ICAO held the Seventh Symposium and Exhibition on MRTDs, Biometrics and Security Standards on 12 to 15 September 2011. A select group of Industry Partners complemented the Symposium, displaying a broad range of products and services related to MRTDs, biometric identification, travel document security applications and border inspection systems.
The 2011 Symposium followed last year's successful event, attended by over 600 participants from States, international organizations, companies and other institutions. As usual, it took place at ICAO Headquarters, 999 University Street, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.
The presentations and handouts were available only in English. Simultaneous interpretation was available in English, French, Spanish and Russian, as required.
This important annual event addressed ICAO MRTD standards and specifications, identity management best practices and related border security issues. The 2011 MRTD Symposium marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11, which serves as a reminder that terrorism remains a serious ongoing threat to aviation and national security. This year’s Symposium focused on the role of MRTDs and border controls in combating and preventing terrorism and related trans-border crime, also linked with aviation security which is being redefined and broadened, made more intelligence-led; paying increasing attention to the details and patterns of travellers, which relies on robust identity management.
Who Should Attend
The Symposium was of particular interest to officials from national identity and travel document issuance authorities, passport offices, immigration, customs and other border inspection and law enforcement agencies; Ministries of Interior, National Security and Foreign Affairs, as well as embassy Consular staff. Other key stakeholders included private companies offering technologies and products for effective international identity and border management, airlines and airport authorities, security and facilitation consultants, academia and think tanks.
MRTDs in the context of evolving global security environment
ICAO developed specifications for passports and other travel documents to ensure interoperability, promote enhanced facilitation, increase confidence in the reliability of travel documents, and contribute to national and international security. ICAO-compliant secure travel documents and a robust identity management regime are powerful tools in preventing and combating terrorism and serious transnational crime. However, remaining weaknesses in identity management or travel document security flaws tend to be exploited by terrorists and criminals worldwide and present a weak link in global efforts to ensure security, stability, good governance and the rule of law.
A key finding from the 9/11 Commission Report was that “for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.” The issuance and integrity of travel documents, border security and identity management remain an important and integral part of global counter-terrorism capacity-building efforts in furthering the objectives of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).
The evolving aviation security debate has gone beyond passenger screening and increasingly takes into account border security matters, including identity management, inter-agency cooperation, data sharing and combating identity fraud. In particular, the new approach was triggered by the Northwest Airlines failed bombing plot on 25 December 2009, which highlighted the need of identifying and stopping perpetrators before they engage in attacks against aviation. A recent ICAO Declaration on Aviation Security, unanimously adopted at the ICAO 37th Assembly, places particular emphasis on information collection, analysis and timely sharing, and urges States to share best practices in consolidating travel document security, fraud detection and effective border controls. The Assembly also has expanded the scope of the MRTD programme, tasking it to work on new work items to address emerging security concerns.
The new security environment calls for the exploration of closer synergies between the MRTD Programme and aviation security, in search for a more comprehensive security architecture able to respond to current terrorist and criminal challenges. In addition to traditional aviation security measures such as use of new technologies in passenger and cargo screening, aviation security experts have highlighted the importance of travel document security, identity management and data sharing as part of the enhanced comprehensive aviation security of the 21st century. In particular, the Declaration on Aviation Security called for intensified and expanded use of the ICAO Public Key Directory and the Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document Database, two key instruments in preventing and combating identity fraud. Also, it placed particular emphasis on information collection, analysis and timely sharing, and urged States to share best practices in consolidating travel document security and fraud detection.
All these issues are directly related to MRTDs and identity management which are becoming part of the emerging comprehensive security framework of the future.