ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Programme – Continuous Monitoring Approach


Since ICAO launched the Universal Security Audit Programme – Continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA) in 2015, an average of 8-10 USAP-CMA audits have been scheduled in the ICAO EUR/NAT regions every year, after two USAP audit cycles. Some of these audits are carried out on-site, some of them are done as a desktop exercise.

What is the Universal Security Audit Programme’s Continuous Monitoring Approach?

The objective of the USAP-CMA is to promote global aviation security through continuous auditing and monitoring of Member States’ aviation security performance, to enhance their aviation security compliance and oversight capabilities. This is carried out by:

  • regularly and continuously obtaining and analysing data on Member States’ aviation security performance, including the level of implementation of the critical elements of an aviation security oversight system and the degree of compliance of with Standards of Annex 17 — Security and the relevant security-related Standards of Annex 9 — Facilitation, as well as associated procedures, guidance material and security-related practices;
  • identifying deficiencies in the overall aviation security performance of Member States and assessing the risks associated with such deficiencies;
  • providing prioritized recommendations to assist Member States in addressing identified deficiencies;
  • evaluating and validating corrective actions taken by Member States; and
  • re-assessing the overall levels of Member States’ aviation security performance achieved, aimed at continuously enhancing Member States’ aviation security compliance and oversight capabilities.

Algeria has greatly benefited from the experience and assistance the EUR/NAT Office, through its Regional Officer AVSEC/FAL, has provided. The guidance given to us is of great value for the continuity of our actions and the preparation of the audit.

Fatima Benantar, National Coordinator for the USAP-CMA audit in Algeria

Benefits of the USAP-CMA

The USAP-CMA promotes global aviation security by monitoring all Member States. The scope and frequency of each State’s monitoring activities depends on their security situations. While the USAP-CMA does not replace foreign inspection programmes, it does determine the status of implementation of States’ aviation security oversight systems. It also provides an indication of each State’s level of compliance with security-related Standards and Recommended Procedures (SARPs).

The USAP-CMA audits provide States with recommendations to improve their security systems and oversight capabilities. The audits also facilitate the targeting and tailoring of assistance projects. For States needing to prioritize their foreign inspection plans, it provides information that can optimize their resources.

ICAO has also introduced a new type of audit report for the USAP-CMA. The new report helps States in the development and implementation of corrective action plans, and allows for findings to be addressed in the short, medium and long terms. These findings assist States in making the most effective use of their resources to improve civil aviation security systems.

The Regional Officer Aviation Security (AVSEC) and Facilitation (FAL) supports States in their preparation for an USAP-CMA audit. This assistance is provided through continuous email exchanges and phone calls, as well as through onsite visits, at the request of the State.

Preparing for audits in Algeria and Israel  

In February and March 2020, two onsite visits were organized in Algeria and Israel at their request. Ensuring there is a clear definition and understanding of the role of the ICAO RO AVSEC/FAL during the onsite visit is an important pre-condition. This is discussed and clarified in collaboration with the nominated National Coordinator in each State who plays a key role in coordinating externally with ICAO and internally with all entities involved in the audit.

Israel welcomed the visit of the ICAO EUR/NAT AVSEC/FAL officer to prepare the USAP-CMA audit. The visit contributed to a better understanding of the structure of the audit, how it is carried out, the early material aspects and the understanding and preparation of the National Coordinator’s role.The briefing to all involved in an audit was helpful and gave them an excellent explanation of the purpose of the audit and what is expected of them in practice.

Statement from the National Coordinator for the USAP-CMA audit at the Israel Security Agency

The audit preparatory visit cannot be conducted in the format of a pre-audit. The RO AVSEC/FAL cannot evaluate the current AVSEC situation in a State and do an assessment. It was underlined before and during the visit that such pre-auditing is impossible and audits can only be carried out by the ICAO audit team.

Support to the States during an audit preparation visit provides direction on the use of the USAP-CMA website, the ICAO guidance material available, and the use of the USAP-CMA Protocol Questions related to Annexes 17 and 9 (audited standards) requirements to ensure that the National Coordinator is aware of the prerequisites, understands the components of the audit and can share respectively with all involved entities. The audit preparation visits for both Algeria and Israel were excellent examples of the work and well-functioning collaboration between a State and the RO AVSEC/FAL.

As a good practice during audit preparation visits, time is also dedicated to jointly meet with all entities that play a role during an audit (e.g. airport, air carriers, handling agent, police, FAL responsible people in the CAA, etc.). The RO AVSEC/FAL has the opportunity to explain the audit process to all and answer questions, so the upcoming audit becomes understandable and transparent.

In Algeria and Israel the preparatory visits contributed to a better understanding that the USAP-CMA audits are not in place to assess and sanction a State, but are instead meant to provide States with the opportunity to re-evaluate the security measures they have implemented. Preparation for the audit is a multi-party endeavour of all involved entities, guided by the National Coordinator within the State and supported by ICAO.  There is a large spectrum of material available, and prior to the visit, there is communication and support from the Regional Officer, as well as preparatory interaction with the ICAO audit team leader.