Why AVSEC In MENA Region- Remains A Game of Musical Chairs.
Having spent the better part of 5 years in the Middle East and North African Region-MENA. It is an open secret that I strongly believe that, the region’s fundamental challenge in its improvement of Aviation Security Management, lies in the establishment and management of national civil aviation security oversight systems that create security regimes, highly effective in preventing acts of unlawful interference, but not unduly inhibiting the growth of civil aviation, interfering with its efficiency and productivity, imposing excessive costs, creating unwarranted operational inconveniences, or intruding unnecessarily into private rights or civil liberties.
That said, I am also a firm believer that the many Laws and Regulations, written to these effect in various countries in the region in question, are just bundles of papers bound together and USELESS if there is no political will from the Governments of the day, to enact their meaningful implementation, populate appropriate authorities competently enough to implement them, whilst ensuring oversight and accountability on all aspects these very laws and regulations are meant to safeguard.
As such, there is a pertinent need to look at the reasons why Aviation Security-AVSEC remains a game of musical chairs, yet it is an integral component of both National and Regional Security? Hence the need for a critical look at the Riyadh Declaration of 31st August 2016 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A principal outcome of the Global Ministerial Aviation Summit (29 - 31 August 2016), organized by authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in coordination with Arab Civil Aviation Commission-ACAC and the United Nation’s specialized lead agency for all matters aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization-ICAO.
As we enter the declaration’s 2017-2019 agenda period, the need to address the pertinent issues identified therein cannot be over emphasized, especially since these is a region suffering from acute-
- Inefficient and/or ineffective aviation security oversight systems;
- Lack of capacity in developing relevant documents for oversight activities, operational procedures in compliance with the Annex 17 – Security SARPs, and relevant security related aspects of Annex 9 – Facilitation and other required guidance materials;
- Inadequate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to support aviation security programmes implementation;
- Inadequate risk management skills; and
- Lack of sustainable capacity development and retention strategies.
Given the current aviation security terrorist attack exposures as well as the threat and risk outlook facing both the regional and international civil aviation. The challenges in safeguarding aviation security in the demanding environment the MENA region as a whole is, and the pertinent need to adequately empower the designated Appropriate Authorities for aviation security oversight at the national levels. The architects of the Riyadh Declaration 2016 must first and foremost to come to terms with the problem in leading any group, especially where members have their own agendas and must therefore in essence, create a sense of equal participation so as to guard against Middle Eastern groupthink snares.
The continuous need to improve the MENA States’ capacity and capability to address the current tenuous security environment, conflict zones, new and emerging threats. Coupled with the need to enhance the Levels of Effective Implementation of the critical elements of the Universal Aviation Security Oversight System, basic full compliance with the ICAO aviation security and facilitation-related Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) as enshrined in Annexes 17 and 9 to the Chicago Convention, and the implementation of States’ Corrective Action Plans. As well as the need to foster development of effective National Programmes: National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP), National Civil Aviation Security Training Programme (NCASTP), and National Civil Aviation Security Quality Control Programme (NCASQCP) and National Air Transport Facilitation Programme (NATFP) are but just a tip of the iceberg.
Based on the insufficient functioning of the National Aviation Security and Air Transport Facilitation Committees, and the challenges faced in establishing national coordination mechanism for facilitation and aviation security. The Riyadh Declaration proponents must also contend to the negative consequences of weak aviation security and facilitation cultures. The need to enhance guidance and training for aviation security and facilitation personnel in order to increase the number of competent/skilled professionals. As well as the challenges in the harmonization and intensification of assistance and capacity-building efforts.
Lest we forget, they will also have to face the stemming of insufficient systems and tools for the efficient, secure reading and verification of Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) at borders, including the use of the ICAO PKD and the INTERPOL Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database. Whilst contending to the slow pace of the implementation of aviation security and facilitation requirements of Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014), including the use of Advance Passenger Information (API) protocols.
There is also the problem of enhancing cooperation and collaboration regionally, sub-regionally and bilaterally to share information, as well as to provide technical assistance. As well as the promotion and facilitation of the sharing of Cyber Threat Indicators and Defensive Measures, promotion of the sharing of specific risk and threat assessments addressing surface-to-air concerns, such as Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), all of which are issues often swept under the carpet both Nationally and to an extent regionally, due to various vested interests.
Then comes the problem of promoting regional and sub-regional cooperation in the field of aviation security and facilitation training, they will need to relentlessly begin urging States manufacturing facilitation, aviation security equipment and software to remove all restrictions on selling and exporting such equipment and software to protect civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference. As well as taking steps to professionalize the roles of Aviation Security Managers and Officers, and or supporting operators when requested by foreign regulators to implement secondary measures at last points of departure.
Thereafter comes the headache of enhancing cargo security through fostering implementation of concepts such as the Secure Supply Chain- SSC, which includes the implementation of Regulated Agent and Known Consignor schemes, and the use of e-Consignment Security Declarations (CSD). As well as trying to promote the adoption of “One-Stop-Security” Concept through fostering the implementation of bilateral agreements for mutual recognition of security measures between MENA States;
Whilst at it, they must also strive towards ensuring the effective implementation of aviation security and facilitation requirements of Security Council Resolution 2178 on 24 September 2014, including the use of Advance Passenger Information (API) in line with international Standards as set by ICAO. As well as ensuring the inclusion of the INTERPOL Stolen and Lost Travel Document (SLTD) Database screening solutions within the regional, sub-regional and national aviation security and facilitation plans, all of which are currently a foreign myth to 95% of the MENA States with the exception of Qatar, UAE and probably Oman.
Then comes the need to improve border security through embracing, supporting and encouraging the extension of the INTERPOL Secure Global Communication System (I-24/7) beyond National Central Bureaus (NCBs) and more importantly to Border Control Points for access and effective use of the SLTD Database. Ensuring the coordination with relevant authorities for the removal of all non-Machine Readable Passports (MRP) from circulation and increase the effective use of the ICAO Aviation Security Point of Contact (PoC) network for real time information sharing, to at the very least try and promote the use of self-service options at airports to increase thorough passenger outputs and the reduction of crowding in vulnerable areas, especially the easily accessible Front of the House (FoH) areas.
The long and short of it all is that, declarations are NOT just papers to be presented at the ICAO Triennial assemblies for look good brownies, they are strategic pointers of what needs doing to not only improve and enhance AVSEC, but National Security as well. Especially based on the particular importance of maintaining uniformity in the effectiveness of worldwide standards, since the level of protection against acts of unlawful interference deriving from the implementation of security measures as stipulated in the international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) is only as strong as the weakest link in both the regional and global aviation networks.
With the new found shifting the buck excuse, now taking root in the Region, that of embracing the global trend to privatize airports and government aviation-related services. Where in states like Egypt and Kuwait, for example, the privatizing of the operational aspects of aviation security programmes, such as passenger and baggage screening are already in top gear. There is need to understand that, as much as outsourcing is often cost-effective and may provide high levels of security, this can only be achieved, as long as appropriate performance standards have been set and are closely monitored.
Where security functions will still be performed directly by civil service staff as is the case in most of the GCC part of the MENA region, it is equally important that an independent oversight infrastructure be mooted to provide close governmental control and supervision. In all instances, it is essential that controls and accountability exist at all levels within the aviation security system, and that a clear distinction is made between those regulating aviation security and those providing aviation security services. A situation that, the Riyadh Declaration 2016, left untouched since it is probably sacred so to speak.
2017 has just begun and the end of the 2019 agenda period is just 35 months away, let us see what the declaration will achieve or whether it was just another piece of paper well written to showcase the nothingness and game of musical chairs AVSEC in the MENA region still is ?