The Technical Co-operation Programme


As the world’s rule-making body for international civil aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was created to promote the safe, orderly and efficient development of civil aviation. One aspect of the Organization’s work has been, nearly since its creation, the assistance to States in improving civil aviation through projects implemented under ICAO’s Technical Assistance (or Co-operation) Programme.


Technical Assistance is not a new concept; it is one of the oldest things in the world. The Expanded Program of Technical Assistance for economic development of underdeveloped countries, undertaken by the United Nations (UN) and the specialized agencies, has a history going back to the San Francisco Conference of 1945. The signatories of the United Nations Charter were aware that it was insufficient to create an Organization, which should attempt to maintain international peace and security without at the same time promoting the economic and social conditions of peace.


It was, however, as a result of US President Truman's initiative that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in February 1949 asked the Secretary General and the heads of the specialized agencies to work out a "comprehensive plan for the expanded program of technical assistance," and in August 1949, having considered that plan, evolved in Resolution 222(IX) detailed machinery for its administration. What remained was to find the money to finance it, and in July 1950 all members, not only of the United Nations but also of the specialized agencies, were invited to Lake Success to pledge contributions to a new Technical Assistance Fund. In a remarkably short and harmonious conference, just over $20 million was pledged for the first 18 months of the scheme. For the first time in history, most nations in the world had publicly accepted a financial obligation to take part in a co-operative program of technical assistance to the underdeveloped countries and bound themselves to do all that they can to make it a success. It was established as a separate account set up for voluntary contributions toward technical assistance to finance activities not only of the UN itself but also of the specialized agencies. Machinery was established for distributing financial resources and coordinating projects, and the whole enterprise was called the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA), to distinguish it from the UN's technical assistance financed under the regular budget.


United Nations New York – 24 October 1953

UN Programme of technical assistance to developing countries commemorated on UN Day (2 stamps).

By the end of August, about 11% of the pledged funds had already been paid in and a start had been made with the operation. Under Resolution 222(IX), the method of work had been very carefully prescribed. The first $10 million of the contribution was automatically available for distribution among the participating organizations in fixed proportions. These organizations were, in addition to the United Nations, the following Specialized Agencies: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and World Health Organization (WHO). The organizations should provide expert technicians or training facilities only in response to requests from governments. To ensure co-ordination and to prevent any duplication of work, a Technical Assistance Board (TAB) had been set up on which each agency is represented, and in whose discussions the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund participated. The Technical Assistance Board remained responsible to the Economic and Social Council which had set up a Technical Assistance Committee (TAC) consisting of its full membership to receive regular reports from the Board.


As an equally important component of ICAO’s work, the development of the Technical Assistance at ICAO is described in the following link: Technical Assistance : The First Steps at ICAO. To assist him in drawing up his recommendations for technical assistance, the ICAO Secretary General established in 1950 a Technical Assistance Advisory Board consisting, of the Directors of the Air Navigation and Air Transport Bureaus and the External Relations Officer, to whom was assigned the responsibility for the supervision and co-ordination of the ICAO Technical Assistance Programme. The technical assistance extended by ICAO had taken three main forms: training abroad to the assisted countries, technical missions for advice and supervision, and provision of expert technical personnel.


The increasing magnitude of ICAO activities under the Technical Assistance Programme led the ICAO Secretary General at the beginning of October 1952 to create a self-standing Bureau, the Technical Assistance Bureau (TAB), headed by a Director; it is to be noted there is no word about technical assistance in the Chicago Convention. Within its first ten years, hundreds of individuals received fellowships and scholarships, and were trained as technicians, mechanics, and in other fields, and dozens of governments and civil aviation establishments received aid, advice, and organizational help from trained experts. Training personnel remained an important activity in ICAO’s Technical Assistance Programme, along with the creation and improvement of civil aviation training centers.


ICAO’s participation in the EPTA was based upon the fact that, in many of the less developed countries, quick improvement in the means of transport was essential for their economic expansion. Roads, railroads and waterways were often few in number and poor in quality; in some countries no channels of communication existed other than camel or donkey tracks. Under these circumstances, aviation offered very speedy transport in return for a much lower capital outlay than was necessary for the construction of roads and other means of surface transport. But the development of civil aviation for national and international air transport required the construction and operation of aerodromes, the training of mechanics and other technical personnel, the provision of radio, meteorological and air traffic services. The ICAO program therefore brought knowledge and experience from those countries which were technically advanced. Under the Technical Assistance Program, emphasis was on advice and training with the intention of helping states to help themselves. Nationals of the less developed states were trained in their own countries when the number to be trained was large and in other countries when training is more specialized. Missions established technical training centers; fellowships were granted to permit study in advanced countries; on-the-job training was carried out in many nations.


