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The Australia Group is an informal grouping of countries committed to preventing the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. It seeks to encourage participating countries to adopt standardised, effective and practical export licencing procedures that helps prevent anything that could be used to facilitate CBW (Chemical or Biological Warfare) being produced or transported through their jurisdictions. The Group tries to balance safety and security concerns with the rights of states to freely trade with each other.

The guidelines produced by the Australia Group are not legally-binding, unlike the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). However it helps countries develop a framework to define and comply with articles in the CWC and in the BWC (biological and toxin weapons convention).

In 1984, news that Iraq had used chemical weapons in its war against Iran, sourced from legitimate trade networks, made countries pay attention to the issue. Several countries imposed export controls on their chemical and biological exports, but there was generally a lack of uniformity, making it easy for mal fides importers to circumvent controls. The Australia Group was established in 1985 on the initiative of Australia to harmonise control and encourage international cooperation to prevent CW proliferation.

Common Control Lists

The Australia Group works by producing "common control lists", which specify what items should be prohibited exports. There are separate lists for:

  • Animal pathogens: Lists 17 viruses (e.g.: foot and mouth disease, avian flu), one type of bacteria (Mycoplasma mycoides) and any of these pathogens that have been genetically modified that contain nucleic acid sequences associated with its original pathogenicity)
  • Plant pathogens: Lists two viruses (e.g.: Potato spindle tuber viroid), five types of bacteria, six types of fungii (e.g. Xanthomonas albilineans and any of these pathogens that have been genetically modified that contain nucleic acid sequences associated with its original pathogenicity)
  • Biological agents: Lists 32 viruses (e.g.: ebola, Japanese encephalitis), four rickettsiae, 15 types of bacteria (e.g.: Bacillus anthracis), 19 toxins and their subunits thereof (e.g.: ricin) and two types of fungii.
  • Chemical weapons precursors: Lists 63 different chemicals (e.g.: Thiodiglycol). A precursor is a substance that produces something else more active or mature.
  • Dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities, equipment and related technology: Lists several pieces of equipment like agitators, incinerators and valves that should be considered on the basis of their size, design, composition and likelihood they are intended for legitimate purposes.
  • Dual-use biological equipment and related technology: Lists items like fermenters and centrifuges, on the basis of their size, composition, design and likelihood they are intended for legitimate purposes.

    Membership

    The Australia Group started with fifteen members, and this number has grown to 39 (the majority being Western countries): Argentina, European Commission, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Australia, Finland, Latvia, the Slovak Republic, Austria, France, Lithuania, Slovenia, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, Sweden, Canada, Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland, Cyprus, Iceland, New Zealand, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Norway, Ukraine, Denmark, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom , Estonia, Japan, Portugal and the United States. The Australia Group plenary meets annually in Paris

    Website

    www.australiagroup.net

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