The Chicago Convention 1944 establishes the ICAO.  It is a UN international body whose function is to develop principles and techniques of international air navigation and foster planning and development of  international air travel.  Its objectives are

  • to ensure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation,
  • encourage the art of aircraft design and operation for peaceful purposes,
  • encourage the development of airports and air navigation facilities;
  • meet the needs of the people of the world for a safe, regular, efficient and economical air transport;
  • ensure that the rights of contracting states are protected and that each state has a fair opportunity to operate international airlines;
  • avoid discrimination;
  • promote flight safety in international navigation;
  • promote generally the development of all aspects of international civil aeronautics.

The ICAO designates standards and recommended practices for

  • aircraft
  • personnel licence,
  • air traffic management licensing,
  • airport operations,
  • aeronautical information services.


Market access rights are retained by the states. The ICAO has no decision-making role in the regulation of air services.

The ICAO has an executive together with a Secretariat and General Assembly.  The Assembly includes representatives of almost 200 state parties to the Convention.  There is a President and Secretary General who are elected by the Council.  The Council consists of 36 representatives of States, elected by the Assembly for a three year periods.

The Council is assisted by specific support bodies.  This includes the

  • Air Transport Committee, in relation to economic regulation,
  • the Air Navigation Commission on technical harmonisation and safety,
  • the legal committee,
  • Committee on Unlawful Interference in relation to aircraft security.

The Council drafts and adopts, SARPS (statements of recommended practices) in the areas set out in the Schedule to the Convention.

The SARPs are binding and must be implemented by parties.  Each State undertakes to collaborate in securing the highest practical degree of uniformity on matters subject to the SARPS.  If a State finds it impractical to comply with any standard, it must notify the Council of any differences between its domestic regulations and standards provided for under SARPS.

The Council must notify other contracting members. There is no direct power of enforcement.  Disagreements between States are to be decided by the Council.  Recommended practices are not mandatory but have persuasive effect.

If there is disagreement between contracting States regarding the interpretation or application of the Convention or any of its annexes, that cannot be resolved by negotiation, it  may be determined by the Council and the State may not vote on the matter in which it is a party.  A decision may be referred from the Council to an ad hoc tribunal agreed with the other party or to the International Court of Justice.  The Convention provides procedural rules and mechanisms for determination of disputes.

Where an airline fails to comply with a decision under the dispute resolution procedure all other States must prevent it from flying into its territory.

The ICAO declares standards in relation to certification of airworthiness, licensing of pilots and crew members, technical procedures and practices. Individual states enact the legislation and are individually responsible for enforcing it. Most regulation is uncontroversial and technical in nature. States are in the preeminent position in relation to regulation and enforcement of safety within their airspace, aircraft and crew.

The ICAO harmonises and promotes standards of air safety. It issue standards of recommended practice which are provided for in the Annexes to the Chicago Convention. They deal with key matters such as

  • personnel licensing,
  • rules of the air,
  • standards for operation of aircraft,
  •  airworthiness,
  • transport of dangerous goods.

Standards are drafted by the Air Navigation Commission of the ICAO based on research and analysis by committees and subgroups.  Draft and recommendations are submitted to the Council, who may adopt the same on two thirds approval.

Standards may be accompanied by procedures for air navigation services, the detailed technical instructions implementing the more complex and technical standards. The ICAO publishes a range of documents in the promotion of air safety regulations. It includes manual,  circulars, and safety plans.

States must notify the ICAO if they are unable to comply with the standard prescribed. ICAO does not enforce legislation as such. National bodies implement and monitor safety through their national regulation and programmes.

The ICAO’s Safety Oversight Programme monitor and audits state’s ability to implement and comply with safety standards. It involves evaluation of legislation, regulations, organisation, licensing operations, airworthiness, airports and aerodromes, accident investigation. Audits are scheduled and published.


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