The Role of Civil Aviation Safety and Security in the Economic Development of Pacific Island Countries

Article excerpt

Civil aviation is vital to the economic development of Pacific Island Countries (PICs), and the regulation of its safety and security has been identified by Australia and New Zealand as important to protect the Pacific region from unlawful acts, including from terrorism. Since 9/11, the Australian government has supported initiatives such as the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) to guard against the threat of terrorism. This has involved increasing compliance of PICs with international civil aviation safety and security standards. Although terrorism remains a security concern for Australia, it is no longer the primary national security concern, and as countries such as Australia and New Zealand reflect on their ongoing commitment to PASO, it is important to recognise that in addition to its contribution to counter-terrorism efforts PASO has the potential to contribute to economic development in the Pacific region by enhancing the ability of the region's civil aviation system to support increased trade and tourism. PICs rely heavily on air transport links to gain access to international trade and tourism markets; however, access depends upon their ability to meet international civil aviation safety and security standards, which they cannot do independently.

Key Words: Pacific region; Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO); Civil aviation; Safety; Security; Tourism; Economic development; International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Introduction

This article will consider the importance of civil aviation, and its regulation, to Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and their neighbours, Australia and New Zealand. It examines the role of trade and tourism in Pacific Island economies, and the concurrent role of civil aviation in facilitating access to trade and tourism routes. Access to these routes depends on the ability of PICs to comply with international civil aviation safety and security standards, which they are unable to do without ongoing assistance. The needs of countries within the Pacific region are great, but the potential for economic development that the situation presents, as outlined below, is considerable.

Pacific civil aviation has encountered many challenges in recent decades. In particular the aviation sector has been unable to sustain technological development because of a chronic lack of local expertise and lack of training facilities. This situation is unlikely to change in the near future2. Many Pacific airlines are in poor condition, and the Pacific civil aviation system generally needs support in the areas of infrastructure, training, and safety and security oversight3. PICs have small export bases; however, tourism provides great potential for economic development for many countries in the region4.

In order to realise this potential, investment in both Pacific air transport systems and domestic infrastructure is required. Many PICs have inherited the infrastructural legacy of their colonisers, and therefore have similar production structures, political institutions, and administrative bodies to those that were established to administer to the needs of colonial powers5. Much of this infrastructure was basic and neglected during colonial rule67. Fundamental to infrastructure development is the continuation of foreign aid, as well as to ensure that security in the region is attained and maintained, and to develop the region's human resource base in the area of civil aviation safety and security oversight8.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) identifies economic growth as the single most important aid objective for the Asia-Pacific region during the next 10 years. Infrastructure development and promoting trade are two of four strategies listed for achieving this goal9. In its work toward Millennium Development Goal 8, which is to 'develop a global partnership for development', AusAID lists trade-related infrastructure as a focus area, and states that funding for transport is necessary in order to facilitate trade because it promotes more efficient movement of goods and people10. …