Responding to a variety of recent and emerging aerospace and geopolitical developments throughout its 223rd session, which concluded yesterday, the ICAO Council realized important progress towards facilitating the aviation sector’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, towards enhancing the safety, security and sustainability of flight, and towards improving the governance of the UN’s specialized agency for civil aviation.
The foundation of ICAO’s COVID-19 recovery strategy is assuring the implementation of the recommendations of the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART). Prepared in cooperation with the WHO and other UN and aviation bodies, its recommendations have been updated on a continuous basis throughout the pandemic in order to reflect the highly dynamic context, knowledge, and challenges.
This session, the Council reviewed the implementation of the most recent ‘Phase III’ guidance, which were adopted in March 2021, and discussed means by which to ramp up the momentum. The Council also addressed ICAO’s preparations for its High Level Conference on COVID-19, which will take place in October. The Conference aims to promote and strengthen States’ collective efforts, including through CART implementation.
The undertaking of ICAO’s pre-COVID-19 work plan also remains crucial to member States’ aviation sectors, with the negative impacts of the pandemic not dampening but heightening both the risks and the opportunities across the board. Of special interest to the Council this session were updates on ICAO’s activities to mitigate cybersecurity risks and threats, and on the UN agency’s efforts to ramp up the very promising achievements being realized in support of the sustainability of aviation. Progress toward the implementation of the landmark Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) were highly appreciated, as were ICAO’s preparations in view of the upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.
Assisting States with their cooperation on operational issues was also an important focus of the 223rd session. The Council evaluated progress on work to ensure the safety and security of flight through conflict zones, with a focus on Canada’s proposed “Safer Skies” initiative. The Council also facilitated the achievement of a decision in principle on the establishment of a Doha Flight Information Region, and reviewed an interim report resulting from a fact-finding investigation led by the ICAO Secretariat into events surrounding Ryanair flight FR 4978 in Belarus. This investigation is ongoing, with a report expected at the Council’s next session, which begins on 13 September.
Progress towards enhancing ICAO’s own governance and operations is helping to ensure that the agency can continue to deliver its activities efficiently and effectively. This Council session marked the completion of work towards a new ICAO Ethics framework, the approval of ICAO’s 2020 Financial Statements, and the achievement of several governance decisions, including decisions pertaining to the re-organization of the Council Committees and its subsidiary bodies.
The end of ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu’s second term also provided the Council with an opportunity to review and appreciate the Secretariat’s work towards these goals and ICAO’s Strategic Objectives. ICAO Council President Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano expressed the Council’s gratitude for the Secretary General’s end-of-term report, and for her achievements throughout the six years of her leadership. The incoming Secretary General, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, will assume the role on 1 August 2021.
The ICAO Council is responsible for standards adoption and other ICAO governance responsibilities while the agency’s full Assembly of 193 national governments is not in session. It is comprised of diplomatic representatives from 36 countries which are elected by each ICAO Assembly for a three-year term. The 41st ICAO Assembly will be held on 27 September – 7 October 2022, with preparations for it also featuring among the Council’s activities this session.