Sylvain Lefoyer: Leading the Way in Developing ICAO’s Security Standards and Recommended Practices

Sylvain Lefoyer: Leading the Way in Developing ICAO’s Security Standards and Recommended Practices

The world’s aviation security regulators are preparing to gather in Montreal for the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) second Global Aviation Security Symposium (AVSEC 2018). As a precursor to the event, Aviation Security International’s Editor, Philip Baum , asks Sylvain Lefoyer , ICAO’s Deputy Director of Aviation Security and Facilitation, how we can truly create an effective global security system granted the multitude of different socio-economic factors impacting Member States. Sylvain Lefoyer answers questions on the legislative process, auditing systems, GASeP progress, threat response and the issues due to be debated in Montreal this November.

PB: Given the broad range of different cultures, challenges, economic factors and geopolitical issues, how can one ever hope to have a truly effective global aviation security regime?

SL: We have today a truly global aviation security regime thanks to the standards and recommended practices (SARPs) of Annex 17 – Security to the Chicago Convention, as well as the guidance material we provide in ICAO’s Aviation Security Manual and our Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP). These provisions are designed to help States and industry organise and prioritise their actions.

Many States face resource constraints and skills gaps when seeking to effectively and sustainably implement ICAOs Standards and meet our global plan targets. It is precisely for this reason that we seek to coordinate capacity building assistance through our “No Country Left Behind” initiative.

PB: Annex 17 is often regarded as the minimum standard of aviation security any State should seek to attain, yet does that not mean that States are striving for the lowest common denominator rather than achieving excellence?

SL: It is true that ICAO Standards are the minimum, as this baseline approach provides a basic level of global harmonisation which is essential if your goal is a globally functional regime. ICAO Standards also require States to manage risk by applying additional measures when needed to respond to increased threats.

Excellence could be defined as the full and sustainable implementation of an effective aviation security regime. The ICAO Universal Security Audit Programme aims to determine whether the aviation security oversight system in our Member States is sustainable, and whether this system translates into effective implementation of preventative aviation security measures.

PB: It’s all very well having global standards, but how does one ensure that those standards are strictly enforced?

SL: Like any UN Agency, ICAO is an international organisation comprising sovereign States. The 192 States use our agency to help them define consensus-based standards they agree to comply with based on their status as signatories to the Chicago Convention – the agreement which established ICAO in the first place. The enforcement responsibility with respect to multilateral agreements falls to the sovereign States who are party to them.

ICAO does monitor, through the ICAO Universal Security Audit Program – Continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA), the sustainability of States’ oversight systems through a comprehensive audit of all the elements of an aviation security regime, and provides recommendations to improve it through a corrective action plan when issues are discovered.

PB: Please could you cite a few examples of where action has been taken to penalise a State for failure to meet internationally prescribed standards or at least where ICAO has advised other member States of significant deficiencies so that they can take action unilaterally.

SL: Unlike for aviation safety, aviation security audit results are not made public for obvious security reasons, so it will not be possible to give examples.

However, you may wish to note, that these results are accessible to the appropriate authorities of the ICAO Member States, and should an immediate risk to civil aviation be identified during an audit – called a Significant Security Concern (SSeC) – the State is requested to mitigate it as soon as possible and to sustainably resolve the root causes in the short term.

The procedure for SSeCs provides that the ICAO Council and indeed, all Member States, are appraised of the situation in order that they may adapt their own aviation security regimes accordingly.

“…the AVSEC Panel has established different working groups, two of which directly address how we stay ahead of the game…”

PB: How can the international community stay ahead of the game and advocate the implementation of measures to better protect us against methods of attack which are likely to be used in the future (e.g. chemical/biological weapons or body bombs)?

SL: Aviation security experts of the international community, including States, international and regional organisations, and the industry itself (including ACI, IATA, CANSO, IFALPA, and ICCAIA), gather in ICAO to work on the Aviation Security Panel (AVSEC Panel).

The AVSEC Panel has established different working groups, two of which directly address how we stay ahead of the game. These are the Working Group on Threat and Risks (WGTR) and the Working Group on Innovation in Aviation Security (WGIAS). One group, of course, aims to identify threats and their resultant risk to aviation, whilst the other aims to identify solutions to mitigate these threats.

PB: It seems to take an unacceptably long time for States to ratify conventions and pass national legislation that reflect such conventions (e.g. Beijing Convention), so what can we do to speed up the process?

