Taiwan’s ICAO participation imperative for international aviation safety

  • Date: 2016-10-19

I. Background

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly meets every three years to hold discussions that set aviation regulations and standards to ensure safer skies for passengers around the world. In 2013, 42 years after withdrawing from ICAO, Taiwan was invited by the president of ICAO’s governing council to attend the 38th ICAO Assembly as a guest under the name Chinese Taipei CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration).  

To fulfill domestic expectations for participation in United Nations specialized agencies and its responsibility to maintain international flight safety, the Taiwan government made attending this year’s 39th ICAO Assembly, held from September 27 to October 7 in Montreal, Canada, a major goal. ICAO council president Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, however, broke with precedent and failed to invite the director general of Taiwan’s CAA to lead a delegation and attend this year’s meeting.

The government expressed regret over ICAO’s omission, but nevertheless sent a CAA delegation to Montreal so that the nation’s voice would still be heard in the international community. During the course of the Assembly, the Taiwan delegation members held bilateral discussions with diplomatic allies and other friendly nations, convened an international press conference to reiterate Taiwan’s demands for participation on professional grounds, and held a reception to thank friends from all walks of life. These actions highlighted Taiwan’s pragmatic and professional contribution to ICAO, and represent an appeal to the international community and ICAO to acknowledge that Taiwan’s participation is essential to any truly global effort to maintain civil aviation safety.


II. Taiwan’s ICAO participation important for civil aviation safety and passenger well-being

A. Geographical location makes Taiwan crucial for international flight safety

Taiwan is a busy East Asia flight hub. Last year, the Taipei Flight Information Region (Taipei FIR) air traffic control served 58 million travelers and 1.5 million flights, playing a key role in regional and international civil aviation.

B. Taiwan is ultimately responsible for maintaining global flight safety and ensuring travelers’ rights and well-being

Failing to allow Taiwan to participate in ICAO leaves a gap in international flight safety coverage, and the nation can only obtain the most updated international flight safety information—quickly and directly—by continuing to attend the ICAO Assembly and other related meetings. Attending these meetings will also allow Taiwan to adopt the latest laws and regulations to ensure and enhance global civil aviation safety and convenience.

Where human lives are at stake, there is no justification for allowing outside factors to override the importance of flight safety issues. Taiwan wants to participate in ICAO to collaborate with other countries throughout the world to maintain global flight safety and achieve ICAO’s vision of a world with “seamless skies” without political limitations.


III. Taiwans participation in ICAO has widespread international support

Although the nation was omitted from the guest list, Taiwan garnered much international support and assistance at the ICAO Assembly this year. In the run-up to the Assembly, 20 of Taiwan’s allies, and the executive and legislative branches and related groups from numerous countries including the United States, contacted ICAO, issued public statements, passed resolutions, and published op-ed articles supporting Taiwan and calling on ICAO to accept Taiwan’s participation on professional and pragmatic grounds, as well as Taiwan’s contributions.

A. Responding to the media on September 22 the U.S. State Department reiterated its position that the U.S. supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation in ICAO. Numerous U.S. senators and congressmen also expressed support via statements in the Congressional Record or on the internet, and the U.S. and Japanese governments followed with public statements of support.

B. Legislatures in key countries, including members of Taiwan friendship groups in the German, French and Belgian parliaments, also publically supported Taiwan’s participation in ICAO through press releases, statements, speeches and social media.


IV. Government asserts that Taiwans status as a sovereign state makes international participation a basic right and obligation

A. Taiwan has the right and obligation to participate in international organizations and activities

Taiwan has the right and obligation to participate in international organizations and activities with dignity. This is what the people of Taiwan expect. The international community has long welcomed and supported Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations and activities, and is happy to see how amicable cross-strait interaction at international venues facilitates global cooperation on functional issues. Although the nation’s efforts to attend the ICAO Assembly were blocked, broad international assistance helped the world see that Taiwan’s demands reflect professional concerns and the nation’s ability to make a contribution, and show that Taiwan is playing a positive role as a proactive communicator for peace.

B. There should be no political preconditions for cross-strait interaction and exchanges or Taiwan’s international participation

Maintaining the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations and the rights and well-being of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are the shared goals and responsibilities of both parties involved. The Taiwan government has repeatedly stated that it respects the historical fact that in 1992 two institutions (Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation and mainland China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits) representing their respective sides of the Taiwan Strait, through communication and negotiations, arrived at various joint acknowledgements and understandings, and that the government will conduct cross-strait affairs in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China, the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, and other relevant legislation.

As cross-strait interaction and exchanges and Taiwan’s international participation have a significant impact on the people’s rights and well-being, the government is appealing to mainland China to be pragmatic and show goodwill, without imposing political preconditions on any interactions, and to carefully consider that only through communication, dialogue, and strengthening cooperative exchanges can differences be resolved and trust be built up, while also aiding the sound development of cross-strait relations.


V. Conclusion

Since Taiwan lost its right to representation at the United Nations in 1971, efforts by Taiwan’s government and people to participate in U.N. meetings, activities, and mechanisms have met severe limitations and obstructions. Nevertheless, the government has never accepted unreasonable treatment and has continued to enlist international support, hoping to gradually break through the barriers that stand between Taiwan and the U.N. system in pursuit of the nation’s right to equal participation.

The government, working together with the people of Taiwan, will continue to uphold the “steadfast diplomacy, mutual benefit” principle, and pursue its original intention to expand the nation’s international participation and international space. The government’s efforts will not cease because Taiwan did not receive an invitation to the ICAO Assembly this year. Utilizing the international support, momentum and friendly contacts accumulated thus far, the government will collaborate with people from all walks of life and political persuasions to promote participation in ICAO and other international organizations through professional, pragmatic and substantive means, protect the nation’s interests, and make Taiwan’s value and contributions more visible in the international community.