ICAO’s UN General Assembly is now in full swing, beginning this week in Montreal, Canada. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a specialist agency of the United Nations set up to define international safety, environmental and operating standards for commercial aviation. Currently more than 190 countries are members, and aviation rules in each of these follow ICAO standards and recommended practices.
The Minister of Transport for the State of Qatar, HE Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, addressed the UN with a keynote speech on the recent successes of Qatar’s aviation sector. “Today’s gathering of representatives from around the world follows the greatest challenge our industry, and our world, has ever faced, the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to ICAO’s vigorous efforts, and a global vaccine rollout, the industry is now in a place where it can recover and return to pre-pandemic levels”, HE al-Sulaiti explained.
“Like other airlines, Qatar’s national airline Qatar Airways faced an unprecedented challenge at the beginning of the pandemic…but our global airline was determined to be there for the world when the world needed us the most. We safely transported more than 3 million passengers, reuniting families, and enabling passengers to return home during a very uncertain time, and a global shut-down.”
“Our national airline became the largest airline in the world, while ensuring the most advanced health and safety precautions, achieving a 5-star Covid-19 airline safety rating. Qatar’s commitment to helping the world via our extensive aviation sector didn’t stop there, as we shipped more than half a million tonne of medical supplies and personal protection equipment to nations around the world”.
“Once the Covid-19 vaccines became available, Qatar quickly and efficiently transported over 500mn doses of the vaccine, including vaccines to ensure no country was left behind. We also transported vaccines to Unicef as per the memorandum of understanding signed with Unicef for 5 years in support of the Unicef Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative”.
“Qatar Airways became the world’s largest cargo airline, doubling our destinations, and the airline has now named World’s Best Airline 2022, for the seventh time according to Skytrax.
Our hub airport, the state-of-the-art Doha Hamad International Airport is a global gateway, connecting the world as they fly across multiple continents via the World’s Best Airport, on our young, modern & fuel-efficient fleet.”
The gathering at the assembly follows three years of turmoil for the aviation sector due to the pandemic. Al-Sulaiti went on to explain: “Since we last met as an assembly three years ago, the State of Qatar has continued developing and modernising the infrastructure necessary for a safe and efficient air navigation. We have inaugurated a new Qatar Air Traffic Control Centre, which includes state-of-the-art air navigation technologies, as well as a virtual control tower; the only in the Middle East equipped with latest control tower simulation equipment”.
In his closing remarks, al-Sulaiti added: “I am very confident this Assembly under your leadership will achieve a remarkable success by pointing the way to the next three years. I would like to assert once again on Qatar’s full cooperation during this meeting and the coming years. Qatar is a proud, active member of ICAO, and our country and the organisation have shared values on a sustainable future for aviation, ensuring no country is left behind, and working with all member states to keep the skies a safe place for all”.
“As you know, my country is honoured with hosting the events of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and we hope to be honoured by your attendance to witness Qatar’s world-famous hospitality as the world gathers in my country for the prestigious tournament”.
The United States followed with a keynote address from US Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appointed by President Biden at the start of Biden’s presidency. Buttigieg said:
“Madam President and distinguished colleagues, we come together at a critical time: Facing major challenges in the aviation sector but at the same time reaching for some of the most extraordinary opportunities.
In this context, with optimism that reflects the successes of our predecessors who delivered the Chicago Convention in 1944, and mindful of the resilience of the last two years shown by this institution and by all of you, I come today to share the United States’ vision for the next chapter of our shared international civil aviation framework.
Our focus begins with climate change. The reality is inescapable and the urgency clear. More floods and droughts and wildfires are already being felt by people across the globe. Our transportation systems, including aviation, are a significant contributor to climate change. As such, aviation must be a significant part of the solution.
We must act collectively to address what is inherently a collective problem. We must strengthen CORSIA. And we must together adopt an aspirational goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. This is achievable if we act.
We recognise that different countries will contribute to this goal based on their national circumstances. The draft resolutions approved by the ICAO Council in August represent a compromise but also a strong commitment. We call on this Assembly to approve them and to bring ICAO fully into the world’s fight against climate change.
For our part, last month, the US approved the biggest investment against climate change in history. Among many other actions, it will catalyse production of sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. Our national goal is to produce – by 2050 – enough SAF to power all US aviation. We see great opportunity in the transition to cleaner transportation, and last week we released a SAF “Grand Challenge Roadmap” to achieve that goal. And we are reaching out to our partners around the world with technical assistance, capacity building, and joint research.
Our climate goals sit alongside longstanding priorities that remain as important as ever. Today, aviation is safer than ever before, but we cannot take that achievement for granted. We must remain committed to strengthening aviation safety and security, always our top priority and as important as ever.
No matter whose airspace they are in, passengers expect a high level of safety and security. They expect that we will uphold the principles of the Chicago convention and that they are not only safe, but secure from emerging threats, including growing cyber threats.
The US is a strong supporter of both the Global Air Navigation and Global Aviation Safety Plans, and we just released our own National Aviation Safety Plan. We encourage States to endorse the Global Plans and create their own national plans as well to elevate the level and coordination of safety across airspace. We also support the evolution of the Global Aviation Security Plan to ensure it is fit for purpose.
We also believe aviation security should be considered on par with the other critical pillars of both national and ICAO organisational structures”.
Buttigieg then went on to address some of the tensions in the room surrounding Russa-Ukraine, and Taiwan-China.
“We believe that all of international civil aviation’s most important stakeholders – particularly those who administer critical airspace like Taiwan – should have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in ICAO’s work. But right now we are experiencing grave challenges to the safe and secure system of international aviation that ICAO and the Chicago Convention have created. Countries that flagrantly violate the rules should not have leading roles in ICAO.
Last week at the UN General Assembly, President Biden described an American policy rooted in the strength of our values, eager to support other nations, and always open to finding common ground. These values and goals are reflected in our work in this organisation, where we value every opportunity to partner with other members for the benefit of all. To continue this important work, the United States is seeking re-election in Part 1 of the ICAO Council, and we ask every State for your vote of support.
ICAO’s motto, No Country Left Behind, applies across all of aviation’s priorities – safety, security, economic growth, and tackling the climate crisis. To keep our citizens safe and secure, we must work together, and the US stands ready to partner”.

* The author is an aviation analyst. Twitter handle: @AlexInAir
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