. The task forces will focus on eight priority sectors: cleaner fossil energy; renewable energy and distributed generation; power generation and transmission; steel; aluminium; cement; coal mining; and buildings and appliances.

The task forces are developing action plans in 2006. This new model for public–private sector collaboration on climate change has already influenced the international debate, leading to a greater focus on technological responses and the need for practical action involving the private sector as an integral partner.

The department worked closely with other agencies to advance a range of bilateral climate change partnerships and engage in broader initiatives to promote the development and deployment of cleaner energy technologies. Agencies made particular progress in the science and development of clean coal technology, such as carbon sequestration. The department worked closely with Pacific countries to develop the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change 2005–2015, a practical approach focusing on adaptation to the possible impact of climate change.


The department played a lead role in the Government's involvement in negotiations for an international regime for trade in genetic resources at the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Curitiba, Brazil in March 2006. Using Australia's positive experience in developing national laws to govern access to genetic resources and subsequent benefit sharing, we argued that national regimes provided more flexibility than a 'one size fits all' legally binding international regime. Our ideas for structuring discussion over the next two years were well received. We ensured that a range of submissions would be commissioned to provide a strong basis for future negotiations.

The department led Australia's delegation to the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, also held in Curitiba in March 2006. Although Australia is not a party to the protocol, the department played a constructive role in resolving the longstanding dispute over the need for shipping documentation for genetically modified commodity trade. Working with like-minded parties we protected Australian conventional grain and oilseed exports by ensuring they were excluded from these burdensome documentation requirements.


With the Department of the Environment and Heritage, we continued to coordinate a major diplomatic effort, including through Australia's overseas missions, to promote the Government's pro-conservation stance before and during the 58th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in St Kitts and Nevis in June 2006. In a finely-balanced negotiating environment, we supported the Minister for the Environment and Heritage to help ensure continued protection of whales by thwarting attempts by pro-whaling countries to undermine the moratorium on commercial whaling. Australia and the pro-conservation coalition won all the substantive proposals at the IWC, defeating pro-whaling efforts to: run secret ballots and make voting non-transparent; increase whaling through proposed commercial coastal whaling; and abolish the current Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The passage of a non-binding declaration by pro-whaling nations had no substantive effect but demonstrated the need for ongoing efforts to preserve the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Tsunami warning

The department coordinated implementation of the Australian Tsunami Warning System with other relevant agencies and played a lead role in establishing the international institutional frameworks. We led efforts at the 20th Meeting of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System in Valparaiso, Chile in October 2005 to bring its governance arrangements into line with those of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System. We also secured a formal commitment from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu to provide tsunami alerts and advisories in the Pacific.

Law of the sea and Antarctica

The department led Australia's negotiations with East Timor to conclude the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea. The Minister for Foreign Affairs signed the Treaty with his East Timorese counterpart on 12 January 2006 at a ceremony also attended by Prime Minister Howard and former East Timorese Prime Minister Alkatiri. The Treaty sets aside maritime boundary claims in the Timor Sea for 50 years, with Australia and East Timor to split equally government revenues derived from the exploitation of the Greater Sunrise gas reservoirs. This will provide East Timor with significant additional revenue and an opportunity for sound economic development.

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Alexander Downer and his East Timorese counterpart Dr José Ramos-Horta sign the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea on 12 January 2006. The Prime Minister Mr John Howard and then East Timorese Prime Minister Mr Mari Alkatiri observe the signing, which concluded an intensive series of eight negotiating sessions held in Canberra, Sydney, Darwin and Dili from April 2004 to November 2005. The department’s Senior Legal Adviser, Chris Moraitis (far left) looks on. Photo: AUSPIC/ Howard Moffat
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

We continued to work closely with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to advance Australia's interests in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Our negotiations with France concerning cooperative enforcement in the Southern Ocean neared completion. The department worked actively in a number of international meetings, leading the delegation to the Review Conference of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement in New York in May 2006, for the conservation and sustainable management of international fish stocks. We ensured that Australian interests were served in the Review Conference's final report, which proposed ways to strengthen implementation of the Agreement. These interests included promoting effective controls by states of vessels which fly their flag, improving the performance of regional fisheries management organisations and strengthening domestic mechanisms to deter nationals from engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

We supported DAFF in launching negotiations, which are expected to continue over several rounds, for a new regional fisheries management organisation in the South Pacific. The department provided legal and policy advice to DAFF on conservation regimes for internationally managed fisheries, including significant and valuable tuna resources in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

We also provided legal and policy advice on Australia's substantial involvement in Antarctica. Activities on the Antarctic continent are managed internationally according to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. At the 29th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in June 2006, the Australian delegation led by the department achieved improved conservation measures through an extension of visitor guidelines for heavily visited tourist sites and improved management regimes for specially protected areas.

