The Regional Offices and the Regional Organization


Among the notable achievements of PICAO, and later ICAO, as an international organization, its regional organization has demonstrated to be an essential machinery countering any thread of isolationism such as that occurred soon after the first world war, when it had to carry devotion to a one-world concept of cooperation for setting international standards and regulations in civil aviation among its member states.


Even though a regional dimension of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was not called for specifically in the Chicago Convention, from the very beginning of PICAO`s work, it became quickly clear that some of the technical problems and navigational requirements confronting international civil aviation could be best solved on a regional basis among those states concerned in a given region. Recognizing the regional differences, the Provisional International Civil Aviation (PICAO) divided the world into ten flying or air navigation regions (the boundaries of which roughly coincided with the continental and oceanic masses) during the first Session of the Committee on Air Navigation held from 2 October 1945 to 27 November 1945 and the second Session of the Interim Council held from 15 October to 30 November 1945; in each of these regions, a regional office might be established. Regional arrangements or special regional organizations, called Regional Route Service Organizations (RRSO; from 3 April 1946, renamed Regional Air Navigation Meetings, RAN, as the original name presented difficulties of translation into other languages), would be necessary to plan special measures of cooperation on air navigation facilities, to consider the application and interpretation of standards and practices to meet situations particular to a given geographical area, and to study and develop local operating practices supplementing the international standards. The 10 original regions included the North Atlantic, European-Mediterranean, Middle East, Caribbean, South East Asia, South Atlantic, South Pacific, North Pacific, South America and African-Indian Ocean. Regional Route Service Conferences, later called Regional Air Navigation (RAN) meetings, would be held in each separate region or in areas that covered multiple regions.


Dublin – March 1946

First Regional Route Service Conference

Due to the existence of military facilities useful for international civil aviation and their probable discontinuance due to the cessation of the war hostilities, early coordinating actions were considered desirable and necessary for four of the ten regions: the North Atlantic, European-Mediterranean area, the Caribbean area, and the Near and Middle East. Because of the drastic curtailment of military air transport services in the North Atlantic, the first regional meeting to be held under the aegis of PICAO was the North Atlantic Route Service Conference which met in Dublin, Ireland, on 4 March 1946 and set the pattern for future gatherings of this kind.


The second meeting was convened in April 1946 in Paris at the request of France. Although Cuba would have been the ideal choice for the Caribbean meeting, this State was not yet a member of ICAO; the third meeting was therefore convened in Washington, DC, in August 1946. As regards the first meeting in the Middle East (MID), many factors were taken into consideration to choose Egypt, i.e. the strategic position of that country in relation to Europe, Africa and Asia, the international position of Egypt from the standpoint of air transportation demonstrated by the fact that many regular air routes passed over its territory, and the experience of the Egyptian authorities in international air transport operations in the Middle East. More information on the first regional meetings can be found by clicking on the following link: 1946: PICAO’s First Regional Air Navigation Meetings. The philatelic material issued for the Regional Air Navigation (RAN) Meetings is described in separate chapters of the ICAO Postal History.


Five RAN meetings were held during PICAO’s years, which created a Route Service or Regional Air Navigation Manual helping the implementation of the Standards and Recommended Practices. A regional office was usually established after a regional air navigation meeting being held in that region to compile and edit regional manuals, to act as a clearing house for correspondence and information, and to organize and serve as a secretariat for the regional meetings; at the time ICAO replaced the Provisional Organization in 1947, there were offices in:

1.     Paris for the European-Mediterranean Region (opened on 12 August 1946 and located in the accommodation occupied by ICAN, 60 bis Avenue d’Iéna; from October 1965, this office moved to new premises at 3bis Villa Émile-Bergerat, Neuilly-sur-Seine);

2.    Dublin for the North Atlantic Region (opened on 1 January 1947);

3.    Cairo for the Middle East Region (opened on 20 January 1947);

4.    Melbourne for the Far East and Pacific Region (a temporary mission was first maintained in Melbourne from in February 1947 and was later in 1948 converted into an interim Office located at the Almora House), to assist in and co-ordinate the execution of the plans agreed upon at the South Pacific Regional Meeting; and

5.    Montréal: the duties of the North American Office were carried out by the Air Navigation Bureau (ANB) at Headquarters.

In every case, however, the establishment of the regional offices was to be regarded as provisional.


On the recommendation of the First Assembly of ICAO (May 1947, Resolution A1-16), the Council reviewed the system of ICAO representation to States; it was decided in 1948 that increased efficiency and economy would result if the number of ICAO regional offices did not exceed five, each of them to be responsible for two of ICAO’s ten navigation regions. The new system in no way prejudiced the continued recognition and use of these air navigation regions, but changed the basis of ICAO representation from regional to territorial. Instead of a possible ten offices, there would be five: North American, South American, European and African, Middle East, and Far East and Pacific. The Paris Office was thus renamed European and African Office.


