Communications surveillance
 Travel surveillance
 Identity documents
 Terrorist watch lists
 Migration and border controls
 Security cooperation
 Financial surveillance



Key Players

About the project


About ICAO

Formation of ICAO

The laying of the foundations of ICAO was initiated by the US, and developed through consultations between the 'Major Allies', who invited 55 states to attend the International Civil Aviation Conference in Chicago in 1944. 54 states attended and 32 states signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which set up the permanent International Civil Aviation Organisation. 

ICAO was created as 'a means to secure international co-operation and the highest possible degree of uniformity in regulations and standards, procedures and organization regarding civil aviation matters'. There are now 189 contracting states.


ICAO's aims, and much of what these include, are:

Standardisation: the establishment of International Standards, Recommended Practices and Procedures covering licensing of personnel, rules of the air, aircraft operations, airworthiness, aeronautical telecommunications, air traffic services, accident investigation, aircraft noise and emission levels, security and safe transport of dangerous goods.
After a standard is formally adopted, each of the ICAO 'contracting states' implements it within their territories.

CNS/ATM: the development of a satellite-based system concept to meet future communications, navigation surveillance/air traffic management (CNS/ATM) needs of civil aviation.

Regional planning: for the purposes of the ICAO, the globe is divided into 9 geographical regions which are treated individually for 'planning the provision of air navigation facilities and services required on the ground'. ICAO regional meetings are held periodically.

Facilitation: the reduction of procedural formalities which may add extra time to a passenger's journey and the provision of adequate air terminal buildings.

Economics: air services to be established on the basis of equality and opportunity and operated soundly and economically.

Technical co-operation for development: the promotion of civil aviation in developing countries which includes the provision of assistance to states in order to improve their aviation security facilities and procedures. This has involved the creation or assistance of many large civil aviation training centres.

Law: development of a code of international air law governing certain issues.

Organisational Structure

The organisation comprises of an Assembly, a Council assisted by various subordinate bodies and a Secretariat.

The Assembly consists of representatives from the contracting states. It meets every three years to review and mandate policy.

The Council is the governing body which is elected by the Assembly for a three year term and is comprised of delegates from 36 contracting states. The 36 states are selected according to one of three characteristics:

  • key importance in air transport;
  • key contributors to the provision of facilities for air navigation;
  • states whose designation will ensure all major areas of the world are represented.

The Council adopts standards and recommended practices, It is assisted by the Air Navigation Commission on technical issues, the Air Transport Committee on economic issues, the Committee on Joint Support of Air Navigation Services and the Finance Committee.

The Secretariat is composed of staff recruited on a broad geographical basis and is headed by the Secretary-General. There are 5 main sectors:

  • The Air Navigation Bureau;
  • The Air Transport Bureau;
  • The Technical Co-operation Bureau;
  • The Legal Bureau; and
  • The Bureau of Administration and Services.

There are a number of advisory and working groups that research and advise on various ICAO issues. For the purposes of the policy laundering project there are two relevant groups:
The Technical Advisory Group
ICAO's Technical Advisory Group (TAG), established in 1986, plays an influential role in the development and design of MRTD technologies. TAG is an advisory group appointed by the Secretary General of ICAO and comprising of experts from 13 contracting states who form various working groups. The main working groups are:

  • The Education and Promotion Working Group;
  • The Document Content and Format Working Group;
  • The New Technologies Working Group.

Currently, experts are derived from Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russian Federation, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Observers are additionally invited to attend TAG/MRTD meetings and these may, as stated, include 'States or non-governmental bodies'. Examples of the latter mentioned on the ICAO website include the Airports Council International (ACI), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Although not explicitly mentioned, it is submitted that relevant private industry representatives are in attendance. 

TAG additionally assists states with the implementation of these specifications and issues guidance and information for governments and industry.

The New Technologies Working Group
The New Technologies Working Group (NTWG) conducts research, analysis and reporting on new technologies for use in MRTDs. The Group's current focus is on document security. 'The NTWG acts as a forum for presentation of candidate technologies, including chips, bar-code, optical memory storage as well as the confirmation of identity with biometrics. In addition, the NTWG seeks input with respect to machine authentication and security features for documents.'

The Organisations headquarters are situated in Montreal, Canada.

External Relations

In addition to relations with member states and domestic civil aviation commissions, ICAO maintains links to a wide variety of international organisations, including the U.N..