WCO supports transparency and open flow of information in times of crises

22 March 2011

WCO supports transparency and open flow of information in times of crises

Brussels, 21 March 2011

Press Release

On behalf of the Members and Secretariat of the World Customs Organization, Secretary General Mikuriya expresses his sincere condolences and sympathy to the people of Japan at their time of loss and sorrow following the powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami which hit the country recently.

“I commend the Japanese authorities on their calm and firm handling of a very difficult situation which has shown the importance both of transparency and of the open flow of information concerning the constantly evolving situation in the country,” said the Secretary General. “This undoubtedly also helps to keep Japan’s trading partners abreast of developments and ensures that they have all the information needed to develop a measured response based on scientific evidence, a principle which is fully in line with WCO standards,” he added.

The WCO is currently carrying out substantial work on the role of Customs in natural disaster relief, work which is expected to result in a Resolution on the subject for approval by the WCO Council during their annual sessions at the end of June 2011. Essentially, the objective is to ensure that Customs administrations facilitate and accelerate the clearance of relief aid and goods in post-disaster situations and, to the extent possible, ensure full involvement of Customs in national disaster relief structures.

Another key aspect is the need to ensure that goods being exported from disaster-afflicted countries are not unnecessarily impeded in their flow or subjected to unwarranted restrictions by importing countries. In this connection, one of the WCO’s key working bodies, the Permanent Technical Committee, will consider this question in the coming days, with a view to drawing WCO Members’ attention to the importance of this particular aspect.

As the full scale of the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake and the tsunami have gradually emerged over the past week, the WCO reiterates its readiness to provide any assistance within its remit, to Japan and the Japanese people as they endeavour to cope and come to terms with the effects of the country’s worst natural disaster in living memory.