On World Population Day: Challenges and opportunities for the international civil aviation network


With more than seven billion people inhabiting the planet, the world’s population has more than tripled since the United Nations was created in 1945. We are facing unprecedented and increasing demands on shared resources. World Population Day, which we mark today, was introduced in 1989 to enhance awareness about these issues.

Along with continued population growth, air traffic volumes are forecast to double within the next twenty years.  These tandem challenges call for renewed investment to ensure adequate education of tomorrow’s workforce and to enable all countries to fully benefit from the socioeconomic contributions of safe and sustainable participation in the international civil aviation network..

To address these needs, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been established to act upon many population-related issues, including SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. This crucial goal will help to ensure the population will be ready to support the needs of tomorrow.

At ICAO, the aviation network’s human resource needs are supported by our Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) Progamme, which in turn directly contributes towards the realisation of SDG 4.  ICAO is working with States, international and regional organizations, industry and academia to promote aviation to youth in order to ensure the safety and efficiency of the aviation system.

This begins with increasing education opportunities to the growing population, particularly in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. Barriers hindering entry into these fields must also be removed. The Dreams Soar project, which is supported by NGAP, is a very eloquent illustration of the kind of initiative that must be implemented to meet these objectives. The project is led by Captain Shaesta Waiz, who is currently in Afghanistan undertaking STEM outreach amongst youth as part of a solo round-the-world flight to raise awareness of these issues.

Within the context of our mandate to foster the sustainable growth of international air connectivity, ICAO will remain committed to progress in these and other areas pertaining to population growth as global and regional demographics continue to shift over the coming years and decades.

ICAO’s Strategic Objectives are strongly linked to 13 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Organization is fully committed to work in close cooperation with States and other UN Bodies to support related targets, and is supporting these goals as an official observer on the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators.