Silvia Gehrer on her ICAO Council membership
Silvia Gehrer, Austria, ICAO Council member for the Abis group 2004-2007:
From Vienna to Montreal: What a privilege, what an honour it meant to be selected in 2004 as representative to ICAO, not only for Austria, but also for Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and Switzerland!!
Austria had already joined the Abis rotation group in 1980, but until 2004 Austria had never yet had a representative on the ICAO Council, or in the Air Navigation Commission.
I arrived in Montreal mid-April 2004 and my first day was a cold day with an incredible blue sky. I entered the ICAO building with a lot of respect and found a welcoming Abis office and a very kind Irish representative, Anne McGinley, who introduced me to the world of ICAO and helped me to gain a better understanding of both ICAO and the ABIS office. She explained how ICAO functions and in particular my future role as a member of the ICAO Council. Anne was an extraordinary lady, clever, well respected, humorous and always fighting for the best development of aviation and ICAO. Anne died much too early already several years ago, but I will always fondly remember her as the one person who opened the doors of ICAO to me.
Once Austria had been selected as Council member during the ICAO Assembly in 2004 “real life” in ICAO began for me. I felt a great deal of responsibility taking the right decisions and making useful and valuable contributions in the Council deliberations to support the development of a more safe and secure aviation system. Furthermore, I was representing all Abis members and shared information to support our aviation authorities in their daily work.
During my years on the Council an era ended: Dr. Kotaite left ICAO after having served as Council President for 30 years (1976-2006) guiding the Council throughout all these years with fortune and great skill. To my view ICAO changed considerably (which perhaps is taken for granted today) during this time and I would like to highlight some of the developments and major achievements during 2004-2007
In 2004 ICAO started with a new audit cycle and conducted audits under the “systems approach”, covering all the safety elements of the 16 ICAO Annexes. During summer 2005 a number of fatal accidents happened and ICAO reacted by organizing a worldwide Safety Conference that successfully led to concrete measures. One of the major achievements of this Conference was the decision to publish the results of the USOAP. One of the biggest ongoing challenges was the lack of implementation of ICAO Standards and Recommendations in many States. A new initiative, an action plan for Africa, was created. Furthermore, it became clear that ICAO’s safety framework lacks behind the needs of States and the industry and needed to be addressed urgently.
In 2005 the Council decided on a new amendment (Amendment 11) which became applicable on 1st July 2006. On the future scope of USAP (Universal Security Audit Program) with regard to the new cycle of audits an understanding on a number of principles was reached. In June 2007 updated guidelines for the carriage and screening of liquids, gels and aerosols were agreed.
Aviation and Environment
After first steps towards market-based measures had been taken at the Assembly in 2004 it took a while until stock-taking on measures had taken place. Although it seems that not very much happened in the environmental area, some achievements and developments besides the results of CAEP have to be acknowledged:
- establishment of environment as one of the 3 key strategic objectives
- recognition of the importance of environment in ICAO by giving more resources to the ICAO environment unit (budget, personnel)
- realization – also due to media coverage on climate change and obvious climate changes in their respective countries – that action in ICAO is necessary and that aviation has to contribute in one way or the other.
There were a number of initiatives to make ICAO more efficient and transparent by the introduction of strategic objectives (safety, security and environment), modern management methods and focus on governance (business plan, performance-oriented budget, more transparent working methods, gender), some changes in the structure, a leaner administration and more transparent procedures for the elections of the top positions by introducing hearings for candidates and limiting the terms of the top positions.
Looking back - my time that I spent in Council seems to be very short and limited in scope to meet worldwide challenges. What I have taken along from this period is a profound understanding of the global importance the ICAO organization to serve all States and to reach consensual results that all States are able to follow. It is therefore the profound responsibility of Council members to professionally contribute to the objectives of ICAO for the benefit of all its Member States.