The ICAO Facilitation (FAL) Programme is based on 10 articles of the Chicago Convention (see table below) which require that the civil aviation community comply with laws governing the inspection of aircraft, cargo and passengers by authorities concerned with customs, immigration, agriculture and public health. Under the Convention, States are obligated to adopt standards and expedite the necessary formalities in order to minimize operational delays. As the means of carrying out this mandate, the FAL Programme is designed to help States achieve maximum efficiency in their border clearance operations and at the same time achieve and maintain high-quality security and effective law enforcement. Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) designed to meet these objectives are developed by ICAO and are maintained in Annex 9 to the Convention.
Within the civil aviation community, facilitation is of interest to four major groups: Contracting States, air transport operators, airports and customers. States are primarily interested in achieving full compliance with their laws and regulations, whereas operators are focused on increasing productivity by minimizing the costs of operational delays and administrative procedures. Airports view facilitation as a means to reduce congestion in passenger terminals and cargo sheds. The fourth group, air transport customers (i.e. passengers and cargo shippers), wants to proceed through airports with minimal delay and difficulty. One of the FAL Programme’s challenges is to address all these interests in a coordinated manner.
In addition to this challenge, the FAL Programme is faced with external issues such as unlawful interference with civil aviation, illegal migration, illicit narcotics trafficking and contagious diseases which, if not kept under control, can undermine the facilitation process. These elements must be taken into account when developing the FAL Programme so that various components provide for their effective control while also meeting the community’s facilitation objectives.
In response to such challenges, ICAO promotes the application of certain concepts that serve to improve border clearance operations. Examples include the selectivity of inspection targets, risk management, industry and government cooperation, information-needs analysis and clearance time goals.
For the development and improvement of SARPs and guidance material, ICAO utilizes a pyramidal development flow. At the base of this structure are the FAL “contacts” designated by Contracting States, who collectively comprise an informal network for communicating with ICAO on various facilitation matters. FAL regional meetings then develop concepts for consideration by the FAL Panel, on which sit facilitation experts nominated by 27 States, as well as industry observers. The FAL Panel considers reports by working groups and submits its recommendations to the ICAO Air Transport Committee and Council for approval. The Facilitation Division, a periodic worldwide conference to which all Contracting States are invited to send delegations, will continue to play an important part in this process.
To promote the implementation of Annex 9 and related guidance material, ICAO continues to rely on regional meetings and visits to States by ICAO experts. In addition, facilitation training is offered, either independently or in conjunction with aviation security training events. Moreover, ICAO provides support for strategic planning by providing FAL contacts with informal guidance and information.
In addition to its work in developing and implementing Annex 9, ICAO develops and publishes specifications for machine readable travel documents.
Articles of the Chicago Convention on which the FAL Programme is based
Article 10: Landing at customs airport
Article 13: Entry and clearance regulations
Article 14: Prevention of spread of diseases
Article 22: Facilitation of formalities
Article 23: Customs and immigration procedures
Article 24: Customs duty
Article 29: Documents carried in aircraft
Article 35: Cargo restrictions
Article 37: Adoption of international standards and procedures
Article 38: Departures from international standards and procedures