The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is a key forum for security dialogue in Asia. It draws together 27 members which have a bearing on the security of the Asia Pacific region.
Background to the ASEAN Regional Forum
The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was established in 1994. It
comprises 27 members: the 10 ASEAN member states (Brunei, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and
Vietnam), the 10 ASEAN dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, the
EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, ROK, Russia and the United States), one
ASEAN observer (PNG) as well as the DPRK, Mongolia, Pakistan,
Timor-Leste, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The ARF is a key forum for security dialogue in Asia,
complementing the various bilateral alliances and dialogues. It
provides a setting in which members can discuss current regional
security issues and develop cooperative measures to enhance peace and
security in the region.
Development of the ASEAN Regional Forum
The ARF is characterised by consensus decision making and
minimal institutionalisation. The 1995 ARF Concept Paper set out a
three-stage, evolutionary approach to the ARF's development, moving
from confidence-building to preventive diplomacy and, in the long term,
towards a conflict resolution capability.
During its first phase, the ARF focused on confidence building
measures and made modest gains in building a sense of strategic
community. At the 16th ARF Ministerial Meeting in July 2009, a Vision
Statement was endorsed, providing a roadmap to guide the direction of
the ARF to 2020. This was followed by the adoption, in July 2010, of
the Hanoi Plan of Action to implement the Vision Statement. The
Statement and Plan of Action include an undertaking to develop an ARF
preventive diplomacy capacity. In order to achieve this, Ministers
adopted a Work Plan for Preventive Diplomacy at their 18th meeting in
Australia's Involvement in the ARF
Australia was a founding member of the ARF and has been an energetic participant in the Forum's discussions and activities. Australia has been supportive of efforts for the ARF to develop preventive diplomacy tools, including as a key drafter of the ARF Work Plan for Preventive Diplomacy.
During the 2014-15 ARF cycle, we co-chaired a workshop on multiyear strategic planning for regional disaster relief exercises with the US and Malaysia, and co-led work with Malaysia and Russia on the ARF ITC Work Plan.
In the 2015-16 cycle, we will co-lead with Malaysia Priority Area 4 on counter-radicalisation under the ARF Work Plan for Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime and co-chair with Singapore an annual meeting of the ARF’s Track Experts and Eminent Persons (EEPs) group. We will also co-chair with the Philippines an ARF Workshop on National Maritime Single Points of Contact.
ARF meetings and processes
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility
for ARF policy, in consultation with the Department of Defence and
other relevant agencies. ARF meetings are held at Foreign Minister
level, annually in conjunction with the ASEAN Post Ministerial
Conference (PMC). The chair of ASEAN, which rotates on annual basis, is
also the chair of the ARF. The principal formal ARF document is the ARF
chair's statement issued after every ARF Ministerial meeting.
The 22nd ARF Ministerial meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 6 August 2015. The meeting focused on key regional issues including South China Sea, Countering Violent Extremism and the Korean Peninsula. Foreign Ministers also discussed a range of other international issues, including MH17.
The ARF is supported by the ARF Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM)
which meets annually around May/June. Two ARF Inter-Sessional Support
Group (ISG) meetings on Confidence Building Measures and Preventive
Diplomacy are also held at officials' level each year, co-chaired by
one ASEAN and one non-ASEAN member. Australia last co-chaired the ISG
process in 2010-11 with Indonesia. Recommendations and outcomes of these
ISG meetings feed into the ARF Senior Officials Meeting.
The ARF also conducts four Inter-Sessional Meetings (ISM)
annually that represent focus areas of the forum. These are ISMs on
Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Disaster Relief, Maritime
Security, and Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
The ARF includes a biennial civil-military disaster relief exercise, known as the ARF disaster relief exercise (or DiREx) that Australia participates in. The first DiREx was held in the Philippines in May 2009. The second DiREx was held in Manado, Indonesia in March 2011. The third DiREx was held in Hua Hin, Thailand in May 2013 and the fourth DiREx took place in Kedah, Malaysia in May 2015.
The ARF has a 1.5 track body called the ARF Experts and Eminent Persons group (the EEPs) that meets annually to provide advice and recommendations to ARF officials (known as Track One). Australia will co-chair the EEPs group in 2016 and 2017.
Second-track (ie. non-official) institutions, such as the
Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) and the
ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN ISIS),
also generate ideas and inputs for the ARF’s consideration. The
second-track institutions and networks conduct a number of seminars and
working groups on regional security issues, involving academics,
security specialists and officials participating in a personal
capacity. Through its discretionary grants program, the Department has
supported the activities of AUS-CSCAP (the Australian Member Committee
of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific).