2021: The ICAO Year of Security Culture by Sylvain Lefoyer, Deputy Director Aviation Security and Facilitation, Air Transport Bureau, ICAO

2021: The ICAO Year of Security Culture by Sylvain Lefoyer, Deputy Director Aviation Security and Facilitation, Air Transport Bureau, ICAO

This year will be the ICAO Year of Security Culture. Launched by the ICAO Secretary General during the fourth annual ICAO Global Aviation Security Symposium 2020 (AVSEC2020) on 18 December 2020, the Year of Security Culture provides an opportunity for promoting security in all aspects of aviation operations, encouraging all in our industry to think and act in a security-conscious manner.

The Road to Recovery

A renewed focus on security is now important. Threats against civil aviation continue to evolve and COVID-19 has not reduced the attractiveness of aviation as a terrorist target. Arguably, disruption in the sector has exposed new vulnerabilities and risks, with security culture coming under more pressure to remain robust. For example, increased levels of stress among airport staff might have negative impacts on their professional abilities, potentially leading to lower levels of reporting issues of concern such as unattended items and suspicious behaviour. Additionally, staff might have received diminished security awareness training during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, as we continue to re-shape and recover, we have an opportunity to reinforce effective security behaviours in a returning workforce. We have an opportunity to raise security awareness in aviation operations, to help educate wider aviation stakeholders and the travelling public on the benefits of a strong and effective security culture.

A robust security culture in aviation not only increases security compliance and vigilance at our airports, it complements our efforts to tackle challenges from other threats like unmanned aircraft, cyber threats and criminal activities. Indeed, it is through the implementation of a positive security culture that we help protect passengers, crew, staff and aviation infrastructure from those who wish to do us harm, as personnel think and act in more security conscious ways.

Global Effort

To support the Year of Security Culture, ICAO will deliver a global programme of activities to promote a strong and effective security culture in aviation. These activities support the implementation of the ICAO Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP) and include security culture workshops, seminars, guidance material and tools.

We will also host another edition of our yearly AVSEC Symposium, to build on the successful event last December, where influential speakers from States and industry shared security culture tips and best practices. If one didn’t have the opportunity to attend the live online event, panel sessions and videos can be seen anytime on ICAO TV.

To enhance security culture in aviation, determinate action is needed at a global level. We are therefore looking for industry support, which could include the following practical actions:

  • Showing leadership support and endorsing policies and procedures that define security culture, and what effective security looks like;
  • Creating communication and advertising material that highlight the importance of specific security measures;
  • Briefing all key stakeholders directly on security awareness and how security is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Training on security culture and continuous learning activities, both on an initial and recurring basis, on the importance and rationale of security culture in the organisation;
  • Utilising e-learning tools and digital media that reinforce security culture messages;
  • Leveraging internal staff communication platforms such as intranet articles, newsletters, brochures and videos that promote a positive security culture in the aviation community; and
  • Establishing a reporting framework that affords protection to reports and their sources.

A number of security culture tools and best practices are already available, free of charge, on the ICAO Security Culture website in support of the Year of Security Culture. This includes the ICAO Security Culture Toolkit and ICAO Security Culture Campaign ‘Starter Pack’.

Toolkit on enhancing security culture
Toolkit on enhancing security culture

ICAO is welcoming stakeholder’s own contributions on our website, to help share advice and guidance with the wider world. This could include articles, educational videos, training links and guidance material on security culture and security awareness.

A Call to Action

Security should be at the heart of airport and airline business planning – a commercial asset, rather than an obligation or a burdensome aviation expense, and security culture should be an integral component of the corporate culture. I hope that the Year of Security Culture will assist with this endeavour, with security becoming part of our aviation DNA, with all in the aviation industry thinking and acting in a security-conscious manner.

With this in mind, let’s work in partnership to ensure the success of the Year of Security Culture 2021 and all its objectives!

Sylvain Lefoyer is Deputy Director in charge of Aviation Security and Facilitation in the ICAO Air Transport Bureau. He leads teams responsible for: policy, audits and capacity building, cybersecurity strategy for civil aviation and the Traveler Identification Programme (ICAO TRIP) Strategy. Before ICAO, Sylvain worked for 28 years in the French Ministry of Transport. He holds a master’s degree from Paris University and from École des Ponts ParisTech.


ICAO Security Culture website: www.icao.int/Security/Security-Culture/Pages/default.aspx
ICAO AVSEC 2020 website: https://www.icao.int/meetings/AVSEC2020/Pages/default.aspx
ICAO TV: https://www.icao.tv/security-and-facilitation