Annex 17- Security: Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference


Developed by ICAO, the International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) contained in the nineteen Technical Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also called Chicago Convention) are applied universally and produce a high degree of technical uniformity which has enabled international civil aviation to develop in a safe, orderly and efficient manner. The Delegates at the Chicago Conference in 1944 could hardly have foreseen that, one day, hijackers and terrorists could turn the operational vulnerability and the fundamental openness of aviation into their dark opportunity.


Safety and security of international civil aviation have always been the goals of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). However, since the 1960s, aviation security (i.e., the protection of criminal acts against civil aviation) has taken on a new meaning with the rise of an extremely violent terrorism against aviation and became a key element of ICAO’s role in the world. On this issue, ICAO worked side-side with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In addition to several national and regional bodies, other organizations made important contributions to the security: the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association (IFALPA) and the Airports Council International (ACI); moreover, some decisions taken by powerful national or regional aviation organizations (such as the Federal Aviation Administration – FAA, or the European Civil Aviation Conference - ECAC) are often followed by others around the world.


On the legal side, a final draft Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft was prepared in 1962 for consideration, finalization, and adoption by the Diplomatic Conference convened at Tokyo by the ICAO Council from 20 August to 14 September 1963. The Tokyo Convention (Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft) entered into force on 4 December 1969 bringing closure to ICAO’s efforts on the subject since the 1950s.


Annex 17 - Security

The Tokyo Convention was ICAO’s first step in what would become a major international effort to combat the spread of aviation terrorism. The resolutions of the 16th ICAO Assembly held in Buenos Aires in 1968 called on the ICAO Council and the Member States to take action on this issue; further to that, the Council directed the Air Transport Committee and the Air Navigation Commission to initiate their own studies on the technical aspects related to the problems of airports and aircraft security. A new Committee on Unlawful Interference of Aircraft was created on 10 April 1969. The other major area for the Council’s action was, through the Legal Committee, to either refine the Tokyo Convention or create a wholly new convention. As the number of hijackings rose through 1969 and 1970, an Extraordinary Assembly (17th) was held in Montreal from 16 to 30 June 1970, specifically on the subject of aviation security; it produced a series of resolutions dealing with a wide range of security measures. In December 1972, initials standards for security were circulated for comments by the Member States. On 22 March 1974, the ICAO Council adopted the new International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) on aviation security, embodied in the first edition of the Annex 17 – Security – Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference. The primary objective of each Contracting State is safeguarding its passengers, ground personnel, crew as well as the general public against any acts of unlawful interference.


Still further to the 17th Assembly (Resolution A17-10), the Security Manual for Safeguarding Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference was developed to assist Contracting States in implementing Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention by providing guidance on the application of the SARPs found in the Annex. It was first published in November 1971.


In the atmosphere of crisis and on the legal side, two new Conventions were prepared. From 1 to 16 December 1970, 77 States met in The Hague for the signing of the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, which came into force on 14 October 1971; it took the Tokyo Convention and built on it incorporating several articles of the earlier Convention. From 8 to 23 September 1971, a full Diplomatic Conference (attended by 61 States) was held in Montréal and the Montréal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation was opened for signature; it came into force on 26 January 1973.


Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention was amended and updated on several occasions to reflect the practical experience and the changing nature of the threats to civil aviation. Following the tragedy of 9/11, a number of changes were recommended to Annex 17 and rapidly approved by the ICAO Council; some provisions of this Annex were also made applicable to domestic flights, giving it a unique character among the others. The Attachment to Annex 17 consolidates the provisions of other Annexes that specifically address the issues of aviation security.


In summary, Annex 17 contains Standards and Recommended Practices concerned with the security of international air transport and is regularly amended to address the evolving threat. A comprehensive document for the implementation of security measures, it incorporates an attachment of extracts from other Annexes, the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (Doc 9284), and Procedures for Air Navigation Services, focussing on action to be taken by States to prevent unlawful interference with civil aviation, or when such interference occurs.


With millions of passengers and cargo tonnage flown every year, the aviation industry is a high-profile target for terrorists and hostile acts around the world. Attempted and successful attacks have highlighted the threat to public safety and the vital importance of cargo security as an international priority. Many national governments have taken it upon themselves to mitigate threats by implementing their own cargo screening regulations for aircraft. As expressed in Annex 17, ICAO requires that appropriate security controls are applied to all cargo and mail before being loaded upon an aircraft, to prevent the introduction of explosives. This may be achieved through physical screening or by ensuring that cargo originates from a secure supply chain.


ICAO held its inaugural Global Aviation Security Symposium (AVSEC2017) in collaboration with Airports Council International (ACI) in September 2017. The three-day Symposium served as a platform to promote the work of ICAO, its Member States and stakeholders in the area of aviation security. AVSEC2017 brought together AVSEC professionals from around the globe to advance the cultivation of a new mindset towards aviation security, one that embraces AVSEC as a culture beyond a set of standards. It also strategically enhanced international cooperation and collaboration to address the threat posed by terrorists targeting civil aviation by reinforcing, strengthening and promoting the international framework of aviation security standards.


The fourth annual ICAO Global Aviation Security Symposium (AVSEC2020) was held in December 2020. ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu ended off the Symposium by inaugurating 2021 as the Year of Security Culture. In her closing remarks to this virtual event, which brought together over 1,500 global aviation security experts and officials, Dr. Liu noted that the overarching goal with the Year of Security Culture initiative will be to raise security awareness in aviation operations and have the entire sector thinking and acting in a security-conscious manner. In addition to being the Year of Security Culture, Dr. Liu reminded her audience that 2021 would also be the 20th commemoration of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and the dawn of the modern aviation security era. In acknowledging the challenging conditions 2020 and the pandemic have presented, Dr. Liu used the Symposium to highlight the extensive actions and resources which ICAO has realized, and spoke to both the challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 was posing to aviation stakeholders.


On 20 April 2023, at a closed briefing of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), 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. 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 explosive 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.

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.


India – 2 April 2012 - 25th Anniversary of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.

Initially set up as a cell in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in January 1978, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) in India was reorganized into an independent department on 1 April 1987 under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The main responsibility of the BCAS is to lay down standards and measures in respect of security of civil flights at international and domestic airports in India; it is the regulatory authority in India for the implementation of Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention.


This manual outlines the duties and responsibilities of ICAO Member States with respect to the establishment and management of a national civil aviation security oversight system. It is directed at high-level government decision makers, as it highlights States’ obligations as signatories to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) signed at Chicago on 7 December 1944, and provides information and guidance on the establishment and management of a State’s national civil aviation security oversight system, which may be required to fulfil those obligations.
This manual confines itself to the parameters of a Member State’s overall aviation security oversight responsibilities, emphasizing the State’s commitment to aviation security with respect to the State’s aviation activity. Several critical elements (CEs) have been identified as essential components of a civil aviation security oversight system and should be considered for the effective implementation of a security-related policy and associated procedures.