During World War II, Mr. Ervin Ross ("Spike") Marlin worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the USA. He was a Member of the Secretariat at the Conference on International Civil Aviation held in Chicago in 1944. He was one of the first Members of the PICAO Secretariat, and served with the Organization for seventeen years. The first years of this period saw Mr. Marlin successively as Administrative Officer, Liaison Officer and External Relations Officer for ICAO. When the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance of the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies began, Mr. Marlin was assigned to direct ICAO's participation; he became the first Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau when this Office was created in November 1952. He left ICAO in 1962 for appointment as Senior Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.



25 January 1965 – United Nations Special Fund issue (2 stamps).


On 14 October 1958, the UN General Assembly resolved to establish the Special Fund in order to enlarge the scope of the UN programme of technical assistance in certain basic fields addressing large projects and to speed economic growth and social advancement in low-income countries; it was created out of the conviction that accelerating development in those countries would be vital to maintenance of international peace and that all nations would benefit from an expanded economy. On 22 November 1965 and further to UN General Assembly Resolution 2029(XX), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was founded with the merger of the EPTA and the Special Fund and became effective on 1 January 1966; the rationale was to avoid duplication of their activities. The UNDP is still in operation today and currently is a huge organization; it works with local governments to meet development challenges and develop local capacity. The Director of the UNDP is the third ranking member of the UN Secretariat (after the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General). UNDP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from member nations.



23 January 1967 – United Nations Development Programme issue (2 stamps).

 It should also be mentioned that, as the years passed, additional technical assistance work was conducted via the ICAO Regional Offices, which were on the spot and could have a better idea of the needs of each particular region. For several years, the main source for funding ICAO’s Technical Assistance Programme came via the UNDP. For its work, ICAO receives administrative fees to cover the cost of managing project activities.


Started in 1968, the ICAO Associate Experts Programme provides university graduates with the possibility of acquiring work experience with international organizations by contributing to policy formulation and implementation of activities in the field of development co-operation; they are provided by donor countries to assist ICAO experts in the field.


Over the years, several other forms of funding were developed and came to play an important role in ICAO’s Technical Assistance or Cooperation Programme, as follows:

1.   Trust Funds: Started in 1959, the Funds-in-Trust schemes are used by governments to finance their own (or another state’s) civil aviation development through ICAO. With the help of ICAO staff, a project can be designed to meet the express needs of the government. Normally, Trust Fund projects are administered under the same regulations as UNDP projects. Some Trust Fund projects, however, are funded by third parties: donor States or funding agencies.

2.  Voluntary Assistance Programme: As the rapid technical development in civil aviation required from developing States substantial expenditures in aviation ground facilities to match that development, the 16th Session of the Assembly (held at Buenos Aires, from 3 to 26 September 1968) authorized the Council by Resolution A16-7 to receive voluntary contributions in the form of scholarships, fellowships, training equipment and funds for training from States and other public and private sources.

3.  Associate Experts: The ICAO Associate Experts Programme began in 1968; agreements may exist between ICAO and Member States through which these countries provide associate experts to assist ICAO experts in the field, at Regional Offices or at ICAO Headquarters.

4.  Management Service Agreements (MSA): Started in 1995, Management Service Agreements are another method to finance projects and are a form of Trust Fund Agreement and in most aspects similar in nature to these agreements with one major exception. Under an MSA, the cost of providing the service is calculated so that all management and administration costs incurred by the Organization are recovered. Accordingly, a specific handling charge based on the estimated actual cost of delivering the services and not on a fixed percentage of the contract value is included in the contract. The Lump Sum Agreement (LSA) is a variant of the MSA and relates to activities of a short duration, with a total amount payable fixed in the agreement.

5.  Civil Aviation Purchasing Service (CAPS): Created in the mid-1970s, the ICAO CAPS was established to help developing states acquire major aviation equipment, from the preparation of specifications to the procurement, contracting and purchasing of the equipment, thus relying on ICAO’s expertise and purchasing system.

