In the wake of the recent downing of a passenger plane over eastern Ukraine, the UN and its partners have set up a task force to reduce the risks of civilian planes flying over conflict areas and ensure that “the right information reaches the right people at the right time.”
The decision came at a special meeting convened earlier this week in Montreal, Canada, by the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), along with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO).
The meeting was triggered by the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on 17 July as it was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, resulting in the death of 298 passengers.
The participants, in a joint statement, said the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 ”is unacceptable. Our organisations wish to convey our deepest condolences to the families of
the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic event”.
“While aviation is the safest form of transport, the MH17 incident has raised troubling concerns with respect to civilian aircraft operating to, from and over conflict zones.”
The meeting also stressed the need for accurate and timely information and intelligence that might affect the safety of passengers and crew, while recognising that this is a “highly complex and politically sensitive endeavour that involves not only civil aviation regulations and procedures but also national security and intelligence gathering activities”.
The statement noted that, the task force, which composed of State and industry experts, would address the civil aviation and national security aspects of the challenge of ensuring that the right information reaches the right people at the right time.
It was also decided at the meeting that ICAO will convene a high-level safety conference with all of its 191 member countries in February 2015.
In addition, the industry has called for ICAO to address fail-safe channels for essential threat
information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry.
A UN specialised agency that was created in 1944, ICAO works with the 191 signatory states
of the Convention on International Civil Aviation and global industry and aviation groups to
develop international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which are then used
by states when they develop their legally-binding national civil aviation regulations.
Working in collaboration with states, the agency has set over 10,000 standards, covering
issues such as air traffic services, operation of flights, environmental protection and air safety.
According to ICAO, the number of flights, currently 30 million annually, will grow to 60 million,
while the total annual passengers served will rise to 6 billion from today’s 3 billion.