Nigeria hosts from Monday a three-day meeting of African ministers on aviation security in response to the failed terror attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.
A young Nigerian man was charged with attempting to blow up the plane with plastic explosives strapped to his underwear.
In the wake of the botched attack, airports around the world, including in Nigeria, from where the suspected bomber took off, are installing 3-D full body scanners for passengers.
The new technology has raised cultural sensitivities and may violate privacy laws in some countries as it produces explicit images of passengers.
“Transparency and respect for privacy are fundamental values of all democracies” Napolitano told ministers from 37 African countries and other international experts on the eve of the African regional aviation security conference.
“All countries have unique legal traditions, cultural differences and political realities,” she said.
“But I believe we shouldn’t allow these differences to keep us from working towards a common goal and even stronger partnership with respect to security and privacy.”
Napolitano recommended a wide range of security measures, including information sharing on suspected terrorists and development of screening technology to protect passengers.
“This new bomb could not be detected by all technology, therefore let us respond by ushering in the next generation of aviation security technology by coordinating our training and technical assistant efforts,” she said.
The conference in one of a series being organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) across five global regions.
She said the United States has in recent months worked closely with ICAO and the International Air Transport Association to forge stronger international security standards.
“We must have the full engagement not just of government agencies in this effort, but our industry partners around the world,” she said.
ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin vowed “we will step up efforts to find global solutions to these global threats.”