The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was established by participating States on December 7, 1944 under the roof of the United Nations to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). With 193 member states, one of which is Turkey as a founding member, the ICAO is a UN specialized agency that sets global standards and recommendations on international civil aviation. The primary objectives of the ICAO are to establish international standardization in the field of civil aviation and to set norms to ensure flight safety and sustainability of civil aviation across the world. The ICAO develops, regulates and approves all kinds of international standards related to aircraft operations. It supports the establishment of facilities and provision of services needed for operations, produces regional expedition plans and sets aviation safety standards. In addition, it regulates procedures regarding community healthcare, immigration and customs, provides technical assistance to help countries meet ICAO standards and recommendations, prepares and publishes world aviation statistics, conducts international aviation law agreements, and inspects the environmental impact of activities on civil aviation. One of the main tasks of the ICAO is to guide member states on international air transport issues, and to identify economic policies and to establish legal regulations.
As specified in Article 44 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the ICAO`s objectives also include planning to encourage the development of international air navigation technology and international air transport.
The ICAO operates according to the United Nations (UN) system. The decision-making bodies of the ICAO are the Assembly and the Council. The ANC (Aviation Navigation Commission) and the committees are under the responsibility of the Council. There are 5 main divisions within the Secretariat. These are the Air Navigation Bureau, Air Transport Bureau, Technical Co-operation Bureau, Legal Bureau and the Bureau of Administration and Services.
The ICAO has a total of 7 Regional Offices: the Asia and Pacific (APAC) Office, Middle East (MID) Office, Western and Central African (WACAF) Office, South American (SAM) Office, Eastern and Southern African (ESAF) Office and the European and North Atlantic (EUR/NAT) Office.
The Assembly convenes every three years with the participation of all members. Composed of 36 States, the Council is the governing body which is elected by the Assembly. All rules necessary for the safety and security of civil aviation are determined by the ICAO and their implementation at a national level is controlled by the mechanisms established within the ICAO.
Turkey’s ECAC membership and the ICAO Council 2016-2019 election process
In the 39th ICAO Assembly held in Montreal in October 2016, Turkey received 156 votes of 172 states in the election and was elected as a member of the ICAO Executive Committee in pursuit of 66 years.
ICAO activities are monitored and supported through regionally established organizations. Within this context, Turkey is a founding member of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), a regional aviation organization. In the ICAO Council, the ECAC coordinates which countries will be nominated for the eight seats of the European region and guarantees the support for the European candidates within the framework of the agreements reached with allied organizations such as the ACAC (Arab), AFCAC (Africa) and the LACAC (Latin).
Turkey, on the other hand, established a rotation and cooperation group called the Black Sea Caspian Group (BSCG) together with Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova in order to prepare for the 2016 ICAO Council membership elections and to enhance the possible support, and performed activities to improve the cooperation with such states. Later on, it participated in the election on behalf of this group and was represented in the BSCG rotation group in the Council in 2016-2019.
In the 2016 Assembly meeting of the ICAO, it was decided to increase the number of Council members from 36 to 40, and to increase the number of ANC (Air Navigation Commission) members from 19 to 21, and these decisions are expected to be ratified by a protocol by the states. The protocol is currently on the agenda of the Turkish Parliament and is awaiting approval. If the number of Council members increases from 36 to 40, a quota will be given to the ECAC and according to the BSCG agreement, Ukraine will be a candidate to represent the BSCG, then it will become a Representative following the election and Turkey will be able to be represented as an Alternative Representative in the Council.
Turkey’s representation in the ICAO and its cooperation
The Assembly meets not less than once in three years with the participation of all member states. Each member state has one vote in the Assembly. Unless otherwise provided in the agreement, decisions are taken by a majority of votes. During the Assembly meetings, all activities of the ICAO in the fields of technical, administrative, economic, legal and technical cooperation are reviewed in detail and the organizational divisions are guided for their future activities.
The Secretary General of the ICAO is responsible for the management of the Secretariat of the Organization and has the second most important position after the President of the Council. Dr. Fang Liu (China) currently serves as the Secretary General. The Secretariat consists of five bureaus: The Air Navigation Bureau, Air Transport Bureau, Technical Co-operation Bureau, Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau, and the Bureau of Administration and Services.
