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Broader definition of security supported

Defence and development specialists met in Canberra today to debate the issues of food security and water scarcity and their relationship to conflicts in the Australasian region and further afield.

The Crawford Fund conference at the Parliament House Theatrette, Canberra, entitled "Food, Water and War: Security in a World of Conflict" was opened by the Hon. Alexander Downer, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and the keynote speaker was the Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie.

Admiral Barrie, in what is believed to be the first keynote address at a development conference by a Chief of the Defence Force, emphasised that Australia must have a whole-of-nation approach to security issues, taking into account factors such as access to food and water, poverty, infrastructure development, living standards, and the impact of globalisation.

"We live in a region which features developing economies, infant democracies and increasing political instabilities from tensions pre-dating the end of the Cold War," said Admiral Barrie.

"I believe that the Region is in a state of transition, which will fundamentally challenge many assumptions that have guided the way economic and defence related business has been done in Asia," he said.

"We must be prepared to do more, rather than less, to maintain peace and security. I believe that as our appreciation for the new, broader framework for security grows, Governments will be more inclined to explore opportunities to create a closer relationship and mission between defence forces, aid organisations and development agencies," he said.

The Admiral said that there were often easier and less expensive solutions than using armed forces to respond to immediate crises, as well as opportunities to nip some situations in the bud.

"As we will hear from specialists today, the role of development, and in particular, the importance of international agricultural research in advancing that development, cannot be understated," he said.

"Many of the problems associated with lack of food - including hunger, poverty, unemployment and social unrest - highlight the circular nature of the argument about what causes major conflict in the post Cold War period," he said.

"Science and agricultural development have important roles to play in both reducing the likelihood of conflict, and in assisting with nation building post-conflict," said the Admiral.

"We must continue to work towards genuine 'regionalism' such as we have seen in other parts of the world. The defence forces, in concert with other Government agencies and businesses, are committed to working cooperatively with other nations in order to be a force for positive social and political development," said Admiral Barrie.

"Our recent experience in a range of situations and countries suggests that there is a need for a more holistic approach to this challenge and this will require Governments to convince their domestic constituencies about the benefits of active, long-term involvement with the developing world," he said.

"There is no doubt that security and economic development are linked," he said.

"Our response to regional tensions typically takes the form of aid and, depending on the crisis, military intervention with very little integration of the two," he said.

"If we want efficient and effective delivery of assistance and a return to peace with ongoing stability, we need to develop more processes to link the two at a policy level," emphasised the Admiral.

As an example of the non-military aspects of Australia's commitment to East Timor, Admiral Barrie quoted the work of AusAID and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research in assisting the rehabilitation of Timor's agricultural sector.

Admiral Barrie also addressed the important role to be played by Australian industry, quoting the efforts of the telecommunications carriers in East Timor as one example.

"The Australian Defence Force has a dual role to play: we must actively work for peace, as well as prepare for war," he concluded.

The remainder of the conference heard from national and international speakers explaining the benefits not only to the peace agenda, but also to business, the environment and to agriculture, in supporting research for agricultural development and preservation of the natural resource base of our neighbours.

A copy of Admiral Barrie's speech is available at www.defence.gov.au
Copies of all the Conference speeches and press releases are available at www.aciar.gov.au and background information is available at www.futureharvest.org

Further enquiries can be made via www.australia.org.nz

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