ICAO’s approach to streamlining Standards and Recommended Practices in the digital age

This article has been co-authored by Michele Merkle, Director of ICAO's Air Navigation Bureau’s Director and Yuri Fattah, Multi-Disciplinary Priorities Programme Manager at ICAO

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ICAO’s mission has always been clear, it is our mandate to ensure safe, secure, and sustainable air travel. For almost 80 years, we’ve achieved this through the Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) that are outlined in the Chicago Convention’s 19 Annexes. With the aviation landscape continuously evolving and air traffic soaring there have to be transformations, ICAO must adapt as well.

As our Secretary General pointed to in this article, ICAO is addressing challenges through our Transformational Objective Strategy. One of the critical building blocks of the Transformational Objective is reforming the approach to SARP development, maintenance and dissemination. It is a project that seeks to provide the following benefits, not only to ICAO, but especially to our Member States and the aviation community at large:

  • boosting response rates and SARPS implementation
  • reducing amendments through early feedback
  • streamlining SARPs processes through digitization
  • ensuring users always have the latest SARPs
  • providing insights into SARPs’ dependencies
  • enhancing agility and efficiency in tackling complex issues
  • identifying and anticipating implementation challenges early on

We’ve already made strides with initiatives like integrated aviation management systems (IAMS) for digital SARPs, direct submissions, and streamlined processes. It is because of donor support from various entities like the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, the Nordic Delegation to the ICAO Council, Brazil, and the United States that we have achieved what we have. To continue this vital work, we invite others to join us by contacting the ICAO transformational team here.

It is important to note that work has already begun in this direction and ICAO will continue to push for an optimum approach that simplifies the process all while enhancing stakeholder collaboration. Some examples of this early work include:

  • systems developed to create digital version of the SARPS (in what is known as IAMS);
  • piloted used of IAMS to connect Annex 17 SARPS with the paragraphs of the Security Manual. Next steps to connect also USAP PQs;
  • Process developed by the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) for direct submissions;
  • work done to streamline the document processes related to amendment of SARPS and Guidance material;
  • systems developed to provide a 5-year look ahead on the public website for SARPs;
  • work programme database and Job card system developed by the ANC that includes problem statements, deliverables, and prioritization.

Together we continue to build and evolve the Organization, honoring the legacy of the founders of the Chicago Convention while we ensure ICAO is as prepared for the challenges of today as it is fit for the future.


Aligned with our Transformational Objective Strategy of improving the approach to SARP development, maintenance, and dissemination, ICAO’s eLibrary platform is an important component of our digital transformation efforts. Our comprehensive digital repository provides free access to read-only versions of ICAO publications that include the Convention, Annexes, and legal documents.

Not only does our eLibrary enhance accessibility but also offers tools for citation, sharing, bookmarks, highlighting text, and comments. As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency and stakeholder engagement, we invite individuals, organizations, and Member States to explore the platform, facilitating a collaborative journey towards shaping the future of international civil aviation standards.