Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue

The Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D) is a new initiative that encourages integrated statecraft to maximise Australia’s influence in a more difficult and complex world. As a platform for collaboration, AP4D brings together experts from the development, diplomacy and defence policy communities and combines the skills and experience of each to achieve new insights, develop new ideas and promote strategic collaboration around shared interests.

For this paper, an interactive dialogue on A Joint Agenda for Maritime Security: Southeast Asian and Australian Perspectives was held on 18 August 2022. It was attended by 38 development, diplomacy and defence experts from Australia and Southeast Asia with facilitated discussions surfacing key regional maritime security issues across the development, diplomacy and defence spectrum.

Three working group meetings were then held in September and October 2022 with a core of 20 experts delving deeper into the topic to explore what a joint agenda for maritime security might look like, and outline pathways to get there. This paper is the synthesis of those consultations and the dialogue discussion.

While AP4D is the sole author and takes full responsibility for the content, the paper is very much the result of a collaborative process involving of a total of 44 development, diplomacy and defence experts.

Executive summary

Maritime security is vital for Australia and Southeast Asia, making it a shared priority issue for the region. With Australia’s future economic and energy security linked to the Southeast Asian region, maritime trade activities remain integral to prosperity, and open sea lines of communication are vital. Supporting maritime security directly contributes to Australia’s national security interests.

Australia must have a coherent and coordinated response to emerging maritime security challenges.Climate change is a priority issue for all nations, and aligns maritime security and safety with the environment, sustainable development and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR). Food security is an emerging challenge, with maritime boundary disputes, over-exploitation of fishing stocks and grey-zone activities a growing issue of concern. Resource exploration is increasing, linking energy and maritime security for countries in the region and becoming a potential source of conflict, making the capability to survey and enforce environmental protections critical.

Meeting these challenges will require Australia to become a trusted maritime security partner, with maritime cooperation serving as a key pillar of engagement with the region. While this report uses the term ‘Southeast Asia’, it is a complex region consisting of eleven diverse states, each with their own set of maritime security interests. There cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to Australia’s partnership with Southeast Asian countries. Australia’s most effective interventions will stem from its experience, best practice and lessons learnt in managing its own marine environment, and knowledge gained from in-depth engagement in Pacific maritime security, in order to build Southeast Asian maritime capacity.

Australia must integrate defence, diplomacy and development to become a reliable and capable partner. Diplomatic efforts will be required to advocate for international law while responding to complex and sensitive border disputes, which have created challenges and affected cooperation. There is scope for greater expansion of Australia’s development cooperation program to address challenges in coastal communities, where a lack of education and economic opportunities contribute to high seas security issues. While the breadth of issues encompassed by maritime security can seem overwhelming, the breadth of agenda also provides opportunities for a comprehensive and integrated approach.

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