THE POSTAL HISTORY OF ICAO

 

The ICAO Council

 

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has one governing body: the Council. The ICAO Council is a permanent body responsible to the Assembly and is currently composed of thirty-six Contracting States elected by the Assembly for a term of three years; it holds three working sessions per year.

 

The Council, along with its subsidiary bodies (i.e. the Air Navigation Commission and various Committees), gives continuing direction to the work of ICAO. In this regard, one of its major duties is to adopt International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and to incorporate these as Annexes to the Chicago Convention; the Council may also amend existing Annexes as necessary. The Council also has numerous additional official functions, notably to submit annual reports to the Assembly, carry out the directions of the Assembly, and to discharge the duties and obligations which are laid on it by the Convention on International Civil Aviation (named Chicago Convention, 1944). One of its main duties is to oversee the finances of ICAO, define the duties of the various Committees and appoint their members. Another key function of the Council is to appoint ICAO’s Secretary General. It additionally appoints the Members of the Air Navigation Commission.

 

The ICAO Assembly elects the Members of the Council. In the election of the Council Members, adequate representation (Article 50.b of the Chicago Convention) is given to States of chief importance in air transport (Part A), States not otherwise included which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for civil air navigation (Part B), and States not otherwise included whose designation will ensure that all major geographic areas of the world are represented on the Council (Part C).

 

The opening session of the Interim Council of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was held on 15 August 1945 at 14h30 in the Rose Room of the Windsor Hotel, Montreal, Canada. Twenty members of this Interim Council had been elected on 8 December 1944, the next to the last day of the Chicago Conference. One seat on the Interim Council was left open in Category A for the U.S.S.R., should it decide to adhere to the Convention. The latter country did not finally adhere to the Convention until 15 October 1970; it was elected to the Council in 1971 during the 18th Session of the Assembly held in Vienna.

 

Among the twenty country-members of the Interim Council, Brazil and Mexico could not arrive on time for the opening meeting. Canada's Minister of Reconstruction C.D. Howe welcomed the Interim Council and noted that this was "the first post-war organization of the United Nations to get under way...".

 

On 28 May 1947, the ICAO Council held its first meeting, with Representatives of 21 Member States; Edward Warner was elected President and Albert Roper was confirmed as Secretary General of the Organization, the positions both had held in the interim Organization. The first Session of ICAO Assembly had elected in the first category: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Argentina, Australia, China, Egypt, India, Ireland and Portugal were elected in the second round; in the third, it was Chile, Czechoslovakia, Iraq, Peru, Sweden and Turkey. The membership of the first Council was much the same as in the Interim Council with a few exceptions: Sweden had replaced Norway, El Salvador and Colombia were dropped and replaced by only one Latin American state (i.e. Argentina) and Portugal took the remaining seat. The Council completed its 100th Session from 2-27 June 1980.

 

Fifty-two States were represented at the Chicago Conference in 1944 and 38 States signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) creating ICAO and establishing the Council with a membership of 21. The Chicago Convention entered into force on 4 April 1947 with ICAO having 26 Member States; in 2016, the number of Member States of the Organization has grown to 191. During this same period, the number of Member States on the Council increased from 21 to 40 by four successive Amendments to the Convention, in 1961, 1971, 1974, and 1990, respectively. Amendments to the Chicago Convention (Article 50.a) raised the original membership of 21 as follows:

 

Increase to

Date and place of adoption

Assembly Resolution

Member States at the time of the Assembly

Date of entry into force

Member States at the date of entry into force

27

13th (Extraordinary) Session of the Assembly on 21 June 1961, signed at Montreal

A13-1

87

17 July 1962

98

30

17th (A) (Extraordinary) Session of the Assembly on 12 March 1971, signed at New York

A17-A-l

120

16 January 1973

125

33

21st Session of the Assembly on 16 October 1974, signed at Montreal

A21-2

129

15 February 1980

156

36

28th (Extraordinary) Session of the Assembly on 25 October 1990, signed at Montreal

A28-1

162

28 November 2002

188

40

39th Session of the Assembly on 1 October 2016, signed at Montreal

A39-4

191

 

 

 

The principal arguments advanced in favour of an enlargement of the Council from 21 to 27 Members were, inter alia:

a) The considerable increase in the membership of ICAO (eighty-four) in contrast to the number of States represented at the Chicago Conference (fifty-two);

b) An increase in size would be conducive to better geographical representation, particularly of regions that had not so far been adequately represented in the Council; and

c) All the specialized agencies in relationship with the United Nations, except ICAO, had increased the membership of their executive bodies.

