Australian Mission to ASEAN

13 November 2019, Manila, The Philippines, Remarks at the 5th Regional Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit

HOM ASEAN remarks at the 5th Regional Counter -Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit

Day 2: 13 November 2019

Session 5: multilateral perspectives (9.30am-10.30am)




Good morning everyone and thank you Alistair for the introduction.

It is a pleasure to be here, and to be on such a distinguished all-female panel.

We need no reminder that the terrorist threat in this region is real. In the last few years alone we have seen terrorist attacks in our region, in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

We also need no reminder that money fuels terrorist activity and of the link between transnational crime, money laundering and terrorist financing.

Studies have shown that jihadi groups in Southeast Asia have opportunities to raise funds locally, through both legitimate and illegitimate commercial means. In the Southern Philippines and Malaysia for example, kidnapping for ransom funnels proceeds towards terrorist activity.

Earlier this year, UNODC launched a report on the evolution of transnational organised crime in Southeast Asia at the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime.

The study found that profits from organised crime groups in Southeast Asia have reached unprecedented and dangerous levels.

It confirmed that organised crime groups are generating tens of billions of dollars in Southeast Asia. Profits have expanded and illicit money is increasingly moving through the casino industry and large cash flow businesses. 

This criminal activity takes many forms but focusses on human trafficking, illegal wildlife trafficking, counterfeit goods and synthetic drugs.  Weak governance, porous borders, and corruption facilitate these crime types.

Rapid developments in technology and communications allow money to move anywhere in the world with speed and ease. This is especially the case in South East Asia, a region with deep digital penetration and extensive social media reach.

These trends reaffirm that we need to look at region-wide and holistic solutions to stop cross-border criminal activity. Cooperation between neighbours is essential.

This is where ASEAN comes in. In our region, ASEAN has played a leading role in driving political dialogue and practical cooperation between its Member States.


ASEAN architecture and CTF


ASEAN addresses these challenges in a range of ways, but its principal value proposition lies in bringing key policymakers together to build relationships of trust, develop habits of cooperation, and exchange information and best practice.

ASEAN does this at Leader, Minister and Senior Official levels – and between subject-matter experts – through regular suite of meetings and activities.

Leaders and Ministers provide guidance through political-level declarations and agreements, and the officials develop more detailed work plans to implement these decisions.

For example, ASEAN leaders have adopted the Declaration on Transnational Crime in 1997 and the Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism in 2001.

The ASEAN Political and Security Blueprint to 2025 commits Member States to develop the capacity of financial intelligence units and other relevant agencies involved in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing efforts.

ASEAN has also developed treaty-level commitments to combat transnational crime, including the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons. And ASEAN has made efforts to adopt a regional Mutual Legal Assistance agreement to allow for more effective investigation and prosecution of cross-border crimes.

The peak body that deals with counter-terrorism issues is the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime, referred to as the SOMTC. This is where the heads of home affairs and police from each Member State meet and agree on shared priorities, joint cooperation activities and build personal relationships.

ASEAN also brings the leader of other agencies together that are relevant for our efforts to counter terrorist financing, including regular meetings between central banks and other economic agencies.


ASEAN-Australia partnership


Australia is proud to be ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partner – 45 years in 2019, and that we are in ASEAN’s top tier of partners. Fighting terrorism and transnational crime are priorities in this partnership.

In March last year, we held a historic ASEAN-Australia Special Summit where we invited the ten ASEAN leaders to Sydney. 

At the Summit, we hosted a CT Conference that brought together the region’s top CT officials to discuss regional threats and strategies to combat them, including on counter-terrorist financing.

A highlight of this conference was the signature of a landmark ASEAN-Australia Memorandum of Understanding on counter-terrorism in the presence of Leaders. The MOU was accompanied by ten supportive initiatives to help ASEAN countries build their capacity to fight terrorism.

Of the ten new initiatives, two activities are led by AUSTRAC. 

One is the delivery of regional Financial Intelligence Analyst Courses (FIACs) for ASEAN countries, to create a baseline level of financial intelligence analysis capability across the region.

The second activity is a series of Multilateral Analyst Exchange Programs between Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) analysts from different jurisdictions working together on a specific criminal investigation or on a thematic topic of mutual priority. 

We are already seeing the benefits of these activities, through stronger working relationships between ASEAN, Australian and New Zealand Financial Intelligence Units and increased information sharing.

Australia and ASEAN regularly discuss transnational crime and counter-terrorism issues.  We have an annual consultation with the SOMTC, which agrees to a shared work plan that outlines priority threats including terrorism, violent extremism and terrorist financing; illicit drugs; trafficking in persons and cybercrime.

In our work plan, Australia, through AUSTRAC, has committed to undertake a regional assessment of high-risk money laundering threats focusing on corruption.

ASEAN plays an important role as the region’s strategic convenor to bring its partners to meet regularly in different groups. Every year, the East Asia Summit brings together the leaders from the US, China, Russia, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand with their ASEAN counterparts.

The EAS is the region’s premier forum for dealing with strategic risk. A key focus of discussion by leaders is the need to step up regional efforts to counter terrorism.

Each year, EAS leaders adopt thematic statements that set out high-level political commitments and establish norms. In 2017, Australia took forward a Leaders’ Declaration on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.

And at this year’s EAS, Australia supported a leaders’ statement on combatting transnational crime that included a commitment to enhance cooperation to combat money laundering.

Of course, Australia’s cooperation in the region goes beyond working with ASEAN forums.

Australia has a long history of working with ASEAN countries directly to build regional capacity – through our development program, technical expertise and twinning between our domestic agencies and institutions and those of our partners. Too many to mention specifically, so I’ll just highlight one that is particularly relevant and that is the Department of Home Affairs’ peer-to-peer capacity building on anti-money laundering through the Indo-Pacific Justice and Security Program with some of the ASEAN member states.

This year, the program will extend to provide expertise and work with counterparts on anti-money laundering in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Importantly, the Indo-Pacific Justice and Security Program considers ways to strengthen the role of women in combatting money laundering.

Australia is deeply committed to working more closely with other countries to counter the financing of terrorism. I’d like to thank and acknowledge all those Ministers and senior officials from around the region who attended the recent ‘No Money for Terror’ Ministerial Conference in Melbourne.

The Chair’s statement noted that the transnational nature of terrorism and its financing requires a strong and coordinated global response, supported by the work of multilateral forums.


Future opportunities and Conclusion


ASEAN’s ability to create norms, set expectations of behaviour and drive practical cooperation should not be underestimated.

But there is a challenge in translating those high-level political statements and agreed policy frameworks into action at the national level. Particularly given the ten ASEAN Member States have different legal systems and law enforcement capabilities.

Australia has strong foundation to assist ASEAN in this effort. This foundation is built on close relations with the individual Member States of ASEAN and our work at the bilateral, sub-regional and multi-country level – in addition to our multilateral efforts.

An opportunity to take things further forward lies in our interest to establish a new ASEAN-Australia counter-terrorist expert working group that can continue capacity-building efforts and focus more specifically on regional threats and needs.

Another opportunity would be to establish closer connections between ASEAN and the CTF Summit itself. One idea could be to report the outcomes of the CTF Summit to the annual SOMTC. Given Australia and Indonesia’s leadership role in the Summit, this report-back could be done as a joint initiative between our two countries.

I would be happy to answer any questions later about Australia’s work with ASEAN in these key areas.

For now, I am pleased to hand over to the technical experts who can talk more about compliance and regulation at the multilateral level in more detail.