What Good's A Forum If Nobody Can Get To It?

Right now in New York, the United Nations is hosting a High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Its purpose? To progress action on the Sustainable Development Goals: a set of 17 high-level areas that will help set the global policy agenda until 2030 and create a more prosperous and equitable world. They are big obligations and it'll take a concerted and collaborative effort to achieve them, not just from governments but from business, civil society and citizens everywhere.

The fact that the world's governments are even able to meet in New York is thanks to modern air transport. However, providing safe, efficient and reliable air service does not just help diplomats reach UN headquarters. Aviation plays a more fundamental role in helping to support development around the world. A new report we are releasing today, Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders, explores the way in which air transport supports economies and social development whilst continuing our work on environmental action.

The numbers are striking: in 2014 (the latest year for which many government statistics are available), commercial air transport supported 62.7 million jobs and $2.7 trillion in global GDP. Nearly ten million of those jobs are in the industry itself, working at airports, airlines, air traffic management and manufacturers of aircraft and their components. The rest are jobs supported in the wider economy: through supply chains to the industry, induced spending by employees and millions of jobs in tourism generated by air transport. Some 54% of all international tourists travel to their destinations by air.

The Sustainable Development Goals are aimed at helping to focus efforts. We think aviation helps support at least 14 of the goals. Some perhaps only in a fairly minor way, but some in a much more significant role. Aviation currently operates flights between 17,370 cities, towns and villages. There are 104,000 scheduled services around the world each day carrying 9.8 million people. Most of these are on busy routes helping to transport cargo (nearly 35% of world trade by value travels by air), tourists, students (4.1 million study abroad each year), business people (it is estimated that over 150 million people work outside the country in which they were born) and friends and family.

It is these family, business and social connections that provide what might be the most important aspect of air transport in today's world: bringing people and cultures together. In that way, we not only help with the United Nation's current work on the Sustainable Development Goals (and, indeed transporting diplomats to events like this weeks's Forum), but a more fundamental aspect of the UN entirely.

After all, the 'founding constitution' of global air transport, the Chicago Convention of 1944, starts off with the words "Whereas the future development of international civil aviation can greatly help to create and preserve friendship and understanding among the nations and peoples of this world...".

Is there a better call to action for us than that?