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Counter-Terrorism: Aviation Security

Tomorrow (27 September), the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), and the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Fang Liu, will brief the Council on security in civil aviation. The option of adopting a presidential statement at the meeting has been raised, but it is unlikely that one will be adopted tomorrow.

Background

The briefing tomorrow is being held in keeping with resolution 2309 of 22 September 2016, which requested the CTC to hold a meeting within 12 months, in cooperation with ICAO, on the issue of terrorist threats to civil aviation, and invited the Secretary General of ICAO and the Chair of the CTC to brief the Council on the outcomes of this meeting. The resolution called on member states to work within ICAO to ensure that its international security standards are reviewed, adapted and implemented to effectively address terrorist threats to aviation. It further encouraged continued cooperation between ICAO, the CTC and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) on identifying gaps and vulnerabilities relevant to aviation security, and welcomed the cooperation between the ICAO and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force to facilitate the delivery of technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of aviation security.

Aboulatta will report to the Council on the CTC meeting with ICAO which took place on 7 July. The meeting was an opportunity for the Committee to engage with member states and relevant international and regional organizations on the terrorist threat to international civil aviation, as well as to identify ways to strengthen and promote the implementation of international aviation security standards and international cooperation in this field.

During the meeting, Lui called for greater access to information regarding current threats between States. She also stressed the importance of new and existing ICAO tools to help address these concerns, such as its Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP), which “establishes targeted safety objectives and initiatives while ensuring the efficient and effective coordination of complementary safety activities between all stakeholders,” according to the ICAO website. She may reiterate these points during tomorrow’s meeting.

Jean-Paul Laborde, then Executive Director of CTED, urged states to cooperate in the implementation of Security Council resolutions related to aviation safety. He stressed the importance of collecting and sharing advance passenger information (API) to detect the departure from, entry into, or transit through their territories of individuals on the Al-Qaida sanctions list. He noted that only 57 countries are capable of implementing and sharing such information with the International Criminal Police Organization, INTERPOL.

Although resolution 2309 was a New Zealand initiative, the UK is now the penholder on the issue of civil aviation security. During the ministerial meeting in which resolution 2309 was adopted, Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (UK), remarked on the importance of ICAO’s work, highlighting “recent aviation tragedies as evidence of the dire seriousness of threats to international peace and security posed by terrorist organisations”.

Other countries in the Council, such as Japan and Italy, also have a keen interest in the issue. On 26 May 2017, the Group of 7 (the G7)--a group consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the EU as a non-enumerated member--adopted the “Taormina Statement on the fight against terrorism and violent extremism” which, among other things, called for strengthening cooperation among border agencies and supporting the expansion of the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) and API in traveler screening. The statement further emphasised the importance of filling gaps in API use at the international level as an effective instrument in fighting against terrorism, in stemming the flow of foreign fighters, and in monitoring their return.

Resolution 2309 represents a recent example of the Council’s recognition of the importance of ICAO in contributing to international counter-terrorism efforts. The agency has assisted in monitoring the transit, by means of civil aircraft, of individuals on the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List established by resolution 2178 of 24 September 2014. It has also taken measures to prevent travel documents from being made available to Al-Qaida terrorists and their associates per resolution 1617 of 29 July 2005.

Draft PRST

In early September, the UK circulated the elements of a possible presidential statement to Council members encouraging UN and ICAO cooperation. In particular, these elements included enhancing ICAO’s relationship with CTED in particular on matters of civil aviation; encouraging cooperation between the new UN Office for Counter-Terrorism and ICAO, with emphasis on member state capacity-building; and ensuring that information regarding aviation security is incorporated into reporting to the Council by the Secretariat on counter-terrorism. It was also expected to welcome the GASeP. The initial intention was for these elements to form the basis of a draft presidential statement to be adopted at the briefing.

However, it seems that during discussions between the P5 on the potential statement, at least one permanent member took the view that the Council should not welcome the ICAO GASeP before it is formally endorsed by ICAO itself, as the ICAO Council is scheduled to convene in November to approve a new GASeP for the years 2017-2019. The UK then decided not to circulate a draft presidential statement to Council members and may consider revisiting the issue after the ICAO Council adopts the GASeP.

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