6.  External Funding: In response to Assembly Resolution A24-16 (24th Session held from 20 September to 7 October 1983), technical cooperation activities may also be financed through external sources (thus other than UNDP and governments) funding their own projects, such as aircraft manufacturers, international banks, etc.


As a result of changes in the thinking of the United Nations System, the ICAO Council, during its 132nd Session (held from 25 February to 28 March 1991), considered it prudent to replace the term Technical Assistance by Technical Co-operation. Accordingly, the name of the Technical Assistance Bureau was re-designated to the Technical Co-operation Bureau (TCB) and the programme to the Technical Co-operation Programme. The term development co-operation should more commonly used to express the idea that a partnership exists between donor and recipient, rather than the traditional situation in which the relationship was dominated by the wealth and specialized knowledge of one side only.


The 31st Session of the Assembly (held at Montréal, from 19 September to 4 October 1995) approved the transition to a New Policy on technical co-operation (Resolution A31-14). The continuous decline of funding from UNDP and other source had seriously affected the Technical Co-operation Programme. Whereas the advisory role of ICAO to Contracting States should be complemented and strengthened at the country and regional levels for the effective implementation of ICAO International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and Air Navigation Plans (ANPs) by the Technical Co-operation Programme, Resolution A31-14 includes the establishment of a funding mechanism as well as the objectives of the new policy which emphasize the global implementation of SARPs and ANPs, and the development of civil aviation master plans. This Resolution replaced Resolution A29-20 on the organizational structure and financial arrangements for Technical Co-operation activities.


ICAO’s Technical Co-operation Bureau provides in-depth technological assistance to States with their aviation projects, supports ICAO’s Strategic Objectives (Aviation Safety, Air Navigation Capacity and Efficiency, Security and Facilitation, Environmental Protection, Sustainable and Economic Development of Air Transport) and contributes to the global and uniform implementation the International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). The ICAO Technical Co-operation Programme has been in operation since 1951; it has made invaluable contributions to international civil aviation and remains a permanent priority activity of the Organization.


Technical assistance is a major component of the No Country Left Behind (NCLB) initiative, which focuses on assisting all States on prioritized needs to improve implementation support under all ICAO Strategic Objectives. The delivery of the results of ICAO’s Strategic Objectives, especially the implementation of the NCLB initiative, contributes significantly to the realization of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Building partnerships and pooling resources among States, international organizations, development institutions and industry are essential for collaboration on and contribution to technical assistance and cooperation for effective implementation of SARPs and policies by States with sustainable results.


Since its establishment in 1952, the Technical Assistance Bureau has implemented civil aviation projects with an accumulated value in excess of US$ 2 billion. With an average annual programme size of over US$ 120 million, it is involved in approximately 250 projects each year with individual project budgets ranging from less than US$ 20 000 to over US$ 120 million. To date, TCB has helped over 115 countries, deploying annually approximately 1200 international and national experts.


TCB assists States to improve their operational safety, security, and efficiency to contribute to the global and uniform implementation of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). With more than six decades of experience, and drawing upon all of the technical expertise and knowledge available within ICAO, TCB’s mission is to provide unrivalled in-depth assistance to States with their aviation projects. Moreover, there is a need for increased technical cooperation and assistance across the full spectrum of civil aviation to achieve the goals of the ICAO No Country Left Behind (NCLB) initiative. In this respect, the vision of ICAO’s Technical Cooperation Bureau is to enable States to attain a high standard of SARPs compliance, thereby reaping the economic and social benefits related to air transport. TCB understands the needs and challenges of the aviation world and from experience knows how to overcome those problems with efficiency and effectiveness.


In 2022, the ICAO Technical Cooperation Bureau (TCB) launched its new portfolio of products and services to better meet the needs of Member States. With the aim to ensure a more resilient and a more sustainable global air transport sector, ICAO TCB provides crucial support to the aviation community in the realization of this important objective.

