Singapore, Malaysia re-elected to International Civil Aviation Organisation's governing body; Indonesia fails again

Singapore has been in the International Civil Aviation Organisation's governing body since 2003.
Singapore has been in the International Civil Aviation Organisation's governing body since 2003. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore and Malaysia have been re-elected as the only two South-east Asian countries to sit in the decision-making body of the United Nations’ civil aviation arm - the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The inner circle, elected every three years when the ICAO assembly convenes, is made up of 36 member states.

Indonesia, which has tried the last few rounds to make it into this group, has failed again.

The list of 36 states was confirmed early on Wednesday morning (Singapore time) after three rounds of elections by ICAO member states that are meeting in Montreal, Canada until Oct 7.

Others on the list include a good mix of developed and developing countries like the United States, Australia, Japan, India and Mexico.

For Singapore, which has been in the governing body since 2003, the re-election this time has added significance, observers say.

This is given recent moves by Indonesia to reclaim parts of its airspace currently managed by Singapore air traffic controllers. 

The Republic has overseen the affected areas in Riau – including the resort islands of Batam and Bintan – since 1946. This was when it was handed the responsibility by the ICAO based mainly on technical capabilities.

Aviation law professor Alan Tan, from the National University of Singapore, said: "Indonesia has lobbied the ICAO member states vigorously to be elected to the council and if successful, it can be expected to raise the issue aggressively before the ICAO and to try to convince other states to support the flight information region re-designation."

Indonesian leaders have framed the issue as one involving national pride and sovereignty, claiming that Indonesia can overcome its lack of technical expertise, Prof Tan said.

Singapore, however, has emphasised repeatedly that managing the airspace which is based purely on technical capabilities does not compromise Indonesia's sovereignty.

Managing the current airspace is "critical for Singapore as it ensures seamless coordination of aircraft for landings and take-offs at Changi" Prof Tan said.

Indonesia first made known its intention on this matter last September when President Joko Widodo asked officials to improve their personnel and equipment, so the country can take over airspace management. The aim is to do so in three or four years, Indonesian media reported at the time.

In the meantime, Singapore is honoured to be re-elected to the ICAO's governing body, said Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, who led the Singapore delegation to the assembly.

"We will continue to contribute actively to the advancement of the ICAO’s mission" he said.

Singapore contributes in over 100 ICAO expert groups to help shape international standards in areas ranging from aviation safety, aviation security, airport operations, and air traffic management, to aviation environmental protection, air law, and aviation medicine, and currently holds leadership positions in 18 of them.

In addition, the Singapore Aviation Academy (SAA), the training arm of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) provides a wide range of specialised aviation training programmes for civil aviation professionals worldwide, to promote human capital development, the Transport Ministry said.

Many course participants attend on fellowships from the Singapore Government, with a significant number of these offered jointly with the ICAO.

It is on the back of such contributions that Singapore has made a strong case for its seat in the ICAO's governing body since 2003, observers say.

The election process is divided into three parts with states qualifying for nomination based on the stated criteria.

The countries elected this time are:

PART I - States of chief importance in air transport
Australia*, Brazil*, Canada*, China*, France*, Germany*, Italy*, Japan*, Russian Federation*, United Kingdom*, and the United States*.

PART II - States which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international civil air navigation
Argentina*, Colombia, Egypt*, India*, Ireland, Mexico*, Nigeria*, Saudi Arabia*, Singapore*, South Africa*, Spain* and Sweden.

PART III - ​States ensuring geographic representation
Algeria, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Kenya*, Malaysia*, Panama, Republic of Korea*, Turkey, United Arab Emirates*, United Republic of Tanzania*, and Uruguay. 

*Indicates re-election