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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Increasing Threat of UAS Attacks on Airports and Air Travel

ICAO is concerned about the recurrent threat of improvised explosives devices, increased risks relating to insider threats, the misuse of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), vulnerabilities of civilian aircraft over or near conflict zones, and cyber attacks.

At a closed briefing to the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the United Nations Security Council on April 20, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar underscored the important progress being achieved to address terrorist threats to international civil aviation. 

He emphasized the improved coordination established between ICAO, the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), and the continued importance of their combined efforts. 

“Terrorism is still one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, civil aviation is still seen as an attractive target, and the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted both the critical importance and persisting vulnerabilities of the global aviation system,” he underscored in his introduction. 

High priority aviation security risks are identified in ICAO’s Aviation Security Global Risk Context Statement, the latest update of which takes note of the recurrent threat of improvised explosives devices, increased concerns relating to insider threats, the misuse of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), risks to civilian aircraft over or near conflict zones, and system vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks. 

UAS in particular are becoming more advanced and more accessible, with terrorist groups and organized crime demonstrating an increased consideration for deploying this attack vector in civilian environments. 

With regard to the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2309 (2016), the ICAO Secretary General confirmed that much has been accomplished. This includes two amendments to Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention to help improve the global detection of explosives in airport screening operations, better address insider threats, and to encourage and promote a robust global aviation security culture, among other objectives. 

Mr. Salazar underlined recent ICAO contributions to address these priorities via the establishment of its specialized Cyber-Security and Aviation Trust Framework panels, as well as its comprehensive Year of Security Culture initiatives. 

ICAO also provides important contributions to the Counter Terrorism Committee Country assessments led by CTED, and the development of global reference documents on biometrics, critical infrastructure protection, and preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons. 

Referencing the results being achieved through the Global Counter Terrorism Coordination Compact led by the UNOCT, Mr. Salazar drew attention to the UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme, and newly implemented Threat Assessment Models program. 

The Secretary General expressed his “deep appreciation to the Counter Terrorism Committee for its continuing interest and support toward the protection of civil aviation against terrorism,” appreciating the trust now being placed in ICAO’s expertise in support of the CTC’s global efforts. 

Mr. Salazar’s remarks were echoed by Ms. Natalia Gherman, the Assistant Secretary General and Executive Director of CTED, who commented that “CTED remains committed to working closely with ICAO and UNOCT on our ongoing work and developments related to the full breadth of civil aviation.” 

Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, reiterated UNOCT’s commitment to strengthening global cooperation to deter and prevent terrorist threats to civil aviation, alongside Global Counter-Terrorism Compact partners, including ICAO. He outlined the achievements of joint programmes such as the Program on Threat Assessment Models for Aviation Security and United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Program.

Read more at ICAO

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