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ICAO and Civil Aviation Challenges

Raymond Benjamin, Secretary General, ICAORaymond Benjamin, Secretary General, ICAO:
“I have joined ICAO as Secretary General at what can arguably be described as the most challenging period in the history of the air transport industry.”

On 15 September, IATA announced losses for airlines of $11 billion for 2009, revised figures for losses in 2008 of $16.8 billion and projections of $3.8 billion in losses for 2010, pushing recovery into 2011 at the earliest. Moreover, the aviation industry is being called upon to respond to pressure relating to the impact of aviation on climate change, the real possibility of Influenza A (H1N1) virus pandemics this year, the shortage of skilled aviation personnel, the unpredictability of oil prices and the inevitability of further ups and downs in the economy.

My purpose is not to recite what is widely known, but to emphasize that ICAO understands that international aviation is facing challenges of unprecedented proportion. So when I took office on 1 August, I was given a clear mandate of change—to adapt the organization’s work and structure to reflect this harsh and demanding reality. Some question whether change in such turbulent times is wise. I believe that change at this time is not only wise, but essential to assuring the growth and sustainability of international aviation.

One of my priorities will be to strengthen our close and valued relationship with key aviation organizations, including IATA. I have had fruitful discussions with Director General Giovanni Bisignani, and in early September we were both pleased to announce what I hope will be the first in a series of mutually beneficial agreements. This accord introduces new tools which will improve the proper and safe carriage of dangerous goods on passenger and cargo aircraft. It is a change we can all be proud of and a tangible example of how change can improve outcomes.

Successfully resolving our present and future challenges will also require global cooperation on a scale not seen before. Governments and industry must align their respective responsibilities and objectives to ensure a more efficient global operating environment.

As the international forum for states and stakeholders for some 65 years now, ICAO is unique in its capability to facilitate this process. I will strengthen the ICAO regional offices and seek effective partnerships not only with accredited states but also with regional organizations and regional civil aviation bodies. By working closely together around the world we will do more.

Adapting to change also means adjusting the way we do business at headquarters in Montreal. I assure everyone that ICAO will develop a more effective capacity to respond to and anticipate trends and issues in this more tumultuous world we live in. I want to demonstrate to our member states an even stronger return on their investment in this organization. I will do this by bringing forward a much more targeted business plan, which is focused on producing high value-added results. This discussion will begin in the next few weeks and continue during the 188th session of the ICAO Council.

The vision of ICAO is for a global air transport system consistently and uniformly operating at peak efficiency, providing optimum safety, security and sustainability. I am truly excited by the prospect of being able to support the growth of a robust and sustainable air transport system. And I am confident that the changes at ICAO will be apparent in improved outcomes for all parties.

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