In 1996, the United Nations (UN) declared the 7th December as International Civil Aviation Day. The day has been celebrated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the global aviation community since to recognise and raise awareness of the importance of aviation, especially international air travel to the social, economic and environmental development of the world.

Today, as we celebrate International Civil Aviation Day, our Managing Director, Maria Rueda shares her insights into how civil aviation is a key enabler for achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals – the blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

Maria, as an aviation professional with over 25 years’ experience in the industry, what is your view on the role of Civil Aviation and the Sustainable Development Goals?

Aviation is a truly global industry, and one of the main drivers behind globalisation. Up until the start of the year, aviation supported over 65 million jobs worldwide, contribution $2.7 trillion in global GDP. Aviation brings people together and connects the world like no other mode of transport, allowing people to go abroad on holiday, build international businesses and pursue education or healthcare oversees to name a few. This year has been truly extraordinary due to Covid-19, but I’m confident that our human desire to travel, to explore and connect will return and the aviation industry will bounce back to support that desire.

Aviation is extremely well-positioned to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. ICAO’s strategic objectives are strongly linked to 15 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), highlighting the immense role civil aviation plays to improve peoples’ lives globally.

From your perspective, why must industries such as aviation, support the UN in delivering these goals?

The United Nations SDGs were set in 2015 and are intended to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. We all want to continue enjoying the benefits of our planet – both for current and future generations. In which case, I believe we must all take responsibility and contribute to achieving these goals.

CAA International became a Social Enterprise in 2017, with a purpose to re-invest funds back into the global aviation community. What projects have CAAi supported as a Social Enterprise and how they contributed to the UN’s SDGs?

Our focus is to provide assistance where it is needed the most and where we can provide long-term benefits to a country.

Since becoming a Social Enterprise, we have supported developing countries in strengthening their civil aviation sector. For example, in partnership with ICAO, we funded a range of aviation training courses across multiple regulatory disciplines for applicants from countries with the greatest demand and where the most significant impact could be made. This programme contributed to SDG 4 (Inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all) by increasing the number of aviation professionals with adequate skills who can help their authorities to operate air transport safely according to the international standards and contribute to the economic development of their countries.

In 2019, we funded the development of an independent website for the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter. The Charter is a pledge for gender balance across the aviation and aerospace industries. The online platform enables new members to join, share information, receive donations and create opportunities for women in the aviation and aerospace industry. This activity contributed to SDG 5 (Gender equality and empower all women and girls) by creating a platform to help attract women to join global aviation community and share opportunities with women on how to become an aviation professional.

We are very proud of becoming a Social Enterprise, and these are just two examples of our contribution to the UN SDGs through our reinvestment fund.

CAAi delivers many projects outside of its reinvestment fund. Do these projects support the SDGs?

Absolutely. Our projects are focused on improving safety and security standards worldwide by helping the States and industry to comply with the international aviation regulations, standards and recommended practices. But our support does not stop there. We work with our partners to provide guidance and build their technical capacity to the level that they can sustainably provide aviation oversight. Through these activities, we are supporting the UN’s SDG 8 (Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work) by helping States achieve confident and sustainable air travel leading to continual economic development and job opportunities.

With technology in aviation rapidly evolving, we are committed to supporting industry with regulating future flight. We are currently supporting Thailand with the implementation of drone regulations. Drones are widely used in Thailand in the agricultural sector. Farmers have increased crop yields by saving time spraying and fertilising crops using drones. Through this project, we are contributing to the UN’s SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) by helping the country to establish the safe use of drones leading to socioeconomic benefits.

Do you have any advice for organisations looking to support the SDGs?

When we became a social enterprise, we wanted to use the SDGs as a framework for action. By aligning our business with the SDGs, we focused on mapping the social and environmental impacts we can make to create a plan to maximise opportunities to deliver a positive impact across the world.

The SDG’s also serve as a great common language tool to encourage collaboration and partnership programmes. Ultimately, the SDGs can only be achieved if all areas of aviation act together. The results not only improve life for some of the world’s poorest and hardest to reach communities – but they can build new markets and strengthen shared supply chains – delivering real business value for all parties.

As we know, the aviation sector has been hugely affected by COVID-19, but I still believe the global aviation community is able and committed to advancing the SDGs.

For more information about the UN’s SDGs please visit the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs website. If you would like to read more about how aviation is supporting the UN’s SDGs please visit the website for Aviation Benefits.

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