What is the ICAO and what is it responsible for?

The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) is an aviation body belonging to the United Nations. Headquartered in Canada, the aviation authority was formed to regulate the global aviation industry by enforcing a set of standards. These standards cover the fields of international air navigation and the planning, development and manufacturing of aircraft. Its goal is to ensure safety across the aviation industry through setting these standards, and its vision is to “achieve the sustainable growth of the global civil aviation system”.

Member states

There are 193 member states of the ICAO. The ICAO monitors each of these member states, helping them adhere to the same standards. This helps to mitigate risk in aviation manufacturing and engineering, making it as safe as possible to fly. All 193 member states are expected to adopt the standards set by the ICAO; however, they are only intended to be guidelines. It is possible for member states to modify the standards if it becomes necessary – but only upon approval from the ICAO.

Member states consistently follow these safety standards and report any differences to the ICAO as they happen. The ICAO then publishes these results, which acts as a reassurance to the industry and its consumers of global safety in aviation.

Research and development

In addition to providing a set of standards to the aviation industry, the ICAO is also responsible for researching any new innovations in air transport policy and standardisation. The organisation works with other aviation industry companies, such as civil society groups, governments and international or regional businesses to explore new developments. In partnership with these industry groups, the ICAO then ensures its set of standards is updated if necessary.

The ICAO regularly holds taskforce meetings, conventions and panel discussions to identify new technical, socio-economical and political developments. It then provides any relevant advice to governments regarding new or updated standards. The organisation also runs various educational programmes for students or those wishing to develop careers in the aviation industry.

From its seven regional bases in Bangkok, Cairo, Dakar, Lima, Mexico City, Nairobi and Paris, it also provides regional support to member states. These offices offer a closer level of support to participating countries and enable the ICAO to work more effectively with local governments. These regional offices are responsible for helping to set standards in the areas of air navigation functions, air transport functions, technical co-operation functions and aviation security. They also help to collate regional copies of air laws and regulations from contracting states.

Working with regional bodies

The ICAO’s regional offices also work with local and regional aviation associations, such as the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), Latin American Civil Aviation Commission and (LACAC) African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) to ensure consistency across the development of air transport policies and systems.


The ICAO is not an organisation that regulates the industry; it simply provides recommendations and advice as to what international aviation standards should be. It is not responsible for ensuring these standards are followed through – this remains the responsibility of each local member state.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation is funded and governed by the 193 member states.