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Bhutan Customs to enhance disaster management

02 agosto 2011

Bhutan Customs to enhance disaster management

Brussels, 2 August 2011

Press Release

The World Customs Organization welcomes the decision by Bhutan to conclude a Model Customs Facilitation Agreement with the United Nations. This is a bilateral agreement concerning measures to expedite the import, export and transit of relief consignments and possessions belonging to relief operations personnel, in the event of disasters and emergencies.

In this context, it should be recalled that the WCO recently adopted a Resolution on the Role of Customs in natural disaster relief (June 2011) which provides a set of actions to be undertaken in order for Customs to be prepared for natural disasters. The signing of this UN Agreement falls under this new WCO Resolution.

The rugged mountain terrain, fragile geological conditions and extreme climate make Bhutan inherently vulnerable to natural disasters, including earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, forest fires, and glacier lake floods. The Agreement will allow aid consignments, including search and rescue teams, dog teams and mobile medical units, speedy entry and transit into the country in the event of a disaster.

Developed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and approved by the WCO, the Agreement includes recommended measures to expedite Customs clearance procedures, including simplified documentation and inspection procedures, the temporary or permanent waiving of duties and taxes on imports, as well as clearance arrangements outside official working hours and locations and advance registration of documents.

The focus today is on the Horn of Africa currently hit by drought and the WCO has taken measures swiftly to strengthen the partnership between Customs, International Organizations and NGOs in this particular region. In the light of this situation, the WCO would like to stress again the importance of Customs preparedness when faced with natural disasters. It strongly encourages its Members to quickly implement the new Resolution on the role of Customs in natural disaster relief containing recommendations and provisions that, if implemented, will have a positive impact on relief operations.