As joint head of delegation, the department continued to work closely with the Attorney-General's Department and Geoscience Australia on Australia's submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). In the CLCS in August and September 2005 and April 2006 we strongly advocated international recognition of Australia's sovereign rights over 3.37 million square kilometres of seabed beyond Australia's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Significant progress has been made and the sub-commission examining Australia's submission aims to deliver its final recommendation to the CLCS by mid-2007. Australia's submission is the largest and most comprehensive of its type to date.

International law and transnational crime

The department made a significant contribution to meeting Australia's international obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373 to freeze terrorist assets, as implemented under part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 and under the Charter of the United Nations (Terrorism and Dealing with Assets) Regulations 2002.

We made a significant contribution to whole of government efforts to address legal issues relevant to deployments of Australian personnel to a range of countries, including Afghanistan, East Timor and Iraq. We provided legal advice in support of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands and the Enhanced Cooperation Program in Papua New Guinea.

Continuing Australia's record of support for the work of international criminal tribunals, the department successfully campaigned for the appointment of Mr Rowan Downing as a pre-trial judge on the Extraordinary Chamber of the Cambodian Court. This Court was established with UN assistance to try Khmer Rouge leaders. We led Australia's active support for the International Criminal Court, including by promoting the Court's effective administration through our lead role in the Court's Committee on Budget and Finance.

The department successfully supported Australian initiatives to strengthen international humanitarian law. We played a key role in the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel, which strengthened the legal framework for protecting UN personnel in the field. We helped facilitate the admission of the Israeli and Palestinian societies into the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

In the lead-up to the UN World Summit, the department worked to gain support from UN member states for the 'responsibility to protect' doctrine. According to this doctrine, the international community has a responsibility to take action through the UN Security Council to protect populations under threat from the most serious of international crimes where states are unable or unwilling to protect their own people. The inclusion of this doctrine in the Outcomes Document of the UN Summit was a major achievement that should prompt decisive Security Council action in the future to address serious international crimes.

Following extensive consultations with ASEAN partners, the department successfully negotiated a mechanism for Australia's accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which protected all of Australia's key interests and existing international obligations. Australia's accession to the Treaty on 10 December 2005 was an essential element in securing Australia's membership of the East Asia Summit (see sub-output 1.1.2 for more information).

The department led successful negotiations for a Nuclear Transfer Agreement and Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with China (see sub-output 1.1.1 for more information).

Treaties and outreach

The department continued to provide comprehensive support to the Commonwealth Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, responsible for parliamentary scrutiny of treaty-making. The committee reviewed 29 new treaties during the year. To help the committee we facilitated consultation with the states and territories on treaties currently under negotiation, prepared extensive biannual schedules and helped facilitate the committee's follow-up briefings.

The department provided extensive advice on treaties matters to other government agencies and maintained, through the Australasian Legal Information Institute, a free, best practice internet facility enabling access to all 2570 Australian treaty texts.

Human rights

On 15 March 2006, Australia voted for the historic UN General Assembly resolution establishing a new Human Rights Council to replace the previous Commission on Human Rights. The department participated actively in the negotiations that led to the Council's establishment. The new Council should be a more effective human rights body than the former Commission. For example, the Council will meet more often and should be able to respond better to any emergency human rights situation; a 'peer review mechanism' will allow for scrutiny of the human rights records of all UN members, including countries on the Council; and egregious human rights abusers can be voted off the Council by a two-thirds vote of the UN General Assembly. Australia has pledged that it will not vote onto the Council countries where there is objective evidence of gross systematic violations of human rights, including countries subject to UN Security Council sanctions for such abuses.

The Council's inaugural session was held in Geneva in June 2006. The Australian delegation, led by our Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, worked with Council members and non-members on a 'roadmap' for the Council's first year. Australian priorities for the new Council include building a strong and effective body with a more robust and balanced agenda and program of work than its predecessor.