SL: Ratifying international conventions is a long process requiring careful legal and political scrutiny, regardless of the domain in question. States have to go through very complex and high level legislative processes in the course of their analyses.

Where the ratification of civil aviation conventions is required, ICAO continuously advocates, at the highest levels possible, both in terms of State’s international obligations, but even more importantly in regard to the benefits these ratifications ultimately deliver.

Normally this advocacy is carried out directly to Ministers on behalf of our Council President and Secretary General, for example, but in addition the ICAO Legal Bureau also closely monitors the status of all of our conventions on a continuous basis, and ICAO Regional Directors play a further important role in reminding States of their obligations in this regard.

PB: The GASeP is a welcome initiative, but one year on I must ask the question whether we are on target to complete the 94 tasks (with 32 actions) by next year? Can you provide a progress report?

SL: We are still in an outreach phase; the main outcome we can report on is the result of the regional conferences held to help States take ownership of the Plan. Four conferences were hosted successively in this regard, notably by Egypt in August 2017 for Africa and the Middle-East, by Thailand in December 2017 for Asia and Pacific, by Portugal in May 2018 for Europe and the North Atlantic and finally by Panama, in July 2018 for the Americas and Caribbean.

The GASeP contains targets for 2020, 2023 and 2030. Not everything will be achieved by next year and that was never its intent.

PB: If you could cite three examples of where ICAO has helped significantly improve global aviation security in the last year, what would they be?

SL: I would cite three very different examples: risk awareness, cyber security, and the issue of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in portable electronic devices (PEDs).

ICAO completely reviewed and updated its risk management workshop and is now better positioned to help States properly identify and effectively manage the risks faced by civil aviation. This workshop is now delivered in five of the six ICAO languages.

For cyber security, ICAO raised the Recommended Practice 4.9.1 to the level of a full Standard. With this standard, in addition to Chapter 18 of the AVSEC Manual and the relevant industry standards (ISO 27001 and others), States have the elements to address the issue at the national level.

The portable electronic devices restriction in 2017 raised many concerns. ICAO was key to solving them at the multilateral level by bringing together aviation security experts and dangerous goods experts, and focusing on the threat posed by concealed improvised explosive devices on the one hand, and the risk of putting large quantities of Lithium batteries in the aircraft holds on the other, which led to improved screening and a lifting of the related restrictions.

PB: As delegates prepare to converge on Montreal for AVSEC 2018, what do you think the prime conference takeaways will be?

SL: That aviation continues to be a target for terrorists bent on violent social disruption; that aviation security has to better interact with safety, facilitation and efficiency to accommodate the traffic growth to come; that strengthened measures to address the insider threat are needed; that cybersecurity demands a united and proactive front to successfully confront it; that these and other threats we face are evolving almost daily, and that by improving global compliance with ICAO aviation security Standards and Recommended Practices, States will be best positioned to meet their security challenges effectively and sustainably.

“…the portable electronic devices restriction in 2017 raised many concerns. ICAO was key to solving them at the multilateral level…”

Collaboration between industry, governments and other aviation entities is key to a secure civil aviation system. To this end, developing a strong security culture across all these entities around the globe will be key to successfully implementing the GASeP. ICAO is committed to working with its partners to strengthen the aviation security culture worldwide.


Sylvain Lefoyer is Deputy Director of Aviation Security and Facilitation, Air Transport Bureau – ICAO. Mr. Lefoyer leads teams responsible for developing Aviation Security and Facilitation policy and Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), conducting audits of Member States’ aviation security activities, assisting States that are unable to address serious security deficiencies highlighted by those audits, and implementing the Traveller Identification Programme (ICAO TRIP) Strategy. Sylvain has extensive experience at the senior executive level in policy and regulations development, strategy, oversight, critical incident management and organisation development in aviation security and facilitation. Previous to his role in ICAO, Mr. Lefoyer’s career in transport safety and security spans more than 25 years. He held various positions, including a Deputy Regional Director for Ground Transport Safety, Security and Defence in the Regional Directorate for Equipment and Urban Planning in the Paris metropolitan area and the Deputy Head of Aviation Security and Defence in the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC). Prior to that, he was enhancing his career in air traffic management from 2005 to 2011, in risk prevention and management from 2002 to 2004, and in maritime transport safety and security from 1992 to 2001. He holds a Master’s Degree in electronics from Paris University and a Master’s Degree in public administration from École des Ponts Paris Tech.