Roles, benefits, and drawbacks of ICAO in relation to the international aviation community
Every year, billions of people travel by air to different destinations. Air travel is considered the safest mode of transport by a lot of people. Even though the present day has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of airlines, tourist destinations and air routes, most people still prefer to travel by air as it is considered safe. For air travel to be made possible, several procedures have to be undertaken by the concerned bodies. These procedures are political, technical, legal and economic in nature. All these happen without the knowledge of most passengers. These procedures also ensure the passengers arrive on time and in good state to their destinations. All this is spearheaded by different bodies involved in the safety of aviation. The International Civil Aviation is one of the bodies concerned with aviation safety. It is more popular today as it is the largest of them all. It has also proved to be the most important through its vast contribution to the growth and sustenance of civil aviation internationally.
Since its formation in 1944, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) continues to enforce the development of a safe and organized civil aviation throughout the world. This United Nations agency is the one responsible for setting of standards, measures and regulations that account for security, safety and reliability for the aviation sector. This also includes environmental safeguarding as a priority to be considered in the aviation industry. With as many as 191 member states, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) acts as the forum for all coordination and cooperation in all the spheres of civil aviation in all of its member states. It does this mainly through its council and with the aid of Air Navigation Commission (ANC); its technical body (MacKenzie, 2010).
In order to draw toward the achievement of its goals and objectives, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has to undertake a lot of initiatives. It has to participate in the creation of airports, airways and air navigation facilities. It also has a role to play in prevention of creation of substandard aircrafts as a result of unnecessary competition. It therefore has to oversee the processes of designing of aircrafts. The international civil aviation organization (ICAO) has got also a role to play in avoiding unhealthy competition and discrimination among its members. This is in addition to the promotion and reinforcement of safety measures to be adopted by its members. Through this, the civil aviation in the whole world through will experience safety and orderliness that will lead to positive and sustainable growth of the sector. The biggest dream of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is for civil aviation to achieve international standardization (MacKenzie, 2010).
In 2011, the ICAO released its annual survey on the aviation safety worldwide. In this report, ICAO’s efforts and efforts of other agencies were deemed responsible for the slight improvement in aviation safety witnessed over the years amid the proliferation of airlines. However, it was observed that there was no improvement in global aviation accidents as the numbers remained constant. The ICAO later on embarked on reducing the accident rate through analysis of data and ensuring that specific programmes are implemented. A new training policy was to be adopted beginning 2010, the runway safety programme and risk management systems were some of the policies that were to be employed (Vogel, 2012)
The formation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) came as a result of the need for a body that would be responsible for the overseeing of procedures in international commercial aviation. This was an old need that had persisted for all the times aviation had existed. Even before the first ever flight by the Wright brothers in 1903, debates were going on about how the enaction of laws to govern air flight would be undertaken. Other questions that had arisen involved the rights of countries over their airspace, the limits of these rights, and commercial rights involved. This is how the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) came to be formed after a sequence of conferences, delegations and signing of agreements.
The formation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the postwar era led to fast and remarkable advances in technology. During this era, there was increase in the number of airlines. Most old airlines were replaced with new ones. By the end of the 1940’s, American airlines started to fly across the globe while individually owned airlines too started to operate internationally. By 1952, the international civil aviation organization ensured that all its members got connected to the outside world. This was a slow process but finally reached a realization. There were differences in how fast different countries adopted the international civil aviation organization (ICAO) standards and regulations. The biggest disparity was however witnessed between the developed and the developing nations. This was due to the unequal share of resources owned by these nations. Those with stable resources were able to implement the international civil aviation (ICAO) standards and regulations in the fastest way possible. Those with minimal resources lagged in implementing the standards (MacKenzie, 2010).
The international civil aviation organization (ICAO) had to intervene through offering of technical assistance to its underprivileged member states. This was in collaboration with the United Nations in a project named “The United Nations Expanded Programme” in 1956. This saw the construction of run-ways and other related technical and development assistance that were needed by most members of the third world. This also included ICAO acting as an adviser to its member states on all matters to do with civil aviation. It also offered trainings and provided experts in aviation to its member states. ICAO managed to offer fellowships to hundreds of people to train in different fields of aviation. This happened in its first ten years.
ICAO realized that airlines had a unique nature. Apart from carrying passenger, airlines also carried the image and identity of their nations. This made these international airlines to be potential victims to terrorist attacks and criminals, as they symbolized their countries. Other dangers that aircrafts could be involved in were hijacking and armed attacks. Such attacks drew from different motivations, including personal, political and economic. This hastened the signing of the Tokyo Convention that would primarily serve as an instrument to counteract aircraft terrorism and related crimes.
Security issue has given ICAO a lot of importance and made it relevant since the 1960’s when this became a threat to civil aviation. The ICAO was instrumental in seeking opinion, intervening in conflicts, initiating negotiations and structuring the international air law. This was part of its objective to bring to halt international aviation terrorism. This gave a new meaning to ICAO and made it receive support from different spheres. The ICAO categorically stated in the 2010, Beijing conference that unlawful interferences of the civil aviation by terrorists were not tolerable (The 2010 Beijing Diplomatic Conference Issue).
