States are chronically under-resourcing the aviation safety oversight functions of their national aviation authorities, particularly in the European and North Atlantic region, according to ICAO.
ICAO's safety officer at its Paris regional office, Nicolas Rallo, told the Flight Safety Foundation's European Aviation Safety Seminar in Dublin that it discovered this lack of resources at national level through its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.
The cause, according to ICAO, appears to be government austerity measures, and it fears the under-resourcing could become even more severe, because many of the audits that revealed the deficits were evident before reaction to the global economic crisis started to kick in.
Reports from the oversight audit programme indicate a "lack of effective [safety procedures] implementation" globally in 42% of states, and in 40% of European and North Atlantic countries, with this directly attributable to lack of financial resources.
Such implementation deficits, caused by a lack of human resources, are an even greater problem, with 76% of states affected globally, but in the European-North Atlantic region it is even worse at 78%.
Rallo says this is a combination of posts not being filled, or posts being staffed by people unqualified for the work.
"Some governments have taken austerity measures through legislative means for all state bodies no matter what their function or funding mechanism," he says.
He adds that the centre of the problem is "often at high political levels" and demonstrates a "lack of understanding of the consequences and a lack of political will".
ICAO fears that, as safety management systems become mandatory in the European-North Atlantic region and elsewhere, governments may start to delegate industry monitoring and oversight to the industry itself, and reduce further regulatory oversight resources.