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Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM)

25 julio 2011

Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM)

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 23 July 2011

Convocation Address by Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General, World Customs Organization

“The importance of Work Integrated Learning in Building Capacity in Managers and Leaders”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on your achievement in earning postgraduate degrees offered by the prestigious Postgraduate Institute of Management of the University of Jayewardenepura. I would like to congratulate you as future leaders of your country and the world as well as those who supported you, namely your academic staff and family members. I am also pleased to note that this year for the first time we see the new graduates from the Master of Customs Administration course, delivered jointly with the Center of Customs and Excise Study of the University of Canberra.

Some of you have had professional experience before embarking on the expansion of your knowledge with a view of better serving society. I commend you for realizing that gaining knowledge through learning is crucial for your future professional careers. It is only with constant learning of emerging issues that you can contribute to making a better world in this fast-changing environment. Constant learning is a journey in itself, and the research skills this institution has taught you over the past two years will enable you to come off a good start. If you pursue this avenue, you will be able to further develop your career path in different fields. For instance, the current President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan spent his young days as Customs officer before engaging in higher education for further learning in order to deepen his knowledge, and then pursuing a political career. Another example showing how learning and practical work can enhance one another is Adam Smith, the father of modern economics in the 18thCentury, who later assumed the post of Customs controller in Scotland. When people think about Customs, the first thing that comes to mind is officers annoying passengers at airports by rummaging through their bags. However, the operations behind the scene entail a plethora of engaging socio-economic topics that carry every-changing challenges. In response to this longing for further learning, several universities have developed a master degree in line with WCO standards. Obviously, today’s event is significant, and the demand for research-based learning is not limited to Customs, but applies to all areas. Managers in any organization need quality information and reliable analysis on which they base their strategic decision-making. They also need leadership to manage change and guide their organizations.

In stressing the importance of learning, I would like to encourage that you broaden your mindset and engage with a wide area of knowledge, which you have been equipped with over the past two years. As I have indicated, the working environment in which you would operate, changes very quickly due to the development of technology and innovation that connects the different parts of the world more closely. You cannot therefore remain insulated in a narrow and static field. The life span of organizations that you are going to work for could be limited if its leaders do not adapt to this change with innovation. To thrive in this inter-connected world, as managers and leaders, you need to, on the one hand, deepen your knowledge in your specialized field, and on the other hand, put in a wider context of knowledge what you are doing and how you could do better with potential linkage to other fields. A good understanding of the global environment and trend is indispensable to make this connection and eventual transformation of your organization and society. For example, Customs has its original mission as revenue collection, which is still important today. It has since evolved to respond to the political and economic leaders’ demand of supporting economic development through trade liberalization and facilitation. Another challenge was the growing importance of risks at borders that threaten the health, safety and security of citizens. Customs has therefore looked into the wider perspective on how best they could use their specialized knowledge and competence to serve society. This evolution of Customs mission into wider border management has only been made possible through the learning of the managers, via their acquired ability to understand and manage change with capacity building. This is only one example of a broad-minded and innovative approach to learning that many managers take, in both the private and public sectors.

In relation to this, I would like to touch upon communication skills, which is the prerequisite to anyone who seeks to manage and lead. You have acquired a wealth of knowledge, but your message has to be understood inside and outside your work place. In this inter-connected world we need concerted efforts with other entities based on common understanding to provide better service. I always stress the partnership approach with members of Customs administrations to achieve our goal: partnership with businesses, other government agencies and foreign Customs administrations and without forgetting academia. Needless to say, communication is the key to achieve this coordination and cooperation with your partners. I believe that communication is powerful when it is conveyed in a simple and succinct manner. To accomplish this, you have to find the essence of the subject and translate its meaning into an explanation that is understandable to a lay person. Once you identify the core message, then, if needed, you would be able to elaborate longer without losing sight of the whole issue.

Finally, I would like to emphasize the importance of integrity. While you have gained great capability through learning in the PIM, integrity is more important in supporting your professionalism. The breach of integrity destroys the trust of society in your work place and nullifies the efforts made in your professional life. When the WCO developed a policy document entitled “Customs in the 21st Century” with ten building blocks to strategically guide the Customs community, integrity was identified as the last building block, because it is the basis of all other building blocks. I believe that you have learned the value of knowledge, innovation and honesty in this institution. With integrity and the ability to learn, I am confident that you will be able to join the global efforts to move towards a better world.

Once again, I offer my heartfelt congratulations and wish you all the best.

Thank you for your attention.