ICAO emblem closely linked to its working languages


A question to be addressed by the Chicago Conference in 1944 was the language to be used by ICAO. Due to the dominance of the United States and Great Britain at the Conference and the fact that the discussions at the Conference were held in English, English would be used by the Organization. But the French delegation at the Conference made strong appeals for French to be used as an official language too; after all, French was spoken not only in France, but was important to other nations as well. The Spanish American countries proposed that, if more than one language is to be used, Spanish would be one of these. Other countries made proposals for Arabic and one Slavonic language such as Russian. On 1 December 1944, the Executive Committee of the Conference decided that there would be only three official languages used by the Organization at its beginnings; English, French and Spanish.


Figure 1

The compilation of the various emblems used by ICAO since its inception has shown a consistent evolution of the design according to the languages used by the Organization, with, however, the emphasis put on having a pattern close to the emblem of the United Nations, embracing the world through the spirit of cooperation to achieve the safe and orderly development of civil aviation.


Figure 2

Since 1946, ICAO used two versions of early emblems, with a design showing the eastern and western hemi­spheres between a pair of wings. One of these designs was embodied in the seal of the Organization. See Figure 1.


In October 1950, these early designs were substi­tuted by other simi­lar emblems. See Figure 2. Further to a request from ICAO to standardize the emblems of the Specialized Agencies, the Prepara­tory Committee of the Administrative Committee on Coordination at the United Nations, agreed on 10 July 1952, that, when new Agencies were consider­ing the adoption or changing an emblem, they should bear in mind the desirabil­ity of basing their design on the United Nations emblem.


Figure 3

In 1954, the two hemispheres between the wings of the ICAO emblem were replaced by the polar pro­jection of the world as shown in the UN emblem; it displayed longer wings set lower on the globe than on the current emblem. See Figure 3.


Figure 4

The first official emblem was eventually adopted by the 10th Session of the Assembly in 1956, with a design retaining a visible sign of ICAO's relationship with the United Nations. The acronyms ICAO and OACI depicted on the emblem reflect the English, French and Spanish acronyms of the Organization’s full name, and the languages used in the texts of the Chicago Convention and by ICAO’s Language Services. See Figure 4.


The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) deposited its instrument of adherence to the Convention on International Civil Aviation on 15 October 1970 and accordingly became the 120th member of ICAO on 14 November 1970. Further to a request from Mr. V. Kuznetsov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, to consider the question of introduction of the Russian language at ICAO, the 18th Session of the ICAO Assembly held in 1971 formally adopted Russian as working language, which shall be introduced at ICAO on the same scale as other working languages.


Figure 5

In 1974, in recognition of the introduction of Russian as a fourth language of the Organization, the 21st Session of the Assembly adopted a revised ICAO emblem incorporating the initials of the Organization in Cyrillic alphabet in the form of a transliteration or translation of each letter of the English acronym ICAO into the Cyrillic alphabet: ИКАО. This resulted in ICAO becoming the only UN Specialized Agency to include more than two acronyms in its emblem. See Figure 5.


Figure 6

 In 1974, the 21st Session of the Assembly approved the use of Arabic in correspondence between ICAO and the Arab States and interpretation at the Assembly Sessions and Regional Meetings for the Middle East. The use of Arabic in ICAO had been on a pragmatic and reasonable approach taking into account the real needs of the Arab Contracting States and the conditions at ICAO. The 26th Session of the Assembly held in 1986 approved Arabic as a working language at ICAO.


In 1977, the 22nd Session of the Assembly had decided to adopt the Chinese language as one of the working languages of ICAO and to introduce it in steps, the first one being the use of Chinese orally at sessions of the Assembly and Council beginning in 1978. The Chinese Unit was established on 1 October 1994.


In May 1995, a revision to the ICAO emblem was made to recognize the introduction of Arabic and Chinese as working languages of the Organization; it was adopted by the 31st Session of the Assembly in 1995 and superseded the prior emblem. This is the current emblem used at ICAO. See Figure 6.


The following displays a few postal stamps and first day covers with the various emblems used by ICAO over the time.


Emblem with longer wings, as in use from 1954.


Belgium: World's Fair, Brussels ‑ United Nations Issue – 1958.



Equatorial Guinea: 30th Anniversary of the United Nations - 1975



Antigua and Barbuda: 40th Anniversary of ICAO – 1985.

First official emblem, as approved in 1956.


Korea: 10th Anniversary of admission to ICAO – 1962.



Gabon: 20th Anniversary of ICAO – 1967.



Korea: The World of United Nations Organizations - 1971

Second official emblem, as approved in 1974.


Syria:  30th Anniversary of ICAO - 1977



Nigeria: 40th Anniversary of ICAO – 1984.



Iceland: 50th Anniversary of ICAO – 1994.

Third official emblem, as approved in 1995.


Kuwait: International Civil Aviation Day – 1999.



Philippines: 65th Anniversary of ICAO - 2009


Benin: 75th Anniversary of ICAO – 2019.



First official emblem, as approved in 1956.


Korea: 10th Anniversary of admission to ICAO – 1962.

Second official emblem, as approved in 1974.


Peru: 40th Anniversary of ICAO - 1985



Guatemala: 40th Anniversary of ICAO - 1987 

Third official emblem, as approved in 1995.


Romania: 65th Anniversary of ICAO - 2010




Philippines: 75th Anniversary of ICAO - 2019