Enhancing global security and facilitation

Posted: 17 June 2014 | ICAO Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin | No comments yet

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) main goal in the area of security and facilitation will be the implementation of its new ICAO Traveller Identification Programme (TRIP) strategy, which is described in more detail here by ICAO Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin.

Border controls, travel document security and identification management are central to combating terrorism and trans-border crime, and the use of false identities and fraudulent travel documents, in addition to systemic weak-points in the identification management frameworks of many States, remain major vulnerabilities.

A complex challenge

Combating terrorism through enhanced border integrity is a challenge of significant complexity, mainly as policy, programme and organisational interdependencies, not to mention the diverse stakeholders involved, combine to make this a difficult responsibility for many States.

But where ICAO sees complexities and a diversity of actors, we also recognise advantages to be realised through shared targets and enhanced global coordination. This approach stresses the clear need for a holistic framework and well-defined objectives for all concerned.

ICAO has therefore commited itself to establishing this framework through our new TRIP strategy. ICAO TRIP evolved out of our Machine Readable Travel Document (MRTD) programme and establishes an integrated approach to identification-management. This, in turn, supports the secure issuance and inspection of ICAO-compliant travel documents.

Recognising the benefits of effective traveller identification management to both aviation security and the facilitation of a billion-plus airport border controls each year, ICAO’s mission in this area is to contribute to the capacities of our Member States and to coordinate where necessary with industry operators. An unexpected advantage of this work is that efficiently-processed systems of identity management and travel document security are not only helpful moving people through airports, but at every international border checkpoint.

ICAO’s more recent efforts in support of our TRIP Strategy goals include the global specifications realised for the issuance of ICAO-compliant ePassports. These can contain biometric and other enhanced identification and security features resulting in the most secure and robust travel document ever issued. At present, over 120 ICAO Member States have reported that they are issuing ePassports and we estimate that there are over 500 million of these documents in global circulation.

Significant work remains to be done, however, before ePassports can live up to their full security and facilitation potential. Not all ePassports are fully compliant with ICAO specifications, for instance, and not all States participate in the ICAO Public Key Directory, or PKD, which provides a centralised and secure global directory of all State certificates needed to access and validate the data stored on ePassports. These gaps prevent issuing-States and border control authorities from capitalising on the full security and facilitation benefits that ePassports are able to deliver.

Capacity-building: Critical to global success

ICAO recognises that a number of our States struggle under the high expectations now being promoted through this initiative. This calls for an intensification of coordinated capacity-building and assistance efforts, enhanced cooperation between ICAO and INTERPOL, and closer working arrangements with our UN partners such as the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).

We have also been encouraged that several African Regional Economic Communities have already committed to support the development of TRIP proposals for their continent. On a more global basis, deepened collaboration of this nature will help to ensure that the ICAO TRIP Strategy’s contributions to the combatting of terrorism and trans-border crimes will eventually be realised.


Raymond Benjamin has served as the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization since August 2009. His extensive career in civil aviation spans more than 30 years, including 13 years as Executive Secretary of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). Prior to joining ECAC, Benjamin was Chief of the Aviation Security Branch of the Air Transport Bureau of ICAO, served as Air Transport Officer and Deputy Secretary of ECAC from 1982 to 1989, and held various positions in the Civil Aviation Administration of France from 1973 to 1982.

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