Slaying the Sovereignty Myth:

15 March 2013

CANSO, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, called on States to help realise the vision of global seamless air traffic management (ATM) by employing a more proactive use of sovereignty over their airspace. In a paper for the 6th ICAO Air Transport Conference in Montreal, CANSO has demonstrated that States can legitimately delegate responsibility for the provision of air navigation services to another State or third party provider. Such delegation is a responsible use of sovereignty powers and would lead to much more effective, globally harmonised and cost-effective ATM. Some States have already exercised their sovereignty in this way to reap considerable benefits and CANSO urges others to follow their lead.

CANSO Director General, Jeff Poole, said: “Air navigation services require a global, seamless, and performance-based approach to management of airspace, rather than one based on national borders. For too long States have misused the concept of airspace sovereignty as an ill-founded excuse to resist much-needed changes in ATM. Delegating responsibility for the provision of air navigation services does not mean that States give up their sovereignty or put national security at risk. We are simply asking States to join with other States to institute an air traffic management system that is not hampered by rigid and unnecessary adherence to national borders.”

“Let’s slay the sovereignty myth once and for all. Collaborating on cross-border arrangements will result in massive improvements in ATM performance.”

The delivery of cross-border services is fully compatible with the sovereignty of the airspace of States. Under the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, each State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. It must provide air navigation facilities and services to facilitate international air navigation in its territory. However, this responsibility can be delegated - Article 28 of the Convention does not oblige States to provide air navigation services over their territory themselves.

If a State decides to delegate, it still retains full power and authority in the airspace over its territory and prescribes the conditions under which the delegation is agreed. It must ensure that the service delivery activity is properly regulated; the designated service provider is certified; and adequate and effective supervision is exercised. The delegating State ensures there is a regulatory framework which establishes the overall performance standards for safety, efficiency and the environment. Service Level Agreements can be enacted that include Key Performance Indicators and targets which act as a powerful incentive to perform. Failure to meet the performance criteria can result in the delegation being revoked.

National security is not compromised by delegation. States need to monitor national airspace for security purposes, and to be able to respond to security or military threats. When a State delegates, it needs to implement appropriate arrangements and incentives to ensure that there is good military/civil cooperation. In the event of a crisis or threat to national security, the delegating State has the power to withdraw the delegation with immediate effect.

There are good examples of successful cross-border service provision across the world. There is mutual delegation between the USA and Canada; Tonga and Samoa delegate to New Zealand; there are various delegations in Europe from and to Finland, France, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Other States should look to these examples to see what can be achieved when artificial airspace boundaries are removed.

Jeff Poole concluded: “Sovereignty should be seen and used as an enabler of the changes required for more efficient management of the global air navigation system. We urge States to use their sovereignty powers to drive improvements in ATM performance and help to achieve the goal of seamless ATM globally. The benefits are huge – greater efficiency, fewer delays, lower CO2 emissions and considerable cost savings.”




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