To avoid duplication and overlapping, only one ICAO field office would normally maintain liaison with each Contracting State, with effect of 1 May 1948; States with dependent territories could adopt a liberal attitude towards the establishment of direct relations between these territories and the nearest ICAO office, but they might, if they wish, require that liaison with their overseas possessions be maintained by the office accredited to the mother country.


The extent to which ICAO regional offices could be associated with regional offices of the United Nations would depend largely upon the location of the latter and the facilities which they would have. The ICAO offices, being purely technical extensions of ICAO Headquarters with limited staff, would hardly be in a position to assist other organizations; on the other hand, a regional office or information center of the United Nations, especially if located in the same city as an ICAO branch office, could offer ICAO the use of valuable administrative facilities.


Within ANB, a new post of Chief, Regional Organization (later renamed Regional Affairs) was created in 1948 with the responsibility of the administration, direction and coordination of the work of the regional offices; a section of this new office functioned as the North American Office. The ICAO Council having decided during its Third Session in February 1948 that there were no technical grounds for the continuance of the Dublin Office, arrangements were made to transfer its responsibilities to the Paris Office. In 1948, the existing South Pacific Mission at Melbourne was converted into an interim Far East and Pacific Office, with the understanding that the question of its permanent site be raised later. A Regional Office was established at Lima, Peru in November 1948 for the South American region.


The ten air navigation regions were reduced to eight during the 16th Session of the ICAO Council held from 15 May to 15 July 1952, first by amalgamation of the North and South Pacific regions into a single Pacific region, and then by uniting the South American and South Atlantic, retaining the name of the former.


On 28 October 1952 during its Seventeenth Session, the ICAO Council authorized the moving of the Far-East and Pacific Office from Melbourne to a site on the main land of Asia, closer to the center of activities of the area which it served, i.e. Bangkok, Kingdom of Thailand. This office started functioning from there with effect from 3 January 1955; after spending a short time in ‘Sala Santitham’ and a transit accommodation, the Asia and Pacific Office moved to its present location (on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok) in June 1989. In 1956, it was decided that the North American and Caribbean Regional Office be separated from the Regional Affairs Office in ANB and established as a separate entity in Mexico City; this transfer became effective on 15 February 1957. Thus at that time, five Regional Offices existed in five different cities over the world, i.e. Bangkok, Cairo, Lima, Mexico, and Paris.


In 1960-1962, new countries were created by decolonization in Africa and 23 new States joined ICAO in just three years. As a consequence, a sixth Regional Office began functioning in 1963 in Dakar, Senegal for the African States (most of the countries in Africa were previously served by the European and Middle East Offices) and was fully operational on 1 December of the same year. 


A need for a further revision of the regional structure was expressed at the 14th Session (held in Rome in 1962; Resolution A14-20) and the 15th Session (held in Montréal in 1965; Resolution A15-11) of the ICAO Assembly, which directed the Council to undertake a study of the regional structure in the light of existing and future developments, and to overcome certain problems such as those posed by the overlapping of the regions and by the non-inclusion of certain areas. The results of the Council's study confirmed that planning on an area basis should continue and that the concept of dividing the world into air navigation regions should be retained, but mainly to provide a starting point in establishing the geographical area to be considered by a particular regional air navigation (RAN) meeting, and to serve as a basis for the distribution over a series of air navigation plan publications of all planned facilities and services resulting from the regional planning processes. The resulting regional structure comprised at that time the following eight regions: African (AFI); Asia-Pacific (ASIA/PAC); Caribbean (CAR); European (EUR); Middle-East (MID); North-American (NAM); North-Atlantic (NAT); and South-American (SAM). The names of these regions were occasionally revised over the past years.


The EUR Office took over the offices of the ICAN Secretariat (International Commission for Air Navigation) and remained there for its first 19 years until August 1965, when it moved to 60 bis, avenue d'Iéna, Paris. This seems to demonstrate certain continuity, at least as far as organizational measures in international civil aviation are concerned.


On 27 May 1969 during its Sixty-seventh Session, the ICAO Council approved the transfer of the Headquarters Regional Affairs Office and the then six Regional Offices from the office of the Director of the Air Navigation Bureau to the Secretary General’s Office.


ICAO Regional Offices

At the beginning of 1982, the ICAO Secretary General visited Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. These States had indicated their willingness to become the host State for the establishment of the new regional office in Eastern Africa. The Secretary General’s findings and recommendations were submitted to the Council during its 105th Session and, on 29 March 1982, the Council selected Nairobi, Kenya as the site of the Eastern African regional office, subject to the conclusion of satisfactory arrangements with the Government of Kenya in respect of office accommodation, other essential facilities and the granting of customary privileges and immunities. Inaugurated on 1 December 1983, the seventh regional office was established in Nairobi, assuming the responsibilities for Eastern Africa, returning thus Cairo to its original function as the Middle East Office; the Nairobi office is located at the UN Office at Gigiri, United Nations Avenue, off-Limuru Road. Later in the 1980s, the Nairobi office became the Eastern and Southern African Office and the one in Dakar was renamed the Western and Central African Office. All the activity of the regional offices is currently coordinated through the Regional Affairs Office at headquarters.


