The global Customs community celebrates International Women’s Day 2018

08 March 2018

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is pleased to join the international community in celebrating the International Women’s Day 2018 with the theme ‘The Time is Now,’ which acknowledges the rural and urban activists who have transformed the lives of women around the world.

Each year, International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and also marks a call to action by the international community in dealing with women’s rights, while highlighting gender parity gains and accelerating gender equality.

Celebrated by the United Nations (UN) since 1975, this special day on the UN calendar is an occasion to reflect on the importance of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, which is listed as Goal No. 5 among the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that form part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

As part of his official message in honouring International Women’s Day 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, "At this crucial moment for women’s rights, it is time for men to stand with women, listen to them and learn from them,” adding that “transparency and accountability are essential if women are to reach their full potential and lift all of us, in our communities, societies, and economies.”

WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya added, “WCO has a crucial role to play in promoting gender equality and diversity in all Customs administrations and throughout the wider Customs community,” highlighting that the “International Women’s Day 2018 provides another opportunity to encourage WCO Members to actively engage in these issues as a matter of urgency.”

The 9th session of the Capacity Building Committee held from 26 to 28 February 2018 also discussed about the promotion of gender equality and acknowledged the importance of engaging men in the conversations. The case of Iceland, particularly the new equal pay law was presented. This law mandates equal pay for equal work with a State certification required for employers with 25 or more employees.

Gender equality and diversity are considered a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development and growth. Customs have an important role to play in this process. In their role as employers, Customs can promote gender equality in areas such as recruitment, career development, training and work-life-balance.

Furthermore, by facilitating trade, Customs opens up opportunities for women entrepreneurs and traders to access new markets, which in turn leads to better incomes, contributes to changing attitudes and norms, improves employment conditions and creates new partnership opportunities. In this regard, Customs can support women entrepreneurs by involving groups representing women traders in the stakeholder consultations to better understand their needs.

Moreover, through implementing trade facilitation measures which enhances transparency, predictability, automation and standardization, Customs can contribute to improving the conditions and ensure safety for women traders at the border which can have  large impacts, especially in developing countries where women constitute an important part of the informal cross-border traders.

The WCO has engaged in a number of activities to promote gender equality. With the hosting of its ‘Women in Customs, Trade and Leadership Conference’ in July 2013, the WCO embraced gender equality as an important topic, and developed a Customs-specific diagnostic tool known as the ‘WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool’ (GEOAT).

This tool can be used by WCO Member Customs administrations to assess their policies, practices and activities and provides guidance on how to address gender equality in different areas including Human Resources, Governance and in Stakeholder relations. The concept of ‘gender mainstreaming,’ is on the agenda of the WCO Capacity Building Committee, and is considered  in the WCO Leadership and Management Development (LMD) Programme which includes a full module dedicated to gender equality and diversity and addresses the importance of preventing stereotypes.

To further promote an exchange of practices in this area, the WCO launched a Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity, in March 2017, accessed via its CLiKC! Platform. The objectives of this working group are to gather best practices in the field of gender equality and diversity, provide a forum for exchange on this topic, raise awareness about the GEOAT, and collecting ideas on how the WCO further can promote these issues in its work.

Moreover, a training package on advancing Gender equality as part of Customs reform and modernization is currently being developed under the framework of the Finland’s capacity building programme for East and Southern Africa. This training package will include an e-learning module, and is expected to be available to WCO Members via the CLiKC! Platform by the end of 2018.

In keeping with the spirit of International Women’s Day 2018, the WCO also fully supports the December 2017 ‘Buenos Aires Joint Declaration on Women and Trade’ endorsed by 118 members and observers of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that outlines actions to increase the participation of women in trade, in order to help them reach their full potential in the world economy by removing barriers to foster their economic empowerment.

The WCO reiterates its strong and unwavering commitment to remain proactive in finding ways to raise awareness on the importance of achieving gender parity within the global Customs community and in working closely with its international partners on gender equality, thereby contributing to its Members’ efforts and those of others towards ensuring sustainable development across the globe.