Successful completion of the WCO virtual PICARD Conference

30 November 2020

The 15th edition of the annual WCO PICARD Conference, which ran from 23 to 26 November 2020, ended on a high note after four days of presentations and discussions among participants. For the first time, the Conference was held virtually.

The Conference brought together almost 50 speakers - Customs professionals, academic researchers, representatives of the private sector and think tanks - from all over the world. High-level research and papers, which had been evaluated and selected by the PICARD Scientific Board and during the earlier selection process, were presented during a total of 12 sessions.  The Conference attracted more than 500 registrations, and was attended by 240 to 400 participants on each day.

The Conference kicked off with a keynote speech by Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO. In his speech he revisited the spirit of “PICARD”, which stands for “Partnership in Customs Academic Research and Development”.  By linking each session of the Conference to the main policy-related topics currently being addressed by the WCO, including the Customs response to COVID-19, he reiterated the role of the annual PICARD Conference as a platform for sharing and discussing Customs-related research findings to facilitate evidence-based and well-informed policy-making within Customs.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, three sessions of the Conference were dedicated to COVID-19 related topics. Customs’ and WCO responses to the pandemic were addressed, with the importance of digitalization, Customs-business partnership and utilization of WCO tools such as Single Window and Authorized Economic Operator in particular being highlighted as lessons learned. There was also a session on the WCO’s theme for 2020, namely “Customs fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet” - an opportunity for timely discussions on environmental sustainability.

In sessions on data analytics and emerging technologies, recent developments regarding the WCO data analytics project and its application to capacity building contexts were explained. These sessions were based on specific research findings by data experts from Customs and other government agencies. In sessions dedicated to organizational performance measurement, empirical studies carried out within Customs provided insights into the WCO’s ongoing work of developing a performance measurement mechanism.

During the Conference a special edition of the World Customs Journal, featuring the topic “The WCO and Customs and trade community: past and future”, was introduced, and the papers included in the Journal were presented.  Among them were presentations delivered during the sessions on the “Evolving roles of Customs and achievements of the WCO”, referring to the rapidly changing environment and the pandemic. Capacity building and the PICARD Programme were revisited in the context of collaboration between Customs and academic research.