Panafrican News Agency

Guterres spotlights ‘critical role’ of aviation in pandemic recovery

New York, US (PANA) - The United Nations Secretary-General has called for critical support for the aviation sector, badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, to allow it to weather the global crisis. 

“Aviation is an important engine of our world, and will play a critical role in lifting the world to recovery from COVID-19.  Let us ensure it receives the support it needs to keep the world’s nations connected and united,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message commemorating Monday’s International Civil Aviation Day.. 

A UN statement said the sector has been hit hard by COVID-19, which has disrupted human mobility, transport of vital goods, and operations of airlines and airports globally.  

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialised UN agency, passenger seat capacity is down about 51 per cent and economic losses of about $390 billion in 2020. 

In response, countries must “act urgently” to sustain their air transport sectors from the challenges thrown up by the pandemic, said the Secretary-General. 

He stressed that such actions must keep the climate in mind. 

“Recovery from the pandemic is simultaneously an opportunity for climate action, including to make global aviation more resilient and sustainable as a key part of efforts to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said Mr. Guterres. 

The statement said the UN chief also welcomed recent announcements by members of the aviation community to net-zero emissions, and called on the entire sector to commit to net zero by 2050 as well as to develop a strategy aligned with the Paris Agreement.   

Cooperation between governments and the industry will be essential to achieve a timely transition, he added. 

In the message, Mr. Guterres also emphasised the role of international aviation in everyday lives, allowing people to discover the world and its cultures, connecting societies through travel and trade, and advancing access to food, education and healthcare. 

“These benefits are critical to every country’s attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs),” Mr. Guterres said. 

Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council, said that innovation will play a key role in the aviation sector’s recovery strategies. 

“Looking forward to a post-pandemic world, innovation will be at the very heart of the new era in aviation which is now dawning,” Mr. Sciacchitano said.

He noted advances such as in autonomous aircraft, renewable power, artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain and “many other exciting developments which are changing the face of flight as we know it”.  

Success in these efforts, he underlined, rely on worldwide commitment to the standardization, harmonization, and cooperation which countries and industry achieve together at ICAO. 

“These duties and capabilities are more important than ever today, as we confront together the dual challenges of controlling COVID-19, and mitigating the incredibly severe socio-economic effects it has led to by restricting air connectivity for both developed and developing societies.” 

International Civil Aviation Day, observed on 7 December every year, was established by the UN General Assembly in 1996, recognizing the importance of international civil aviation to sustainable development.   

The date also marks the anniversary of the 1944 signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, in Chicago, the United States. 

-0- PANA MA 7Dec2020