detail - Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
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The title of this year's dialogue, "Transforming the New Threat Landscape" was deliberately chosen not only to acknowledge the evolving dynamics of terrorism over the past year, but more importantly, to draw attention to our collective potential to do something about it. The Islamic State (IS) has shown itself versatile in adapting to battlefield losses by keeping their propaganda machine going and shifting their focus outward, away from their crumbling caliphate in Syria and Iraq; this is manifested in rising levels of IS – inspired and coordinated attacks across Europe, a sophisticated bomb plot foiled in Australia as well as IS’ growing presence in South East Asia (SEA). Despite military successes, the reach of IS – especially also through militants and foreign fighters flowing to Europe and SEA – remains therefore an ongoing, accute challenge for security agencies in Europe and Australia. Due to IS’ adaptability and seeming resilience as a terror group, it is often assumed that our responses to these threats are reactive rather than proactive; in other words, that in our collective action against IS we have not managed to be a step ahead to be able stem their reach into our societies. Yet a resigned assessment of the threat landscape leaves out the potential of harnessing and pooling expertise from across two geographically-distant yet closely related continents – Australia and Europe.
By getting together senior-level policy-makers, experts and decision-makers from the counter-terrorism arena in Europe and Australia, the purpose of this Dialogue – already in its third iteration - is to enhance joint efforts and international cooperation: to create a space for thought-provoking, stimulating exchanges of ideas and expertise which form the basis for innovative approaches and new initiatives. ASPI and KAS have been cooperating since 2015 to foster such exchanges. In this way, the conference sought to provide a platform for a robust intellectual exchange in order to devise counter-measures that can indeed transform the current threat landscape.
The Dialogue’s central event, a 1.5-day closed-door conference in Berlin, was opened by Parliamentiary State Secretary Dr. Günther Krings (MP) from the German Federal Ministry of the Interior. His keynote remarks highlighted the benefit of, and urgent need for further enhancing international cooperation in the face of the complex, very serious threats our societies are faced with. Dr. Krings lauded Germany and Australia for already having such a relationship which, at the bilateral level as well as within the international community, can continued to be built upon.
The conference, conducted under Chatham-House rules, was centred on assessing key developments, sharing experiences from the operational level, critically examining existing methods and initiatives as well as looking at how current practices could be further developed to meet evolving challenges.
The conference was followed by three days of meetings at various ministries, insititutions and think tanks in Berlin and Brussels, where the Australian delegation was able to further exchange expertise and share experiences with European CT experts and decision-makers.
A key insight that emerged throughout the various meetings and talks was that a whole-of-society approach is needed to counter intolerant and hateful extremist groups such as IS: political will, resolve, a healthy democratic culture, solidarity and international cooperation based on the rule-of-law.