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Report of the ARF Inter-sessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime

Karambunai, Sabah, Malaysia

21-22 March 2003




1. Pursuant to the decision reached at the 9th ASEAN Regional ( Forum (ARF) on 30 July 2002 in Brunei Darussalam, the Inter-Sessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (ISM CT -TC) was held from 21-22 March 2003 in Karambunai, Sabah, Malaysia. The Meeting was Co-Chaired by Malaysia and the United States. Ambassador Dato' N. Parameswaran, Deputy Secretary General (Special Functions), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia, led the Malaysian Side and Mr. Robert Pollard, Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy, Kuala Lumpur, led the United States Side.

2. Representatives from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore, Thailand, United States of America and Viet Nam attended the Meeting. The List of Delegates is attached (ANNEX A).




3. The Agenda is attached (ANNEX B).

4. The Opening Remarks by the Co-Chairmen are attached (ANNEX C/ Malaysia and ANNEX D/ United States).

5. The Programme for the Meeting is attached (ANNEX E).

6. The following summary reports reflect useful elements of the discussion for further consideration of participating countries.




7. A number of participants briefed the meeting on recent national efforts that they had undertaken to counteract terrorist activities. They highlighted the cooperation that they had received from their neighbouring countries, including also the sharing of intelligence.

8. There was general agreement that terrorism constituted a dangerous threat to regional stability and security. Since terrorism transcends national borders, participants recognised that it needed to be addressed through cooperative action at the national, regional and international levels. In this regard, it was noted that the United Nations was the framework for the global war against terrorism. ARF participants were called upon to become parties to the 12 United Nations Conventions and Protocols relating to counter terrorism.

9. Participants were of the view that to effectively fight terrorism, there should be, among other things, increased cooperation in intelligence sharing as well as in enforcement measures.

10. Participants also stressed the vital need for technical assistance to developing countries for capacity building and the acquisition of the necessary technology and equipment to fight terrorism. The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee was seen as an important coordinating vehicle for such technical assistance.

11. Australia (ANNEX F), China (ANNEX G), Indonesia (ANNEX H), Japan (ANNEX I), Malaysia (ANNEX J), Republic of Korea (ANNEX K), Singapore (ANNEX L) and the ASEAN Secretariat (ANNEX M) presented Papers under this Item.




12. Participants identified three key areas: interagency coordination in each country, the need for enhanced international cooperation, and capacity building in order to disrupt the movement of terrorists without restricting the flow of travelers that are a vital part of international economic, political, and cultural links.  Members agreed that September 11th was a catalyst for change, as it highlighted the threat of terrorism poses to all ARF members. It was noted that transnational criminals seek to exploit the gaps between countries, jurisdictions, and bureaucracies. Participants were of the view that because terrorists were able to exploit these weaknesses, there is a need for broad and comprehensive cooperation and coordination.

13. Sharing immigration data is one of the most important examples of interagency coordination. Because of the diversity of terrorist operations - moving money, manpower and materiel through banks, borders and brokers-participants agreed that each country's agencies must work closely together. Border security authorities and domestic law enforcement and immigration agencies must share information about visas, and the us - or abuse - of those visas by visitors while in a given country. Visa regimes are only as good as their enforcement, and there is a continuing need to ensure that visitors do not exceed the activities authorized by their visas. It is also important to be able to record when the individual has left the country. Several members voiced the opinion that there must also be enhanced cooperation between the military and police departments; especially in the area of information sharing.

14. Participants briefed the Meeting on the various efforts underway in their countries to reorganize their bureaucracies to bring relevant agencies into closer contact, and to meld the different bureaucratic cultures into one cohesive, smoothly functioning entity with enhanced CT capabilities.

15. The Meeting observed that information sharing, especially sharing of immigration data, is also a key form of international cooperation. Just as governments must enhance coordination among their various CT agencies, they must also cooperate with other governments. Direct international law enforcement collaboration was also stressed as vital to enhancing border security. Effective CT requires disrupting terrorist attacks before they occur,and for that, timely and relevant information must be shared with the appropriate authorities.