Names and responsibilities of ICAO’s regional offices changed over the years and in 2013 the seven regional offices were as follows:

  1. Asia and Pacific Office, in Bangkok (renamed in 1980);
  2. Eastern and Southern African Office, in Nairobi;
  3. European and North Atlantic Office, in Paris;
  4. Middle East Office, in Cairo;
  5. North American, Central American and Caribbean Office, in Mexico City;
  6. South American Office, in Lima; and
  7. Western and Central African Office, in Dakar.


As the Asia Pacific (APAC) Region represented one of the fastest growing aviation markets, the ICAO Council, during its 194th Session on 14 November 2011, agreed to establish a Regional Sub-Office (RSO) in this region, with the objective to enhance support to States in the region. It would have the mandate to improve airspace organization and management to maximize air traffic management (ATM) performance across the APAC Region; the new RSO complements the ongoing work and higher-level regional coordination already established through ICAO’s Asia and Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand. Four States had indicated their willingness to host that Sub-office: China, India, Republic of Korea, and Singapore. During its 197th on 5 November 2012, the Council endorsed the Secretary General’s recommendation that the APAC Regional Sub-Office be established in China; it was inaugurated at Beijing on 27 June 2013.  The advanced Beijing facility responds directly to the need for increased resources and the establishment of performance-driven success criteria, directly related to meeting the Asia/Pacific region’s projected ATM and capacity challenges; this Sub-Office is hosted in Beijing by the Civil Aviation Administration in China (CAAC). It will also benefit tremendously from the knowledge and experience gained through ICAO’s Asia/Pacific Flight Procedure Programme Office, which was also located in Beijing.


On 22 February 2017 at Mexico, at a special anniversary ceremony celebrating the founding of ICAO’s North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACC) Regional Office 60 years earlier, Dr. Fang Liu, ICAO’s Secretary General, remarked that the UN agency’s team in Mexico City will continue to make crucial contributions to the development of regional air connectivity over the coming decades; in fact, the NACC Regional Office is pivotal to the effective coordination of safe, secure and reliable air services, especially in light of the fact that that region was responsible for more than 25% of international traffic. Among other celebrations commemorating the 60th anniversary of NACC Office’s establishment in 1957, a stamp and a first day cover were issued on 7 December 2017. See more details about this philatelic issue at: Mexico: 60th Anniversary of the NACC Regional Office.


The regional organization in existence within the framework of ICAO helped and still helps to strengthen the centralized efforts towards practical international cooperation. Although never very large in terms of staff and under the supervision of the Headquarters, the regional offices play an important role in helping ICAO Member States implement the Organization’s standards and procedures and acting as a kind of information liaison between local governments (i.e. civil aviation officials) and the headquarters. Each office is staffed by administrative personnel and aviation experts in a wide variety of technical areas. In addition to holding seminars and workshops to discuss regional issues, the regional offices produce regional navigational plans which have become the main vehicle for the achievement of standardization in a region. The regional offices also helped in the planning and implementation of technical assistance projects.


Regional Air Navigation Meetings (up to 1953)

North Atlantic Region


March 1946

European-Mediterranean Region


April 1946

Caribbean Region


August 1946

Middle East Region


October 1946

South Pacific Region


February 1947

South American Region


June 1947

South Atlantic Region

Rio de Janeiro

July 1947

North Atlantic Region (2nd Meeting)


May 1948

European-Mediterranean Region (2nd Meeting)


May 1948

North Pacific Region


July 1948

South-East Asia Region

New Delhi

November 1948

African-Indian Ocean Region


March 1949

Caribbean Region (2nd Meeting)


April 1950

Middle East Region (2nd Meeting)


October 1950

European-Mediterranean Region (3rd Meeting)


February 1952

South American/South Atlantic Region

Buenos Aires

October 1951

2nd South-East Asia and Limited 2nd South Pacific Region


January 1953

2nd African-Indian Ocean Region

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary islands

November 1953


PICAO Route Service Organizations


From 1946 to 1965, the European and African Office (as named at that time) was located at 60bis, Avenue d'Iéna in Paris (left picture), within a short distance of the very centre of the French capital, the Étoile. This building was occupied for many years by the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN) and was first opened as an ICAO Office in August 1946. It was increasingly used as the site for ICAO meetings held in Europe.

After that, the Office moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine (3Bis, Villa Émile-Bergerat, picture on the right).



Eight current Air Navigation Regions.

For air navigation purposes, ICAO Member States are grouped by air navigation region.

Some states may have flight information regions in multiple regions.


Commercial cover sent from the Republic of Korea to the Chief, Regional Affairs Office.

Postmarked on 11 December 1998.


First Day Cover issued on 7 December 2017 for the 60th Anniversary of the NACC Regional Office.















Various slogan meters related to the Regional Offices.



Official correspondence sent from Bangkok Office (in Sala Santitham) to the Office in Mexico, with the imprint of the International Civil Aviation Organization on the back flap. Dated 24 July 1958.