The 13th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly decided to increase the membership of the Council from 21 to 27 and Resolution A13-l was adopted accordingly. At that time, ICAO membership was 87 and, when the Amendment entered into force on 17 July 1962, ICAO had 98 Member States.

 

In November 1970, the Council, when preparing the Provisional Agenda for the 18th Session of the Assembly (Vienna, June/July 1971), considered, on the basis of a proposal made by Yugoslavia, whether it was desirable to add an item to the Provisional Agenda aimed at enlarging the size of the Council. On 2 February 1971, the Council decided to recommend to the Assembly that the size of the Council should be increased from 27 to 30 members. In view of the fact that it was not deemed desirable to discuss an increase in the size of the Council at an Assembly Session where the election of the Council was to take place, the Council decided to convene an Extraordinary Session of the Assembly; on 3 February 1971, the Council adopted a Resolution to that effect which, inter alia, recommended that the Assembly suspend Rule 10d) of the Standing Rules of Procedure of the Assembly. The proposed amendment to Article 50 a) was considered during the 17th (A) Extraordinary Session of the Assembly, and the prevailing opinion was that the increased ICAO membership should be reflected in an increase of the members of the Council and due regard should be paid to equitable geographica1 representation. As a result of its deliberations, the Session of the Assembly decided to increase the size of the Council from 27 to 30 and Resolution A17-A-l was adopted accordingly. At that time, ICAO membership was 120, and when the Amendment entered into force on 16 January 1973, ICAO then had 125 Member States.

 

In March 1974, Belgium presented a proposal for the amendment of Article 50 a) to increase the membership of the Council from 30 to 33. The view was expressed in the proposal that the growing challenge of technical progress and the universal character attained by ICAO, resulting in a desire on the part of more States to participate in the Council’s responsibilities, militated in favour of the expansion of the Council. In May 1974, the Council noted the proposal of Belgium and decided not to make any comments in transmitting it to Member States. The matter was considered during the 21st Session of the Assembly and, in support of the proposal, the following reasons were advanced:

a) The necessity of giving developing States better representation on the Council;

b) The necessity of assuring the Council of the participation of States, small and large, that were concerned with the major problems of air  transport and air navigation and keeping their technical and financial support; and

c) The necessity of having the increase shall correspond as closely as possible to the real need to preserve the efficiency of the Council.

As a result of its deliberations, the Assembly decided to increase the size of the Council from 30 to 33 and Resolution A21-2 was adopted accordingly; at that time, the ICAO membership was 129. The Amendment entered into force on 15 February 1980 and ICAO then had 156 member States.

 

On 27 July 1989, a letter dated 7 July 1989 was received from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire requesting the inclusion in the Provisional Agenda of the 27th Session of the Assembly of an item concerning an increase in the Member States of the Council from 33 to 36. The proposal of Côte d’Ivoire was considered during the 27th Session of the Assembly in 1989. In the Working Paper, sponsored by forty-one African States, the view was expressed that the growing challenge offered by technological innovations and changing commercial strategies in international air transport and the consequent desire of a number of States, particularly developing States, to assume their responsibilities by participating in the work of the Council, favoured the increase in the size of that body from 33 to at least 36. In view of Resolution A4-3, Resolving Clause 8, regarding the submission of a proposal for amending the Convention, the Assembly agreed to refer to the Council the question of increase in the number of members of the Council, in order that the Council should study the matter with a view to convening an Extraordinary Session of the Assembly in 1990 to consider this question. On 25 October 1990, during the 28th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly, Resolution A28-1 was adopted approving the proposed amendment to Article 50 a) of the Chicago Convention providing for three additional seats in the Council, and, accordingly, the membership of the Council was increased from 33 to 36. After the 108 ratifications (i.e. two-thirds of the total number of Contracting States to the Chicago Convention) were received, the Amendment entered into force on 28 November 2002; ICAO then had 188 Member States.

