The great unification experiment known as the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group now has a voice on the World Wide Web. IATA, TIACA, FIATA and the Global Shippers’ Forum united together under a common goal in Fall 2010, and while the separate organizations have been working together behind the scenes, it’s been hard for the group as a whole to demonstrate its progress to the public until now, said Glyn Hughes, IATA’s director of cargo industry management.
GACAG’s website currently provides information about the coalition’s four task forces — customs and trade facilitation, e-commerce, security, and the sustainability of the global air cargo industry — and identifies the members of each group. But there are bigger plans in the works, with the website only being a piece of the puzzle.
During the IATA World Cargo Symposium, Hughes also pledged that the organization will be more proactive with press releases and will be more ready to announce the good that it does. This communication is also important because GACAG members sometimes meet in invitation-only sessions to hash out policy approaches. An openness and a willingness to share the proceedings of those meetings with the general public is being talked about internally.
These semi-private discussions are important, Hughes said, because of the many different voices in the room. Discussions are robust, and not everybody immediately agrees on the correct path forward. “Common positions are not just instant,” he said.
Hughes remembered that many saw GACAG as an unlikely idea from the start, and that the tense history between some of the founding organizations meant that outside parties viewed bridging the gap as a significant challenge. “When somebody said in the beginning that we’re going to get these constituency groups in one room, some people did say, ‘Yeah right,’” Hughes said. “The minute everybody came into that first meeting, everybody came in with the exact same approach, which is we have to make this work.”
With the fragmented approach taken before — each member organization of the supply chain relying on each other but working separately — it was easy for regulators to dismiss industry positions. As one big lobbying machine, it’s more likely that regulators will come to the table with an open mind. But lobbying requires hard work, dedication and money — something GACAG is currently cobbling together from its member organizations.
“GACAG has no employees and no money,” Hughes said. “There is no funding. Everything that group does as a group is because of the individual resource of the individual associations of being able to re-divert from other activity.”
Michael Steen, chairman of TIACA, said his organization provides the administrative base for GACAG, but other groups contribute as much as they can. IATA, he said, is obviously a big supporter, and younger groups like the Global Shippers’ Forum have pledged to give more support when they are able. “We are using TIACA’s secretariat as the main general administrative body, but the other member organizations also lend a lot of support,” he said. “There’s active participation by all members. If one pitches in more than another, then so be it.”
As GACAG chairman, Steen has seen the group evolve over the past year and a half into a body with a common mind. He said any heated debate occurred not about the group’s goals, but about how to achieve those goals. And in fact, he added that the robust debate has actually helped the organization come to better conclusions.
“There’s always going to be debate about how you do it, which is great because there are different vantage points and different opinions and angles to look at. That is healthy because that will really stimulate a dialogue around the right issues,” he said. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all.”
**Caption: (Left to right) FIATA’s Jean-Claude Delen, TIACA’s Michael Steen, IATA’s Des Vertannes and GSFs Peter Gatti**