On behalf of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it is my great honour this morning to address the 2018 ICAO Asia and Pacific (APAC) Ministerial Conference.

Please let me express the profound appreciation of ICAO, and of the many Ministers and senior officials who have joined us here, for the very warm welcome and hospitality and the exemplary organization of the Conference by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and by the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC).

I would also express our special thanks to His Excellency Mr. Ma Kai, Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China; the Honourable Li Xiaopeng, Minister of Transport of the People’s Republic of China; and the Honourable Feng Zhenglin, Administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

ICAO has been tremendously appreciative of China’s contributions to global and regional civil aviation progress. This is exemplified in part through its generous hosting of our Asia and Pacific Regional Sub-office and associated Flight Procedures Programme, and its assistance and support in hosting events such as this one today.

But from a much broader and more significant standpoint, China’s regional leadership as exemplified through its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is attracting important and timely attention to the investments now needed quite urgently for new air transport infrastructure region-wide.

And I would also like to acknowledge its recent contribution to ICAO, through the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, which will help us to collectively drive many new and quite critical assistance and capacity-building efforts to improve regional performance in all main areas of current civil aviation priorities.

Here in the ICAO APAC Region today those performance objectives are relevant for some 39 States, two Special Administrative Regions, and 13 Territories. These entities are characterized by a wide diversity in economic capacity and development, including with respect to the status and capability of their civil aviation operation infrastructure and regulatory oversight system.

In many respects this situation mirrors the diversity and challenges which ICAO encounters globally as well, and demonstrates for us the continuing importance of our Organization’s core mission and role, as well as the contemporary relevance of the aspirations of the Convention on International Civil Aviation or the Chicago Convention which established ICAO.

The Convention’s Preamble clearly sets out that international air transport services should be established on the basis of equality of opportunity. Given how much we now know about air transport’s role as an incontrovertible driver of socio-economic development and integration, the “equality of opportunity” referred to must also now be seen to apply to aviation’s economic benefits.

The Asia Pacific’s strong economic development and rapidly growing middle class has spurred further growth and expansion of air transport operations, albeit to varying degrees. This region accounts for a third of global traffic at present and that percentage is only forecast to grow.

ICAO manages growth, and addresses the variety of capacities and traffic profiles in our Member States, primarily through the aligned objectives and targets presented in our Global Plans for Aviation Safety, Capacity and Efficiency, and most recently Aviation Security.

These Plans set out regional expectations, priorities and targets for States, as supported in the safety and air navigation domains through regional fora such as your APAC Regional Aviation Safety Group (RASG-APAC), or the Asia Pacific Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group (APANPIRG).

The Global Plans themselves also make very critical contributions to the sector-wide effective implementation (EI) of the global standards and provisions set by ICAO, and therefore State-by-State ICAO compliance.

ICAO monitors and assesses State-by-State effective implementation of Standards and Recommended Practices through our Universal Safety Oversight and Security Audit Programmes.

In this regard, the APAC Region States have recorded widely varying levels of effective implementation of safety oversight provisions ranging, for example, as much as from five to ninety per cent in the safety area. With ICAO’s global minimum target now standing at sixty per cent, it’s clear we have more work to do.

This challenge is being addressed through the cooperative assistance and capacity-building efforts we embark upon collaboratively under the ICAO No Country Left Behind initiative, the related APAC activities and events which are planned and led by Director Mishra and his team in our Bangkok Regional Office.

Just last year for example our APAC No Country Left Behind efforts saw the Bangkok Office’s Combined Action Teams conducting visits to eight of your region’s States which were facing effective implementation challenges. Within a year, five of these saw their national scores rise above the Global Safety Plan’s current target for minimum sixty per cent effective implementation. Similarly, two Significant Safety Concerns in APAC States were eliminated.

At ICAO’s 39th Assembly, at the end of 2016, our 192 Member States had been urged to enhance their air transport systems through the improved effective implementation of ICAO SARPs and policies. But very importantly, they were also encouraged to elevate the development and modernization priorities of their local aviation sectors into their national development plans.

The point of raising this call was to remind all States of the importance of local capacity and ICAO compliance to their realization of aviation’s socio-economic benefits for their local populations and businesses, as well as the attainment of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals now being pursued under Agenda 2030.

In this connection, while programmes such as the China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative will make important contributions to renewing and reinforcing awareness on these infrastructure planning and project priorities here in the Asia and Pacific, we must nonetheless also acknowledge that many States in the Region still faces some related challenges.