 

The last increase of the seats of the Council was decided in October 1990, when the ICAO membership stood at 162 States. Since then, the size, structure and importance of international air transport for the national economies of ICAO Member States had significantly changed. Liberalized bilateral agreements, in particular Open Skies agreements, have been implemented since 1992 and have opened up a large number of new routes and new gateways, have increased connectivity worldwide, and have spurred air transport growth. Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s) have been established in many countries during the same period and are carrying a rapidly increasing part of domestic and international traffic. International civil aviation has become a major driver of economic development and tourism for many countries. Similarly, the technological implications of civil aviation development play an increasingly important role for States and their national economies. As a result, more States than before are prepared to take an active role in decisions affecting the global air transport system and also directly affecting their national economies, and wish to assume their responsibility by participating in the work of the Council.

At the 37th Session of the Assembly in 2010, Saudi Arabia presented a Working Paper entitled: Increasing ICAO Council Seats to 39, which advocated an increase to 39 seats and referred in particular to the growing traffic in certain regions of the world and the emergence of new sub-regions that are not represented in the Council. It stated that the increase in demand for air navigation services in the world’s regions, as well the establishment of new airports and the expansion of the existing ones represent strong justification to ask for an increase of the membership of the Council. The Plenary referred the proposal to the Council, which discussed it during its 198th Session and decided not to recommend at this time an increase in the membership of the Council. It was considered that the increase would have an impact on the efficiency of the work of the Council and it would be necessary to decide in a split of the additional seats between the three groups. Consequently, the following 38th Assembly (Montréal, 24 September-4 October 2013) noted that there was no marked support for the proposal to increase membership in the Council at that time, although there was some support for reconsidering it in the future.

During the 206th Session of the Council, Portugal and Saudi Arabia presented a Working Paper entitled: Proposal to increase the size of the Council from 36 to 39 seats by Amending Article 50 a) of the Convention; the Council agreed, in principle, that the size of the Council be increased in view of the increased membership of ICAO, the expansion and increasing importance of international air transport for the national economies in many countries, and the need to ensure adequate representation of ICAO Member States thereon. The point was made that regional rotation groups were a valid mechanism to afford States greater opportunity to participate in the Council, and in reiterating the importance of regional rotation groups, it was further noted that if additional Council seats were eventually filled by States that were part of such groups, then over time a larger number of States would be able to join the Council. It was stated that enlarging the Council would enable it to contribute even more efficiently and effectively to ICAO. It was also stated that there was a need to strike a balance between any proposed expansion and efficiency. During its 207th Session on 11 March 2016, the Council decided, by consensus, to recommend to the Assembly that the membership of the Council be increased from 36 to 40 members.

During the 39th Session of the Assembly (27 September to 7 October 2016), Resolution A39-4 was adopted approving the proposed amendment to Article 50 a) of the Chicago Convention providing for four additional seats in the Council, and, accordingly, the membership of the Council was increased from 36 to 40. Since the number of Contracting States to the Chicago Convention was 191, the two-thirds of the total number of Contracting States to the Chicago Convention required for entry into force of the proposed amendment is 128.

 

Interim Council in Session at the Windsor Hotel – August 1945.

 

ICAO’s 21-member Council in Session at 1080 University Street (ICAO first premises) – 1950.

 

 

United Nations New-York – 9 February 1955.

10th Anniversary of the interim Agreement and the first PICAO meeting – Black cachet.

ICAO Council in Session, on the 10th floor of the International Aviation Building, 1080 University Street.

 

Canada – 1 June 1955

10th Anniversary of the interim Agreement and the first PICAO meeting – Blue cachet.

ICAO Council in Session, on the 10th floor of the International Aviation Building, 1080 University Street.

 

ICAO’s 27-member Council meeting in a new chamber at the Montreal headquarters building. A circular arrangement of desks is centered on a globe as shown in the above photo (taken in 1964) and the flags of the 103 Contracting States form a backdrop.

 

ICAO Council in Session at 1000 Sherbrooke Street West (ICAO second premises) – 1980.

 

 ICAO Council in Session, in the current building at 999 Boulevard Robert-Bourassa, Montréal.

 

Large bronze crest of ICAO donated in 1975 by the former USSR

and mounted on the wall behind the President’s seat.

 

Service cover sent by the Delegation of Belgium on the Council to Yves Lambert, Secretary General. Postmarked in New York on 14 May 1981.

 

Terrestrial Globe donated by The Netherlands in 1976 and supported by a carved base.

Located in the center of the Council Chamber.

Photo ICAO Journal 1997, Volume 52, No.1, p.23.

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