Improving security in aviation: implementation support and development is key

It goes without saying that threats to the aviation security system are continuously evolving and challenging to mitigate. Despite improvements, many vulnerabilities remain; aviation security audits continue to reveal deficiencies in implementing Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), and in providing adequate oversight regimes.

ICAO’s Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP), which was approved by the ICAO Council in November 2017, lays out an ambitious set of actions in order to increase the security of the aviation system, including through cooperation among and assistance to States. Priority Outcome 2 of the GASeP, to develop security culture and human capability, calls upon ICAO and Member States to develop a strong security culture among all aviation personnel and to develop a well-trained, motivated, and professional aviation security workforce. Additionally, Priority Outcome 5, to increase cooperation and support, speaks to the goal of increasing collaboration between and within States, the contribution of resources for capacity development, enhancing effective implementation by recipient States, and enhancing ICAO’s capability and effectiveness in delivering assistance.

Aviation security assistance is a critical tool in addressing aviation security deficiencies. It comprises a multitude of formats – for example, formal classroom training, long-term mentoring partnerships, and technology donations. ICAO’s Implementation Support and Development – Security (ISD-SEC) Section leads the ICAO Secretariat’s provision of aviation security assistance for Member States, and is strategically focused to maximize efficiencies and address capacity-building needs, issues and concerns.

ICAO activities focus on assessing a Member State’s needs and providing a roadmap to ensure that an effective national aviation security system – compliant with SARPs – is implemented. ICAO helps Member States to meet their obligations to address deficiencies in security oversight systems and compliance, and to establish long-term sustainability of their security regimes and oversight systems, and maximize cooperation and collaboration. We also manage voluntary contributions from donor States, manage and perform quality control on activities for States in need of assistance, and facilitate the selection of assistance projects by Priority Assistance Evaluation.

The success of our strategy is centred on Aviation Security Improvement Plans (ASIPs) that are developed in partnership between ICAO and the assisted State, and incorporate a role for other assistance providers, such as regional organizations and the other Member States. ASIPs involve short- to medium-term, multi-phased plans for State capacity-building based upon an assessment of needs and the commitment of the State to improve their aviation security capabilities. ASIPs are tailored to a State based on specific needs, and provide a timeline of assistance and training to be delivered with goals that States must achieve to ensure effective implementation. In 2018, 15 States remained actively engaged in the implementation of an ASIP.

These plans are effective because ICAO relies on regional expertise whenever possible to identify appropriate targets for assistance and to help implement the related assistance activities. Since assistance is only successful when it is appropriately targeted to address the root cause of the issue, ICAO makes use of its network of Regional Officers and other regional stakeholders to provide their perspective and insight on what assistance to provide and where.

Aviation Security and Facilitation Regional Officers are in place in the Bangkok, Cairo, Dakar, Lima, Mexico City, Nairobi and Paris Regional Offices. Together, Technical Officers from Headquarters and Regional Officers work in the interest of States requiring assistance to provide targeted aviation security assistance and capacity-building.

Through the promulgation of an annual AVSEC training schedule, ICAO provides all Member States with the opportunity to receive training in order to develop their capacity to implement a sustainable national aviation security system. Such training is primarily delivered through the ICAO Aviation Security Training Centre (ASTC) Network and the 300-strong cadre of ICAO-certified Aviation Security Instructors providing training in all six of the ICAO official languages.

Training workshops and courses are provided through the ASTCs based on an assessment of regional needs and in collaboration with the Regional Officers and their knowledge of the aviation security requirements in their regions. In 2018, there were a total of 42 ICAO-sponsored courses and workshops conducted through the ASTC Network, with 646 aviation security specialists from a total of 107 Member States having benefitted from the training.

Though assistance and capacity building are integral to increasing the effectiveness of the aviation security system, these efforts can be hampered by lack of will, lack of resources, and basic lack of knowledge. If the assistance is to be successful, assistance providers and receivers must fulfil certain responsibilities. There must be long term commitment and a willingness to seek the root cause of any deficiency, along with openness to changing security culture and embracing new technologies. Finally, there must exist the political will – both in the case of the State providing the assistance and the State receiving assistance – to fully support these initiatives.

Fortunately, there has been a spotlight directed on aviation security in recent years. The unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2309 in 2016 marked the first time aviation security was the sole focus of such an action and highlighted the continued threat to aviation targets from terrorists, and the global interconnectedness of the network. The resolution underlined the need for international cooperation to address air transport security challenges.

Resolution 2309 (2016) and the GASeP are cohesive, interlinked documents that elevate aviation security to the highest levels of government attention. There is hope that ICAO can leverage this interest to direct more resources to capacity building initiatives and attract the necessary political will; the question of how exactly to harness this interest is one that we continually turn our mind to, and one that we will be discussing in Session Four of the upcoming Aviation Security Symposium (AVSEC 2019) from 18 to 20 September 2019.

About the Author

David Sterland is the Chief, Implementation Support and Development – Security (ISD-SEC) in the Aviation Security and Facilitation Branch of the Air Transport Bureau of ICAO. He has been working in the international air transport industry since 1988, specializing in aviation security and facilitation since 1999.


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