16. Many participants lack a centralized database of points of contact in immigration and customs bureaus that could be used to facilitate communication between governments. A list of the various officials worldwide could be compiled, circulated, and updated regularly forming a basis for regular consultations between governments on border security issues. This would foster an international dialogue among those on the "front line."

17. The Meeting highlighted that the more advanced countries need to share their knowledge, history of dealing with the problem, and expertise with the less developed countries. Along those lines it was suggested that existing multilateral legal inconsistencies be resolved so there can be uniform enforcement of international conventions and protocols on counter-terrorism.

18. Several participants voiced the opinion that there is also a need to create opportunities for international cooperation among the law enforcement agencies. For example, exchanges of personnel would allow participants from less developed countries to receive training on more advanced systems and then take that knowledge home with them. These exchanges would also foster a better understanding and coordination of detecting illegal immigration and would encourage communication between the participating agencies.

19. Participants also commented on the need for greater timeliness of information sharing between agencies as well as governments. It was noted that timely dissemination and use of relevant information could lead directly to arrests, especially when dealing with terrorists who have the ability to change identities in a short time.

20. The Meeting stressed the need for capacity building--increasing the ability of governments to provide security without impeding legitimate flows of people and trade. The ability to effectively balance the counter-terrorist need for inspections, time intervals for computer checks, etc. without disrupting open markets and free movement of bona fide travelers was stressed. Terrorists are good at discovering and exploiting loopholes in the system. Hence the need for a holistic approach.

21. Participants noted the importance of regularly reviewing visa waiver lists. Members discussed the possibility of a smart card as a way to increase security without decreasing the flow of people.

22. Participants agreed that capacity building would provide training and technical assistance to one another, capitalizing upon their comparative advantage in a given area. Modernizing the equipment necessary to detect fraudulent passports is also a key area where capacity is low in many ARF countries. They suggested ways to improve border security capacity, such as installing a system linking all ports of entry with online data and installing machine-readable passport systems.

23. Participants noted that public-private sector cooperation would also be beneficial. It was suggested; for example, that weekly meetings between government officials and airlines representatives to collect information from passenger lists and manifests would be helpful. Some countries obtain manifests from airlines so that these manifests can be reviewed before arrival.

24. Managing immigration arid customs information is another vital area requiring capacity building. A country has to have an effective system for capturing the data that is collected. There has to be extensive cooperation among those who are responsible for entry and exit controls, monitoring the length of the stay, issuing visas, and responsibility for intelligence gathering. All of this can be called "immigration intelligence."

25. Illegal immigration is an area where transnational crime and terrorism intersect. There is a need for interagency cooperation between immigration officials and the police, international cooperation among law enforcement agencies, and a need to have a viable infrastructure to keep track of the information regarding immigration.

26. Australia (ANNEX N), China (ANNEX 0), European Union (ANNEXES P and Q), Malaysia (ANNEX R), Philippines (ANNEX S) and United States (ANNEX T) presented Papers under this Item.




27. The Meeting identified four key-areas: international cooperation, information exchange, inter-agency cooperation, and economic impacts. Working in these areas, it is important to strengthen the role of customs in counter-terrorism without restricting the flow of goods that are a vital part of the international economy.

28. Participants agreed that there was a need for greater international cooperation because of the complexity of international commerce and the role of customs officials. It was noted that reciprocity of information and training was of great importance. This would also allow member countries to better determine where the real threat existed.

29. The Meeting agreed that as customs procedures are changed to meet the terrorism threat there has to be a great degree of cooperation in the areas of training and technology. Given the greater importance of advanced technology in customs work there is a great need for training. It was hoped that some of the more-advanced ARF countries could train customs officials from developing countries in using this new technology to increase efficiency and security simultaneously. It was suggested that the exchange of officials and the holding of more seminars would be fruitful.

30. Several participants voiced the opinion that international cooperation would also assist in monitoring the movement of money related to the shipment of goods. All illicit transactions in contraband goods have a financial trail that can be traced through financial or law enforcement means, highlighting the need for enhanced cooperation.

