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WCO has a new Committee for Capacity Building !

18 October 2010
The Momentum for Customs Capacity Building is there and the agenda is strongly endorsed and support by Members.

Report from a successful 1st meeting of the new WCO Capacity Building Committee. 

Almost 300 high-level participants from more than 120 member countries and more than 40 other stakeholder organizations, met at the 1st Capacity Building Committee meeting held in Brussels on the 25th - 27th of September 2010. The meeting saw Ministers, Ambassadors, Commissioners General, Commissioners, Directors General and other high level participants from all around the world gather to discuss the future of Capacity Building in the WCO. The feedback from the participants and evaluation of the meeting has been extremely positive and there is no doubt that it was a successful first meeting producing a strong renewed momentum and mandate for further development of the capacity building support for implementation of international standards.

Three major themes emerged from the first session of the Capacity Building Committee, namely: People, Partnerships and Political will (3P). The golden thread that ties these together is strong strategic planning, leadership, coordination and evaluation at the global, regional, bilateral and national levels. During the meeting, Committee members developed a number of tangible deliverables as well as a structured roadmap and way forward for the work of the Committee. In the Chair priorities* from the 1st meeting and in guidance for the future Committee work, a number of concrete tangible deliverables were high-lighted like e.g.: the development of a model career development plan, research on customs reform and modernisation (case studies), pilot joint private sector-customs capacity building initiatives, participation in the Aid for Trade initiative, organization of a WCO ministerial event to raise the profile of the agenda, development of a WCO C21 capacity building package for decision-makers and the development of capacity building evaluation indicators.

It was also agreed that overall Result Based Management and performance measurement will be a top priority of the agenda for the period to come, starting with cooperation with academia on the upcoming WCO 2010 PICARD conference to be held in Abu Dhabi in November (23-25/11).

The 1st session was originally planned to be held in April this year, but due to the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, the meeting was postponed. At the start of the historical meeting held on 25th – 27th September, Canada was elected chair of the Capacity Building Committee with China as Vice Chair.

Helen Clark, Administrator Head of the United National Development Programme, and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues, came directly to the Committee meeting from the successful 2010 Millenium Development Review Summit held in New York the week before. Mrs. Clark reported in her key note speech on the progress achieved in New York and stated to the WCO Capacity Building committee that; “I was delighted to learn some months ago that the World Customs Organization was looking at how its work could help the achievement of the MDGs. In my view, it can help a great deal. For the MDGs to be met, countries’ economies will need to grow sustainably and revenue will need to be collected from that for investments in services and infrastructure. A modern customs service can play a key role in both trade facilitation which is conducive to growth and revenue collection from it. There is certainly scope for further strengthening linkages between our organizations. I commend the WCO and this Committee for taking its capacity building work seriously, and for developing a number of instruments, programmes and tools to enhance customs operations”.

Key Note presentations were also delivered by the Jordan Minister of Transport, H.E. Mr. Alaa Batayneh and the Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire to Belgium and the European Union, H.E. Mrs. Marie Gosset .

A number of Customs Commissioners and Directors General witnessed about the considerable progress made on the ground in Customs reform and modernization, by making presentations of the results achieved over the last years.

In addition, two tri-partite capacity building twinning agreements between African countries, Kenya-Ethiopia-WCO and Tanzania-Ethiopia-WCO, were signed during the Committee. The tri-partite model is a simple but very effective model structuring capacity building support and cooperation with concrete deliverables and expected outcome. It is a vital step forward that developing countries receiving capacity building support in the first stages of the WCO Columbus programme now is transferring that experience within the region to other countries. Africa is building Africa. Now the model will also be promoted for other regions so the good experiences can be used also in other parts of the world. During the Committee session another 5-6 new agreements were negotiated and principle arrangements have been agreed.

WCO also signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with the South African Customs Union.

The World Customs Organization is a committee structured organization and most of the work of the organization is done through the very important Committees and working groups. Very rarely new committees are institutionalized by the organization, but now it has happened. In 2005 the decision makers of the organization at the WCO Council session took a decision to implement the Capacity Building strategy developed and decided in 2003.

As a result a new Capacity Building Directorate was shaped, under the newly elected Director Lars Karlsson from Sweden. The task for the new Directorate was to build an infrastructure for capacity building delivery and at the same time make the capacity building strategy operational. This was done through a number of initiatives, the Columbus programme being maybe the most significant one.

After five years all the building blocks of the project have been developed and implemented, the target goals achieved. The permanent Capacity Building Committee for interaction with members and other stakeholders was the final corner stone implemented to make capacity building a priority area with all necessary components in place for continued successful capacity building delivery. The WCO has established and implemented a vision, a strategy, an operational policy, standard operational procedures, a donor network and a regional structure for customs Capacity Building. The migration of the previous High Level Working Group on Capacity Building Committee to a fully fledged permanent WCO committee was a historical landmark taking the topic of Capacity Building from being a development project to a permanent and prioritized day-to-day business line of the WCO.

In a comment on the first ever Capacity Building Committee, Mr. Lars Karlsson, Director of Capacity Building, said: “It was a great meeting sending a very strong message that the WCO membership is fully committed to making WCO a global leader on Customs Capacity Building. I am very pleased with the practical outcome of the meeting and the participation of almost 300 people - including almost 30 heads of Customs, the Council Chair and regional Vice-Chairs - was beyond all our expectations. The solidarity shown by Members to this agenda was outstanding. We have not only had excellent discussions giving guidance to the WCO Secretariat and the regional structure, but we received concrete commitments in funding and access to new accredited experts during the meeting. The momentum for long-term capacity building is there and it is stronger than ever in our organization. The commitment from developing countries and emerging economies to delivery tangible results on ground, together with the solidarity shown by developed countries present, shapes a very strong foundation for Customs reform and modernization in the future. We have come a long way, but we have just started our journey. We are not building a road to the future, but the place the road leads to. I would like to send my gratefulness to all participants and especially to the Chair of the Committee, Canada. Mr. Chris Henderson did a great job as chairperson to make this important first committee meeting a success. It was a challenging meeting to chair and his performance was excellent. Now we are looking forward to the next meeting and more important to the work that we are going to do in between meetings. This will be a very active Committee of the WCO and every day will be a part of the Committee agenda”.