ICAO has sought to remain relevant throughout the years with advancing technology. As technology evolves, it also ensures that it moves in the new wave and have its technology up to date. This has ensured reliability in civil aviation.
Environmentalism was and still continues to be an important aspect in the priority list of ICAO. ICAO has played a role in safeguarding the environment as the aviation industry could be top in facilitation of environmental degradation, if preventive measures are not undertaken. With specific attention to aircraft greenhouse gas emission, the ICAO has put structures and strategies in place to combat this. On the rise of noise pollution, the signing of the Kyoto protocol in 1997 brought to public and government attention environmental pollution. In collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), and the Kyoto protocol having been put in place, these were ICAO’s tools for addressing aircraft engine emissions. ICAO formed a committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) in 1998 to address greenhouse emission and suggest possible solutions. The increased fuel use by aircrafts is yet another issue that seeks to be addressed by ICAO which continues to seek alternative fuel for aircraft. The Air Transport Association (IATA) in their October 2009 issue, showed support for ICAO’s environmental initiatives and boasted of how partnering with ICAO has greatly changed the world aviation industry. IATA recommends an approach that will include all world nations in order to lessen the aviations emissions. There have however been different opinions on ICAO’s take on the environment. It has been argued that the ICAO has failed in the implementation of its environmental policies, with special attention to the Kyoto convention (ICAO Triennial Assembly, Montreal, 2010)
ICAO has all also shown interest in matters economical. Before the US 9/11, ICAO had the vision of helping bridge the disparity between developing countries and the developed countries. However, it emerged that there was equally another security disparity between developing and developed nations. This was perhaps the highest degree of airline insecurity to be experienced in the history of ICAO. This negatively impacted on commercial aviation as it harbors millions of jobs for people. In 2001, the aerospace sector experienced a loss of 120, 000 jobs and 170, 000 layoffs. This came with a net loss of more than $10 billion. During this period, most airlines faced financial constraints and some opted to go out of service. Some of the airlines like Swissair flying also ran to their governments for financial support while others like Canada 3000 Airlines declared bankruptcy. ICAO went to the rescue of the affected states and airlines by urging their governments to urgently provide insurance to the affected airlines. This was however a temporary solution. In 2002, the ICAO sought and provided a permanent solution to the problem of aviation war by implementing an aviation war risk insurance for the airlines of its member states. This new scheme was named “Globaltime”.
In the twentieth century, ICAO was faced with issues of unmanageable passengers, “air rage”, refugees, sabotages and inadmissible travelers. ICAO also coordinated with the World Health Organization (WHO) on different health issues. This turned out to be of great use during the 2003 SARS crisis. ICAO managed to prevent spread of the disease through airports. ICAO also undertook the training of airport managers, and required its members to acquire a ICAO-standard machine readable passports by 2010. This was meant for security reasons and 2005 saw most members embrace the idea.
ICAO has also played a role in curbing cyberterrorism and introduction of suborbital flights. Panels and committees were created; discussions and study were undertaken, followed by debate and solutions. Space flight had also evoked the question of the vertical limit of space members were entitled to. Today, narcotics remain a challenge to the ICAO as most dealers find ways of transporting them by air. Drug trafficking has continuously been addressed by the ICAO and other related bodies but it still persists as dealers get arrested in airports while others are not detected (Abeyratne, 2008).
In 2001, the Boeing Company supported ICAO’s recommendations on international noise standards. The queen of England also showed support for these standards arguing that this way ICAO would ensure quieter skies and the world economic environment would be healthier. It is for this reason that Boeing jets were preferred as they were more quieter as compared to airbus and those used twenty years ago (Boeing Company, 2001)
In 2009, the ICAO hosted a conference in Montreal to push for the adoption of alternative fuel to be used by aircrafts. This was in a bid to reduce the amount of harm aviation emissions do to the environment. This captured the attention of the international bodies and it was hoped that this would increase the speed at which this proposal would be implemented. It was noted that ICAO had a big role in initiating dialogue globally (Jet fuel Intelligence, 2009).
In conclusion, ICAO has already done its part by setting standards and regulations to be adopted by nations in order to ensure growth in civil aviation. It is therefore upon the nation states to make their own informed decisions on whether they will adopt, implement and comply with these standards. This shows that ICAO is limited in what it can do. ICAO failed to implement a multi-lateral method for economic regulation and standardization of international air travel. It tried pushing for this over the decades with no success. It has held conferences since 1947 in Geneva to 2003 in Montreal but could not force solutions. This shows that states must take a collective responsibility in making of important choices and not leave it to ICAO only.
An unexpected and new role of ICAO in this age has appeared with increase in criminal activities against civil aviation. This also includes armed conflicts by ICAO members, such as Israel, United States and Soviet Union. ICAO has however been keen on stipulating international air law to deal with these issues. Aviation security remains a priority to the ICAO even though its success has not been achieved. It is not easy to determine how the ICAO has succeeded in enforcing aviation security as no military acts or negotiations with terrorists have been witnessed so far. With all its benefits to the international aviation community, its possible drawbacks could as well be overlooked as it has put more efforts in seeing civil aviation to what it is today.
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