31. Participants noted that there is a great need for coordination of the information gathered and that there should be established standards governing information exchange. In this area the impact of modern technology could be felt the most. The ability to exchange more detailed information in a timely basis would allow customs officials to practice risk management-identifying containers of greatest concern.

32. The Meeting observed that the movement of goods is also an area requiring extensive inter-agency coordination. Furthermore, the imminent nature of the terrorist threat makes implementing customs security measures an urgent priority, given the impact on the global economy that an attack against goods shipments would have. Much work has been done already to enhance security in the areas of air passenger travel, narcotics interdiction, the trafficking of humans, and tourism, and counter-terrorism efforts can build upon those measures.

33. Several participants found that the merger of customs and immigration departments could result in better information exchange. Several participants noted that such reorganizations would result in greater efficiencies. Participants also advised that combining different governmental databases would be helpful. Information derived from drug interdictions could also be used in the war on terrorism.

34. The Meeting noted that the issue of costs versus benefits in the implementation of new customs regulations. Some participants voiced their concern that increased security might impact the international movement of goods. Several participants noted that using risk management techniques was a way to keep costs down.

35. Participants also agreed that looking at the entire supply chain, greater detail and reliability on cargo manifests, and high-technology measures can greatly enhance security without the need to increase inspectors.

36. The Meeting reiterated the need for greater uniformity, more training, better technological assistance, and increased cooperation. Utilization of ARF, WTO, WCO, APEC, and etc. are key steps to furthering these interchanges.

37. Malaysia (ANNEX U), Republic of Korea (ANNEX V), Singapore (ANNEX W) and United States (ANNEX X) presented Papers under this Item.




38. The Meeting recognised that document security constituted a vital component in the counter-terrorism efforts as terrorists could make use of the lapses in the security of such documents in pursuit of their objectives.

39. There was general agreement that the absence of uniformity in the standards of travel documents, the lack of adequate security features as well as in procedures and practices made it easy for terrorists to move across borders.

40. The Meeting took note of the various national measures that were being undertaken by ARF participating countries to enhance the security of travel documents which included the introduction of Machine-Readable-Passports, the use of overt and covert security features and the use of biometrics technology.

41. Some participants raised the possibility of encouraging international efforts to develop standard travel documents for seafarer's travel and identity documents, in place of the current practice of using Seamen's Identity Cards.

42. The Meeting also agreed on the need for regional cooperation, especially in the areas of exchange of information related to the abuse and forgery of travel documents, illegal migration and terrorism. Some delegations believed that the development of best practices would also facilitate the exchange of information and enhance cooperation.

43. The Meeting agreed that the lack of resources and high cost of modern technology such as the biometrics technology was a major impediment for less developed countries to assure the security of documents. Participants stressed the vital need for the advanced countries to provide technical assistance to the less developed countries for capacity building and the acquisition of the necessary technology and equipment to enhance the security of documents.

44. Australia (ANNEX Y), Canada (ANNEX Z), Malaysia (ANNEX AA), Republic of Korea (ANNEX BB) and the United States (ANNEX T) presented Papers under this item.




45. A draft ARF Chairman Statement on Cooperative Counter-Terrorist Action on Border Security is attached (ANNEX CC).

46. Participants who had comments to make on the draft were requested to convey them in writing to the Co-Chairmen by 15 April 2003. After that date, the Co-Chairmen would transmit the draft to the ARF SOM for its consideration and for its onward transmission to the 10th ARF Ministerial Meeting.




47. Under this Item, Malaysia briefed the meeting on developments relating to the establishment of the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism (SEARCCT). Malaysia also provided details on the Centre in the attached Paper (ANNEX DD).

48. The Meeting had an exchange of views on the future of the ISM CT-TC. It agreed that there was merit in continuing with the ISM CT-TC for 2003/2004. It decided to recommend to the ARF SOM to consider this issue, including, if need be, the identification of Co-Chairs, and to convey its views on this matter to the 10th ARF Ministerial Meeting.

49. The Meeting expressed its appreciation to the Government of Malaysia for the arrangements made for the meeting and for the warm hospitality accorded to participants.

50. The Meeting was conducted in the usual ARF spirit of friendship and cordiality.

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