With the collaboration of Member States, ICAO plays an essential leadership role in the field of aviation security with the ultimate goal of enhancing civil aviation security worldwide. To this end, its efforts are focused primarily on developing and coordinating an effective global policy and legal framework in response to the evolving threat to civil aviation, conducting audits that identify aviation security shortcomings, and assisting States in implementing security Standards and resolving deficiencies.​

With the benefit of hindsight, it may seem hard to imagine how the need to address acts of sabotage, unlawful seizure of aircraft and the use of civil aircraft in terrorist attacks (as was the case on 11 September 2001) could have been overlooked by the drafters of the Chicago Convention, ICAO’s founding charter and cornerpiece for international technical legislation in the field of civil aviation. In 1944, however, no one foresaw such security threats and the need for security measures.

 
When aviation security did arise as a serious issue in the late 1960s, there was a need to adopt an international framework for addressing acts of unlawful interference. ICAO assumed a leadership role in developing aviation security policies and measures at the international level, and today the enhancement of global aviation security is a key objective of the Organization.
 
Provisions for international aviation security were first disseminated as Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention in 1974, and since then have been improved and updated 14 times. The 14th amendment to the Annex became applicable on 14 November 2014.

With the advent of Annex 17, ICAO began providing States with guidance material to assist with the implementation of international security measures, the primary document being the Security Manual for Safeguarding Civil Aviation Against Acts of Unlawful Interference (Doc 8973 – Restricted).
 
Initially, ICAO’s security-related work focused on developing Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for inclusion in Annex 17. Over the years, its work in the field of aviation security broadened and today is essentially carried out in three inter-related areas: policy initiatives, audits focused on the capability of Member States to oversee their aviation security activities, and assistance to States that are unable to address serious security deficiencies highlighted by ICAO audits. Security audits are performed under the Universal Security Audit Programme, which is managed by the Aviation Security Audit (ASA) Section. Short-term or urgent security-related assistance to States is facilitated by the Implementation Support and Development (ISD) Programme, which is managed by the ISD-Security Section, and longer term project assistance is available from the ICAO Technical Co-operation Bureau.
 
Policy work is focused primarily on maintaining the currency of Annex 17 and related guidance material such as Doc 8973, a significant challenge considering the evolving nature of the threat. Security policy is the responsibility of the Aviation Security Policy (ASP) Section, which promotes the implementation of Annex 17 through seminars and workshops attended by experts from airports, airlines and law enforcement agencies, as well as through the dissemination of guidance material.
 
In addressing the evolving threat to civil aviation, ICAO relies on the advice of experts who sit on the Aviation Security (AVSEC) Panel. Established in the late 1980s, the Panel is currently comprised of 27 members nominated by States, as well as five observers from industry. Together with the ICAO Secretariat, the Panel actively develops ICAO security policy and responses to emerging threats as well as strategies aimed at preventing future acts of unlawful interference. The Panel has met 25 times since its formation, most recently in March 2014. Its Twenty-sixth Meeting will be held in Montréal from 13 to 17 April 2015.
 
Aside from the AVSEC Panel, the International Explosives Technical Commission (IETC) focuses on keeping up to date the Technical Annex to the Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection, which entered into force in 1998. Each State party to the Convention is required to prohibit and prevent the manufacture in its territory of unmarked plastic explosives.
 
ICAO’s other activities in the field of aviation security include efforts to enhance the security of travel documents and improve the training of security personnel. In addition, ICAO provides support for regional security initiatives with the aim of strengthening aviation security globally.
 
Travel document security is addressed by the Machine Readable Travel Document (MRTD) Programme. Under this initiative, ICAO developed the worldwide standard for machine readable passports (MRPs). Over 180 States had issued MRPs that comply with the ICAO standard by 1 April 2010, the deadline for achieving compliance. ICAO is also concerned with the facilitation of international air transport, which involves the efficient clearance  of passengers, crews, baggage, cargo and mail across international boundaries without unnecessary delays. Closely aligned with security processes, facilitation matters are addressed by the Facilitation (FAL) Programme, which is managed by the Facilitation Section.
 
With respect to security training, ICAO develops course material on a range of topics for use by civil aviation administrations and a network of regional aviation security training centres. This material covers such subjects as airline and cargo security and, of course, crisis management. Training workshops and seminars are conducted on a regular basis.
 
All of ICAO’s initiatives in the field of aviation security rely, both globally and regionally, on cooperation amongst States and all other stakeholders. The overarching goal is to enhance global security by implementing uniform security measures around the world, a goal that cannot be achieved without an unswerving commitment by all concerned.