Treaty body reform

The department continued to work to improve the effectiveness of the UN human rights treaty monitoring system, consistent with the Government's interest in UN reform. In March 2006 the department and the Attorney-General's Department released a progress report on Australia's achievements in promoting treaty body reform since 2000. With the importance of treaty body reform now widely accepted in the UN system, we are working with others, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to promote further improvements that will make the treaty committees run more efficiently and focus more directly on the worst human rights abuses.

Bilateral human rights dialogues

The department led the delegation to the annual bilateral human rights dialogue with Vietnam. The dialogue allowed a constructive exchange on issues such as the criminal justice system, the situation of religious and ethnic minorities, restrictions on freedom of expression, the death penalty, prison conditions and women's issues. We began preparations for the tenth round of the Australia–China dialogue. These dialogues continue to be important forums for constructive and frank exchanges on a broad range of human rights issues. Targeted and practical human rights technical cooperation remained an important element of the dialogues. We welcomed the continued involvement of Parliamentary representatives and non-governmental organisations in the dialogue process.

Representations and consultations on human rights

Australian overseas posts made representations on individual human rights cases and issues of concern during the year. The department continued its human rights consultations with Australian and international NGOs, providing a valuable exchange of information, insights and advice on human rights issues of public interest.

People smuggling and trafficking

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues continued to lead Australia's efforts to improve regional cooperation against people smuggling and trafficking through the robust cooperative framework provided by the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which Australia co-chairs with Indonesia. We maintained close cooperation with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Australian Federal Police and other Australian agencies in these efforts.

We organised four regional workshops and practical activities under the aegis of the Bali Process, focused on harmonising anti-people trafficking legislation (Vienna, October 2005), combating child-sex tourism (Bangkok, November 2005) and operationalising immigration intelligence (Manila, January 2006). These workshops helped build capacity and awareness among regional partners to combat trafficking in persons and to disrupt people-smuggling. More information on the Bali Process is available at

The department remained an active member of the inter-agency People Smuggling Task Force. Using our network of overseas posts, we continued to work successfully with other governments to respond to and disrupt people smuggling activities. We need to continue such cooperation with bilateral and regional partners as people smugglers are becoming increasingly innovative.

Avian and pandemic influenza

The department made a significant contribution to the Government's preparations for a possible influenza pandemic in Australia, our region and beyond. In the region, we helped build preparedness and response capabilities through practical activities organised through the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (see sub-output 1.1.6 for more information). Globally, we worked with the Department of Health and Ageing and AusAID to support the work of the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza. This is proving to be an effective mechanism for cooperation and awareness-raising. Closer to home, the department is preparing a pandemic influenza contingency plan for its headquarters in Canberra which will be completed by the end of 2006. (See Section 3: Corporate management and accountability for more information.)

Commonwealth issues

The department maintained close links with the Commonwealth Secretariat on areas of common interest, including security concerns in our region. The department supported the Prime Minister's attendance at the 2005 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta. We played an active role in delivering the Commonwealth leaders' strong statement calling for an early conclusion to the World Trade Organization Doha Round negotiations. We helped support the visit to Australia by the Commonwealth Secretary-General in March 2006 for the Commonwealth Games and high-level consultations on Commonwealth issues, including in relation to Pacific island countries.


We will continue to work for the implementation of UN Summit outcomes to make the UN a more effective and transparent body. We will push for the newly established Peacebuilding Commission to build an effective role in post-conflict environments. The selection of a new UN Secretary-General will increasingly preoccupy UN member states in the second half of 2006 and Australia will press for the selection of a proven manager with high-level diplomatic skills and a commitment to reform.

We will work to entrench the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate as a productive and practical mechanism to mitigate the effects of climate change, including through the eight public–private task forces established to accelerate clean technology deployment. The department will be at the forefront of diplomatic efforts promoting the Government's pro-conservation whaling agenda.

The department will continue to provide high-quality and timely legal advice on a range of international law issues, including on Australia's submission on its extended continental shelf, the development and implementation of fisheries conventions and environmental law.

We will support efforts to make the Human Rights Council a more effective body than its predecessor. The department will undertake a further round of human rights dialogue with Vietnam and continue its human rights consultations with Australian and international NGOs.

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues will maintain the momentum of the Bali Process, including by developing with Indonesia a regional workshop on human trafficking. We will cooperate closely with other agencies to prepare for a possible human avian influenza pandemic.

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