Tuesday 20 February 2024 marks the third International Day Commemorating Air Crash Victims and Their Families, established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in cooperation with the Air Crash Victims’ Families Federation International (ACVFFI). A year on from our previous article, associate Alexander Riley looks at the progress made in the aviation sector regarding the implementation of ICAO provisions.

ICAO’s key legislative role is creating and approving ‘Standards and Recommended Practices’ (SARPs) for global civil aviation. These standards are added to the 19 technical Annexes of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also called the Chicago Convention).

Annex 9 to the Chicago Convention contains SARPs and accompanying guidance aimed at facilitating on-ground formalities for aircraft and passenger clearance, as well as the handling of goods and mail. This encompasses adherence to the regulations implemented by customs, immigration, public health and agricultural authorities. Enshrined in Annex 9 is Standard 8.42 – 8.48, which contains SARPs for contracting states focusing specifically on assisting aircraft accident victims and their families. Subsequent amendments and revisions in recent years have created significant guidance material for air operators, civil aviation authorities and contracting states.

The most recent example of this was the implementation of Standard 8.47 in November 2022, requiring contracting states to set up legislation, regulations and/or policies to help aircraft accident victims and their families: “8.47 – Contracting states shall establish legislation, regulations and/or policies in support of assistance to aircraft accident victims and their families.”

On 20 February 2023, the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) EUR/NAT Regional Office marked the second anniversary by hosting a collaborative workshop. The workshop saw 80 aviation experts from 29 contracting states discuss effective ways to address the needs and concerns of aircraft accident victims, their families and anyone else impacted by aircraft accidents.


Key points from the workshop

At the workshop, contracting states were required to complete an audit questionnaire containing a series of protocol questions designed to understand the status of implementing the new ICAO provisions in each contracting state. Question 6.383 was aimed at each contracting state’s civil aviation authority and related specifically to Provisions 8.42 – 8.48 of Annex 9: “6.383 ‐ Has the State established a comprehensive system for providing assistance to aircraft accident victims and their families?”

Out of the 26 contracting states participating in the audit, only Spain provided a “satisfactory” answer. The remaining 25 contracting states’ responses were deemed “not satisfactory”. This is an eye-opening statistic, but perhaps not surprising given that the annexes are not legally binding and lack effective sanctions to encourage compliance. Compliance is only monitored and tracked through ICAO audits.

What more can be done to assist aircraft victims and their families?


  1. Strengthen ICAO provisions by ensuring SARPs provide stringent practice guidelines to help contracting states understand how to achieve ‘satisfactory’ status.
  2. Continued and regular audits to check whether states are compliant. Bespoke recommendations tailored to each contracting state’s responses could lead to an increase in “satisfactory” responses.
  3. Widespread publication of the protocol questions and each contracting state’s answers to effectively “name and shame” the states deemed “not satisfactory”.
  4. The addition of SARPs aimed at ensuring the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of victims and their families are accommodated.

The ICAO Secretary General has invited contracting states to host an ICAO symposium on assisting aircraft victims and their families in 2024. It will be important to see that further progress is being made.



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