ICAO to publish non-members of global aviation safety check to shame secretive states

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More than 60 International Civil Aviation Organisation contracting states have signed up to publish the results of Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) checks carried out on their countries.

At an extraordinary conference at ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal last week, delegates agreed unanimously that a list of any states that do not sign up within two years for audit results disclosure will be posted on the organisation’s website.

ICAO president Assad Kotaite says the conference, called “to formulate a global strategy for aviation safety”, was a reaction to the spate of airline accidents that had occurred in August and September last year. Although Kotaite refused to spell it out, most of the fatal accidents involved aircraft from third world countries whose safety oversight capabilities do not comply with ICAO standards and recommended practices (SARP); instead he explained that “transparency [for USOAP results] was the main purpose of this conference”.

The conference was attended by directors general of civil aviation from 153 of ICAO’s 189 contracting states. On the first day of the three-day meeting eight African states and two Latin American countries spoke out against transparency, voicing their concern that their airlines and tourist industry could suffer as a result.

Kotaite turned this resistance around by offering a compromise extension of two years from 23 March before transparency of USOAP results must be complete. The conference agreed that, on 23 March 2008, all audit results must be ready for publication, and if any state refused to permit disclosure, the names of those states would be released to the press and published on the ICAO website.

Meanwhile, the conference accepted that there are many small or economically poor states that do not have, and may not have in the near future, the resources to set up an adequate national safety oversight organisation. The conference resolved that the safety oversight needs of these countries should be served by regional organisations that pool resources.

In addition, support would be available from the aviation authorities of more prosperous nations, ICAO itself, and the International Air Transport Association. The World Bank and the European Commission, both represented at the conference, made it clear that they would provide assistance only to states that sign up to disclosure.

DAVID LEARMOUNT / MONTREAL

Keeping safety in check

ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) was mandated in 1998 and began in 1999, initially as a check that contracting states complied with basic standards and recommended practices on aviation safety oversight by having the relevant laws in place, the resources and expertise to carry out checks, and  enforcement. Of the 189 ICAO states, 181 have been audited, the eight unaudited countries having security situations so poor that the USOAP teams could not work there. At that time the results were confidential.
The second USOAP round, which began in 2005, is expanded to check every aspect of safety compliance and practice. Before last week’s conference ICAO had a mandate to distribute these results to all contracting states. The conference has changed that by persuading the reluctant states to agree that USOAP results should be made public, with a final deadline of 23 March 2008. After that date the names of countries withholding information will be publicised
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