What's In Blue

Briefing and Resolution on Countering the Terrorist Threat to Civil Aviation

Tomorrow (22 September), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level meeting on countering the terrorist threat to civil aviation. The meeting is expected to emphasise the need for states to take measures both individually and collectively through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to promote effective implementation of aviation security measures. The Secretary General of ICAO, Dr. Fang Liu, will brief the Council. New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully will preside over the meeting, with most Council members expected to participate at ministerial level. At the meeting, Council members are expected to adopt a resolution that was circulated by the UK in early September. After three rounds of negotiations, it was put in blue yesterday.

According to a concept note circulated by New Zealand, the objective of the meeting is to highlight the importance of having effective security arrangements in place at airports given the “iconic” nature of attacks against civil aviation by terrorist groups. The concept note underlines the work of ICAO as the global body responsible for developing and monitoring international aviation security standards, and calls on member states to support its work.

The draft resolution does not introduce new legal obligations on member states. It highlights the importance of implementing the standards and recommended practices enshrined in the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 (the “Chicago Convention”) and its annexes. The objective in having the resolution is to raise awareness of the threat to civil aviation, help to reinforce the existing international framework of aviation security standards, and encourage implementation of effective measures to address the threat. In this context, it reaffirms that terrorist attacks against civil aviation, like any act of international terrorism, constitute a threat to international peace and security.

Member states are called on to work within ICAO to ensure that its international security standards are reviewed, adapted and implemented to effectively address this threat. The draft resolution also calls upon member states to ensure that effective, risk-based measures are in place at the airports within their jurisdiction to detect and deter terrorist attacks against civil aviation, and to urgently address any gaps or vulnerabilities that may be highlighted by ICAO or national self-risk assessment or audit processes. The draft specifies some security-related measures that member states are called upon to implement, including screening and security checks, oversight of those with privileged access to airport facilities, and the utilisation and sharing of new technologies and innovative techniques that maximise the capability to detect explosives and other threats.

The draft, which calls for the delivery of effective capacity development and the sharing of relevant information regionally and internationally, encourages closer cooperation between ICAO, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC). It also requests the CTC to hold a Special Meeting within 12 months, in cooperation with ICAO, on the issue of terrorist threats to civil aviation, and invites the Secretary-General of ICAO and the Chair of the CTC to brief the Council on the outcomes of this meeting.

It seems that China and Russia were initially reluctant to have a resolution given that this is a subject discussed at ICAO, which will hold its assembly next week. Throughout the negotiation process, some Council members emphasised that the draft could not be more prescriptive than the Chicago Convention or its annexes, and opposed references to aviation security “obligations” (standards and recommended practices was the preferred formulation) or to ICAO verifying the implementation of these measures. Several Council members were concerned that some countries may not be able to meet the standards established in the Chicago Convention and its annexes, and proposed strengthening the language on the importance of capacity development and technical assistance as well as technology transfers and programmes, including a reference to ICAO’s “no country left behind” initiative.

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