The threat of terrorism is a global threat that demands a global response. The need for international cooperation is more important than ever.
The terror attacks in Copenhagen and Paris, the savage execution of Egyptian Christians in Libya, the Sydney siege and the downing of MH 17 highlight the widespread impact caused by violence in a globalised world. The brutality of Daesh or ISIL and other extremist groups such as Boko Haram is deeply shocking. These groups are destabilising states from Nigeria in the west to Iraq and Afghanistan in the east. Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty is spreading uncertainty throughout Europe. The world has not seen refugee movements this large since the Second World War.
Extremist ideology is a disease infecting the young and unstable minds in countries across the globe. Disturbingly, we are now seeing more women seeking to join their foreign fighter husbands, be jihadi brides, or otherwise participate in the conflict. More than 70 Norwegians are estimated to have travelled to and become involved in fighting in Syria and Iraq. Approximately 90 Australians are reported to be fighting in the region.
Addressing the cause of this sickness is a priority for both Australia and Norway. Global crises such as this make it more important than ever to combine our efforts to safeguard our core values and interests: protecting territorial integrity, freedom, human rights and democracy, and the rule of law.
Today we are members of an international coalition working to combat Daesh in Iraq. Australia has provided combat aircraft, which have inflicted significant losses on Daesh, and Special Forces units to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces. Norway has contributed advisers to assist military planning, and is preparing to send more troops to help train Iraqi security forces. Both countries are significant providers of humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq. Last week we participated in an international summit in Washington on combatting violent extremism
Experience shows that people who have fought in conflicts overseas are more likely to return more disturbed and with an increased capacity and motivation to carry out attacks on home soil.
On 24 September 2014, Norway and Australia joined 102 other countries to co-sponsor UN Security Council Resolution 2178 which requires Member States to take effective action to prevent the recruitment, organisation, facilitation, financing and movement of foreign terrorist fighters. This important measure encapsulates the significance we and other countries accord efforts to defeat global terrorism.
Australia and Norway have both experienced terrorism on home soil. Norway faced the tragic reality of a mass-casualty attack in 2011, and has strengthened its counter-terrorism legislation considerably as a result. Key provisions were introduced to criminalise recruitment and receipt of terrorist training, and to close the “lone offender” loophole which required proof of a large conspiracy to support a terrorist conviction. In June 2014, Norway also released a new strategy for countering radicalisation and violent extremism focused on better research, stronger legislation and better coordinated response measures.
Australian has also taken robust, but necessary steps to strengthen our response to the recruitment of foreign fighters in our community. The government has committed an additional $630 million over the next four years to boost the capacity of security agencies. At the same time, important legislative reforms passed late last year provide those agencies with much-needed additional flexibility to investigate complex terrorism cases. Importantly, we are working with our communities to counter the spread of radicalisation and to build resilience through a $545 million investment in social inclusion initiatives, our program to counter violent extremism, and other initiatives.
The official State Visit of Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja from Norway to Australia 23-27 February provides an opportunity to reflect on our shared values and interests and to celebrate the warm bonds of friendship that exist between our two countries. This provides a solid foundation to further strengthen our relationship at a time where cooperation among likeminded countries is more vital than ever.
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