International Customs Day 2011

26 January 2011

International Customs Day 2011

Brussels, 26 January 2011

Speech by Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General, World Customs Organization

Good morning.

Thank you for coming to the WCO to join the celebration of International Customs Day with all 177 of our Members around the world.

You may recall that last year we dedicated this special day on the Customs calendar to the theme of Customs-Business Partnerships.

Throughout the year the WCO and its Members promoted partnerships with the business community.

We learnt how to further enhance communication between Customs and business, and how to know better each others’ needs to jointly improve performance.

Due to this dialogue and partnership approach we strengthened trust and enjoyed sharing knowledge which has proved to be mutually beneficial.

Indeed, back in the 16th century Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power”.

Believing in this statement and based on what we learned last year, I decided to dedicate 2011 to the theme: “Knowledge, a catalyst for Customs excellence”.

In our changing world, knowledge is a critical resource.

Customs managers need quality information and reliable analysis on which they can base their strategic decision-making and leadership to manage change and guide their organizations.

This evidence-based research is also the basis for capacity building as it inspires Customs managers with success stories and lessons learned.

This is also why the WCO’s “Customs in the 21st Century” vision recognizes “a professional, knowledge-based service culture” as a building block for modern Customs administrations.

In support of this building block, the WCO collects, analyzes, produces and communicates knowledge to Customs administrations, policymakers, the private sector, and the media.

In other words, the WCO operates as a knowledge network by sharing information with its Members and Customs’ stakeholders.

Although a small organization, the WCO sees sharing knowledge as having a multiplying power in impacting the global community rather than withholding it.

The most prominent forums for the WCO’s contribution to knowledge are the formal WCO committees. This is where the hard work is done to develop and refine WCO tools, instruments, and standards, which incorporate our knowledge of best practices.

As part of my efforts to create a WCO knowledge-based centre of excellence, I established a Research and Strategies Unit within my office in April 2009. The outcome of our research is accessible on WCO websites and published in well-renowned journals such as the World Customs Journal and the Global Trade and Customs Journal, and will continue to be done.

In addition, the WCO co-hosts the annual Picard Conference that involves the presentation of diverse academic and practitioner research on Customs and other international trade subjects.

In this new era of the internet and globalization, online communities have risen to share information and expertise on many matters. To that end the WCO launched Club de la Réforme, an online community for Customs officers and researchers to share knowledge on topics related to Customs and international trade.

Outside this meeting hall, WCO officials can provide you with more information on the Club and how to join this new online community.

Knowledge, however, is not just about publishing research. It is also about professional training and capacity building.

Under my management, the entire WCO is mobilized to deliver effective capacity building for all Members of the Organization.

Professional Training is delivered by WCO experts and supported by our quality e-learning modules, and our global Regional Training Centre network.

Related to this, the WCO is now launching CLiKC! – Customs Learning and Knowledge Community – which provides:

· A single access point for all Customs training related topics, including an upgraded e-learning platform; and

· Easy access at the regional and national level to a network of regional collaboration and human resources.

Knowledge is also about bringing together experts and novices to discuss and debate ideas. In this regard, the WCO regularly organizes global, regional, and national forums to promote discussions on both policy and practical issues.

For instance, the Organization annually organizes its IT Conference and Exhibition – which will be held in Seattle in May this year – and the Technology and Innovation Forum which is held later in the year. These events are intended to create a platform for policymakers and vendors to discuss the uses of technology as they relate to the needs of the Customs community.

In a similar vein, the WCO is currently hosting its first Global Canine workshop with the participation of dogs and their handlers. This event has generated an excellent response.

In conclusion, where do we go from here?

As Socrates put it, “There is only one good, knowledge, and only one evil, ignorance”.

I encourage WCO Members not to hesitate in seeking out other “knowledge” institutions:

· Seek out national academics to discuss Customs topics that could benefit from research in terms of economics, public administration, anthropology, or whatever field that can reinforce professionalism;

· Seek out technical schools, including IT and engineering schools, to develop win-win partnerships that will enhance the technical capacity of Customs officers; and

· Continue to seek out business partners and other government ministries and agencies to share more knowledge to better understand each other and to enhance cooperation, coordination and collaboration.

Knowledge will enable us to remain visionary, relevant and indispensable and through knowledge we can create a better world.

Thank you for your attention and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy International Customs Day.