Afghan President commits to WCO Programme in support of Customs reform

18 July 2017

At the invitation of the Director General of Afghan Customs, Mr. Ahmad Reshad Popal, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited Kabul, Afghanistan on 16 and 17 July 2017.  He commended the progress made in Customs reform under the WCO Programme funded by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the United Kingdom and met with political leaders, among whom was the Afghan President, and  business representatives who strongly supported the ongoing Customs modernization efforts in the country.

The President of Afghanistan, H. E. Mr. Ashraf Ghani, welcomed Secretary General Mikuriya and shared his vision of transforming Afghan Customs into a model for governance, recognizing that Customs capacity building is a crucial part of state building.  Dr. Mikuriya suggested that human resource development (HRD) is key to realizing this vision, he asked the President for his political support in implementing a HRD policy that would establish career paths within Customs, supported by adequate rotations as well as protected from political interference.  President Ghani was eager to move forward in this direction and made clear his strong support for the suggested way forward.

The Afghan Customs management team, consisting of young 'change agents', had a discussion with Secretary General Mikuriya about the challenges they face and the ownership-based Strategic Plan that they had developed under the WCO programme, with the support of Azerbaijan, Uganda and India.  Dr. Mikuriya also visited the Customs and Tax Academy established in December 2016, and encouraged the participants from provincial Customs offices to further build capacities, one of the most important aspects of the Strategic Plan.

The Afghan Minister of Finance, Mr. Eklil Ahmad Hakimi had an engaging discussion with Secretary General Mikuriya on various topics, including transit, Customs cooperation and the implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.  At a press conference, the Minister of Finance signed his commitment to the WCO Arusha Declaration on improving integrity in Customs and presented it to Dr. Mikuriya.

Minister of Commerce and Industries, Mr. Humayoon Rasaw, also welcomed Secretary General Mikuriya and guaranteed his support for the strengthening of collaboration with Customs.  Dr. Mikuriya explained how National Committees (NCTFs)on Trade Facilitation could support a whole-of-government approach for trade facilitation, including through the conducting of a Time Release Study and the establishment of a Single Window where Customs can provide services to other government agencies.

The WCO Secretary General also had a meeting with the private sector, represented by the CEO of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Atiqullah Nusrat, who was accompanied by members of his team.  They asked for the WCO's support concerning the establishment of a Single Window and the introduction of a one-stop service.  They also welcomed Dr. Mikuriya’s explanations on the modern Customs approach to Customs-business partnerships and the AEO programme as a means to improving the compliance of businesses benefiting from Customs facilitative measures.

Dr. Mikuriya appreciated the young and motivated Customs management team as well as the political and business leaders' support for Customs reform, and pledged the WCO would continue to cooperate with Afghanistan.