TCB partners with Member States aim to achieve strategic and compliance outcomes in aviation safety, capacity and efficiency, security and facilitation, environmental protection, and economic development. TCB provides clients with:

1.   Subject Matter Experts. Since inception, TCB recruits and deploys “World Class” international experts to aid States in civil aviation for the implementation of projects to realize their strategic objectives. Under the Global Outreach for Aviation Leadership initiative (ICAO Goals), TCB maintains a modernized roster/database of subject matter experts in aviation for deployment to the States, under two types of contractual modalities (Personnel): Advisors and Operational Assistance (OPAS) experts.

2.  Recruitment of National Professionals. TCB supports clients by administering National Project Professionals (NPPs) and/or National Support personnel. By contracting national professionals through TCB, clients can offer and compete for professionals with competitive remuneration packages to sustain special projects in aviation, including transitioning towards the establishment of national Civil Aviation Administrations (CAAs).

3.  Training and Capacity Building. TCB ensures availability of access to world-class training opportunities to all member states and fellowship to facilitate development of highly qualified and competent personnel for the global air transport system, in accordance with the prevailing international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). Since its establishment in January 2014, the objective of ICAO’s Global Aviation Training Programme has been to provide Member States with targeted assistance and to support their human resource capacity building. Through the TRAINAIR PLUS Programme’s (TPP) growing network of training organizations, academic institutions and corporate partners, over one hundred TPP Members across all regions have implemented training activities in 75 Member States, including the delivery of ICAO-recognized courses.

4.  Procurement of Goods and Services. A safe and secure modern air transport system needs modern aviation equipment and services. ICAO offers a full turnkey, procurement of goods and services. ICAO’s procurement service is unique in that it offers the clients an assurance of quality, neutrality and transparency with no commercial interest. TCB is proud of its past performance in ensuring No Country Left Behind (NCLB) in the modern aviation system. From Air Safety to Cyber Security, Civil Aviation Master Plans to Remote Piloted Air Systems, TCB can support the procurement needs.

5.  Project Management and Financial Monitoring. TCB has adopted PRINCE2 project management methodology to deliver its services to clients. Its Project Management team is fully trained and certified PRINCE2 as Practitioners. All TCB’s projects are closely monitored to ensure that results are achieved on time and on budget.

6.  Implementation Packages (iPack). To support States in their compliance efforts, various Implementation Packages (iPacks) have been made available. An iPack is a bundle of standardized guidance material, training, tools and expert support which aim to facilitate and guide the implementation of ICAO provisions for State entities (e.g., Governments, Civil Aviation Authorities, National Air Transport Facilitation Committees, etc.), aviation service providers, supply chain stakeholders and their personnel.


Service cover sent by the UN Technical Assistance Board

to ICAO’s Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau - Postmark dated 11 May 1954.


Liberia – 25 October 1954 - United Nations Technical Assistance Programme.

Full sheet of 25 stamps with marginal inscriptions.

The stamp lists the United Nations Agencies co-operating in technical assistance with nations throughout the world, and in particular in Liberia (from top to bottom): World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, Technical Assistance Administration, International Civil Aviation Organization, Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Telecommunication Union, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Monetary Organization. (Note that the World Monetary Organization does not correspond to any organization; however, the designers should have more properly used the term of World Monetary System, which groups the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.)


Service cover sent by the UN Technical Assistance and Special Fund project in Mogadiscio, Somalia

to ICAO’s Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau. This cover was sent by pouch to New York and then forwarded by regular mail to ICAO. Postmark dated 15 November 1962.


Service cover sent by the UN Technical Assistance Board

to ICAO’s Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau - Postmark dated 18 December 1962.


UN Technical Assistance and Special Fund project in Lomé, Togo – Postmark dated 22 July 1963.


UN Technical Assistance and Special Fund project in Skopje – Postmark dated 18 November 1964.

This project was initiated further to the Skopje earthquake (26 July 1963).

This was one of the places where the UN Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance and the Special Fund improved the lives of whole populations along many of the dimensions of human development. The Special Fund led the UN System in supporting a massive reconstruction of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia (then a Republic of Yugoslavia), after the earthquake.


Service cover sent from the United Nations in New York to ICAO’s Technical Assistance Bureau.

Slogan related to the 20th anniversary of ICAO; Special Fund 5-cent stamp.


Service cover sent by the United Nations Development Programme to ICAO - Postmark dated 22 May 1969.


Commemorative cover with special slogan: UNDP – PARTERS IN WORLD DEVELOPMENT. Dated 9 May 1989.