Maintaining the MRTD Programme’s relevance to global security challenges: trends and issues


Three important current trends that have been shaping the ICAO MRTD Programme include:


The expansion of the MRTD Programme’s scope and mandate, as recognised by the recent TAG/MRTD and the ICAO 37th Assembly. Historically, the MRTD programme used to be about a set of rules how to manufacture and personalise MRTDs. It has been achieved by now, the norms are elaborate and there is a sustainable mechanism how to maintain them updated and relevant. But as the MRTD specifications are so comprehensive already, the trans-border crime and terrorism focus has been shifting to the pre-issuing and post-issuing phases which contain far more weaknesses: (i) evidence of identity (“breeder documents”), civil registries and gaps in the integrity of the issuance process, and (ii) border controls, travel document fraud, forensic examination and detection, and cross-border intelligence sharing. Those newly-emerged areas need to be addressed with considerable political will, efforts and resources in order to consolidate the core MRTD programme security-wise.

The second trend is an increasing need of MRTD capacity-building efforts world-wide. The current MRTD specifications are state-of-the-art and up to the standards of the most developed States. But given the complexity of the specifications, there have been demonstrated constraints in less developed States that struggle to implement such complex requirements because of their lack of technical expertise or funds or both. Such capacity gaps have been compromising universal MRTD implementation and call for a closer technical dialogue with States in need, intensified liaison with donor agencies and expanding capacity-building programmes. ICAO is currently exploring ways to better help States build their MRTD implementation capacity.
Finally, there has been need to explore closer synergies between the MRTD Programme and aviation security, in search for a more comprehensive security architecture able to respond to today’s terrorism challenges. The ICAO Declaration on Aviation Security, which was unanimously approved at ICAO 37th Assembly, provided strong guidance to the future of the MRTD Programme. In addition to traditional aviation security measures such as use of new technologies in passenger and cargo screening, the Declaration 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 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 urges 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