Turkey was elected as a member state to the Council in the Assembly meeting of the ICAO in 1947 for three years and our nominations in 1977, 1980 and 1983 were not concluded due to a vote split. Because of bilateral problems, mostly political, in the field of civil aviation since the 1970s and the increasing importance of civil aviation on a global scale, and based on the acceleration of the developments and prospective studies in our country in this field, a Bureau, responsible for ICAO activities, was established in 1978 in the Ottawa Embassy to closely monitor the ICAO`s activities and this Bureau was transformed into a Permanent Representation in 1990 in Montreal.
The ICAO`s areas of activity fall into the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation’s main areas of expertise. In this context, during the last 5 years, 3 MoU’s (MoU) were signed between the ICAO and Turkey and cooperation was enhanced. Within the scope of the NGAP project launched in 2009 under the ICAO and in the 2nd Next Generation Aviation Professionals (NGAP) Summit held in Shenzhen, China; a Memorandum of Understanding establishing ICAO-Turkey cooperation was signed including also data analysis and sharing issues. In addition, the International Association of Aviation and Space Education was established with the participation of universities, and six universities from Turkey are among the founders of this association and 8 universities are still members. The “ICAO USOAP CMA Workshop” on 28-30 March 2017 and the “ICAO Safety Management Capacity Building Workshop” on 8-12 July 2019 held by the ICAO were hosted by our country. Azerbaijan, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Georgia and the World Health Organization participated in these workshops. Moreover, within the scope of bilateral cooperation, the Turkish Civil Aviation Academy in Istanbul continues its activities in line with the goal of an ICAO accredited educational institution.
ICAO 2019 election process and presidential race
The ICAO Council, which we mentioned briefly above, is a permanent body responsible to the Assembly. The Council has assumed the legislative and executive functions of the organization. With the latest regulation made in 2002, the election process of the members of the Council, which consists of 36 member country representatives elected by the General Assembly for a 3 year term, takes into account the level of contribution of the countries and regional-geographical distribution of international civil aviation and the industrial sector operating in this field.
The Council performs its activities in 3 sessions between January-March, May-June and September-November. The last election of the Council, which is elected every three years, was held in two rounds in September-October 2019 and a total of 36 member states to be represented in the Council were elected under three groups.
ICAO Council elections are held in 3 groups and at the 40th Assembly meeting of the ICAO held between 24 September and 4 October 2019, Turkey remained loyal to the agreement reached in 2015 within ECAC and did not become a candidate to the Council. The following member states were elected in three groups as ICAO Council members.
Group 1 States: The States are given in order of precedence according to the air transportation: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, USA.
Group 2 States: Identified as priority states which are not Group 1 states but contribute to international air navigation: Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, India, Spain, Netherlands (ABIS representative), Finland (NORDICAO representative), Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa.
Group 3 States: The states are not elected as Group 1 and Group 2 but are which are represented in the Council due to geographical importance: Costa Rica, Republic of Cote d`Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Greece (CERG representative), Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, Korea, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Zambia.
On the other hand, two candidates from Italy and the United Arab Emirates compete for the presidency of the Council. Salvatore Sciacchitano, Italy`s former General Director of Civil Aviation and Italy`s current ICAO Permanent Representative, was nominated for the presidency of the council to be elected for three years for the 2019-2022 period, while Aysha Alhmeli of the United Arab Emirates was nominated by other countries. Aysha Alhmeli is the first female pilot of the United Arab Emirates and has been the permanent representative of the United Arab Emirates in the ICAO for more than a decade. Here, of course, it is fair to mention that Salvatore Sciacchitano, selected as Europe`s candidate, was the Executive Secretary within the ECAC which we can say is responsible for European aviation safety and in which Turkey is also a member.
The new president of the ICAO Council is expected to be publicized at the first session of the Council (presumably November 20, 2019). During this period until the first meeting of the Council, Dr. Benard Aliu (Nigeria) will be the acting President of the ICAO Council