WCO and OSCE join forces to deploy the PITCH training online for the Balkan Region

29 May 2020

The global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 disease has had an impact on the physical delivery of capacity building activities by many international organizations. However, both World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have shown their resilience and capacity to adapt to this unique situation by organizing online trainings, the latest being the successful delivery of a five-day PITCH (Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage) training from 25 to 29 May 2020.

Fourteen Customs officers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey participated in the training, aimed at improving their knowledge and skills in preventing offences related to the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

“This joint WCO-OSCE initiative serves as an example of agility, partnership, synergy and flexibility resulting in rapid deployment of the PITCH training for the benefit of the Balkan Customs administrations that requested this training a year ago,” said Pranab Kumar Das, Director of the WCO’s Compliance and Facilitation Directorate.

“Despite the COVID-19 crisis, an online solution was found and the training was adapted and deployed very quickly. We are delighted to be able to provide our best enforcement training packages for our Members,” added Kumar Das.

“We do believe that in this challenging period, more than ever before the shared expertise and knowledge will contribute towards protection of the unique and extremely rich cultural heritage of the concerned regions and even beyond,” said Goran Stojkovski, Customs Adviser at the OSCE Secretariat’s Border Management and Security Unit.

“Bringing representatives of Customs administrations of South-Eastern Europe participating States virtually together to benefit from the WCO PITCH training promotes the principles of confidence building and co-operation, as well as the sharing of resources and knowledge in the prevention of and fight against this specific phenomenon,” said Goran Stojkovski. “This is a great example of the implementation of the core commitments of the OSCE Border Security and Management Concept, which has proved its efficiency since its adoption in 2005,” he added.

The training was conducted within the framework of an OSCE project that aims to position the phenomenon of illicit trafficking of cultural heritage higher on the agenda of the national services of the OSCE participating States, with a focus on further capacity building in accordance with identified best practices in a systematic manner.

It is also in line with the WCO’s global deployment strategy of the PITCH training for Customs administrations, as stipulated in the WCO’s 2016 Council Resolution, as well as the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347/2017. WCO PITCH training is specifically aimed at enhancing operational capacities of the frontline Customs officers who act as the first line of defence in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

The deployment of the PITCH training for the Balkan Customs administrations was the second joint effort of the WCO and OSCE, after the first instalment of the PITCH training in Central Asia in 2019, based on the Working Arrangement that both organizations signed in 2018, providing the framework for co-operation in areas of mutual interest.

The training was supported by the INTERPOL’s Works of Art Unit, national experts from the UK Border Force, Turkish Ministry of Culture, Mersin University (Turkey) and Helicon Conservation Support (The Netherlands).