Indeed all APAC States need to take the necessary steps to prioritize and include concrete civil aviation or multi-modal transport targets in their national development plans and strategies.

Another impediment to greater investment in air transport is the persisting uncertainty in regulatory regimes in many States. Airport development projects are inevitably very significant in their scope and capital requirements, and characterized by long gestation periods. Potential investors will be quickly scared away from pursuing them if they encounter shifting regulatory goal posts – and especially concerning economic provisions which can have major adverse impacts on the projects’ financial models and targeted returns.

I cannot stress strongly enough therefore the value of establishing secure and stable national regulatory frameworks.

These points help to underscore why ICAO has gathered such a high-level audience here in Beijing, mainly as the first steps to be taken to address these strategic shortcomings must begin at the top.

I therefore encourage you to review and recognize the very clear connections which exist between local prosperity, sustainable economic growth, strong and effective regulatory regimes, and a well-resourced, dependable and ICAO-compliant national air transport capability.

I would also urge you to acknowledge that establishing this compliance and capacity will require your commitments and investments – whether in terms of new airport and air navigation infrastructure or expanded resources and capabilities in your national civil aviation authorities.

Both areas are in serious need of your attention, and ICAO can help to foster the donor and financing partnerships you’ll need to make your projects happen through our annual World Aviation Forum, the next iteration of which will take place this Fall in Brazil.

Human resources development is another important priority for the ICAO Asia and Pacific Region, and one still confronted by a number of serious challenges.

APAC training organizations have insufficient capacity to produce the numbers of pilots, controllers and other skilled aviation professionals which will be needed in the coming decades, and simply stated we’re facing a situation where employee demand will exceed the supply for many of your industry operators.

The factors driving this trend are diverse., ranging from wholesale retirements in the current generation of aviation professionals, to increasing competition with other industry sectors for the skilled employees air transport requires, to the perception for some that air transport is no longer the exciting and glamourous sector that it was once perceived as in earlier decades.

Besides training capacity challenges, our training methodologies also require updating to meet the expectations of 21st Century students and learning styles.

To continue driving momentum on this issue, last year ICAO held its first Global Summit for Next Generation Aviation Professionals, and this year that event is planned to be held right here in Beijing later this year.

We would encourage the participation of your governments and your industry operators at this event and its associated exhibition. There will also be a Model ICAO Forum organized concurrently with it, a very worthwhile event for secondary and university-level students from your countries interested in future air transport careers and the challenges faced by our sector locally and internationally.

Ladies and gentlemen, in December of last year, some of you likely joined ICAO at our conference in Bangkok, where APAC States endorsed a new Asia and Pacific Aviation Security Roadmap. This will henceforth align national and regional programmes and targets with the newly adopted ICAO Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP).

At this current Ministerial meeting, we will therefore be focusing on the safety and efficiency challenges before Asia and Pacific States, with the ultimate goal of determining a high-level Declaration.

The purpose of the Declaration will be to formalize your shared commitments to cooperative progress on objectives relating to: safety oversight and State Safety Programme (SSP) implementation; airport certification; the timely implementation of the Asia/Pacific Seamless Air Traffic Management (ATM) Plan; and the sharing of information and best practices for air navigation and search and rescue services.

It will also reinforce your agreements and actions supporting the establishment of independent accident investigation authorities, as well as toward some additional and very critical objectives for human capital development and the training and retention of the Region’s Next Generation Aviation Professionals.

From a broader standpoint, this Declaration should be seen as an unprecedented platform for high-level interaction between your States, a signal of the level of your safety and efficiency commitments to the travelling public and industry, and a tool to help foster long-lasting relationships in the areas of bilateral or multilateral technical cooperation and assistance.

I also wish to stress for all APAC Member States that while cooperation is critical to the progress we achieve together, participation in ICAO meetings and events is an even more fundamental responsibility for your governments and civil aviation authorities. Our discussions and consensus can only benefit from your perspectives and contributions.

Before concluding today, it is my great honour to welcome to this Conference Mr. Falasese Tupau, Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Transport of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is ICAO’s newest and 192nd Member State, and we are very pleased to welcome its representative to this high-level Ministerial event.

In closing, I wish to express ICAO’s gratitude to all of you for your esteemed presence and participation here and wish you all very productive and engaging proceedings.

Thank you.