35th Session of the Enforcement Committee concludes

04 March 2016

Customs enforcement: our global contribution to securing borders and trade

The 35th Session of the Enforcement Committee (EC) took place in Brussels from 29 February to 3 March 2016. More than 150 Customs delegates participated in the Session along with the representatives of the CITES Secretariat, Europol, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), INTERPOL, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), UNESCO, United Nations Office on Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and others.

In her opening address, the Director of the WCO Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, Ms. Ana Hinojosa, introduced the theme  of this year’s meeting, “Customs enforcement: our global contribution to securing borders and trade”. She underlined the importance of the meeting addressing evolving and emerging threats and how Customs, as a community, can better respond to them. The WCO is very well aware of the challenges Customs administrations face and strives to be ahead the curve and develop tools and instruments that can meet Members’ emerging needs in the constantly changing operational environment.

In his keynote address, Mr. Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director of Europol and Head of the Operations Department, emphasised the need for a consolidated and cooperative approach to combat cross-border crime, for which Customs-Police cooperation is a pre-condition to achieve success.

The pressing issue of illicit trafficking of cultural objects was addressed as a priority at the EC. The round-table, focusing on the international and national responses to this problem, raised interest among the delegates who welcomed the increased attention to this issue and proposed sharing expertise and knowledge for the development of the specific training modules in order to tackle the issues of identification, seizure, detention and investigations related to illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

During the round-table on Customs and security, the delegates acknowledged that Customs administrations, irrespective of their powers and mandates, have a critical role to play in contributing to global and national security. While recognizing challenges in this context, collaboration with other relevant authorities was re-emphasised as critical in this domain.

In the area of the Environmental Programme, delegates expressed their support of the WCO Secretariat in relation to advocacy and operational activities as well as cooperation with the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) and the Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products.

At the round-table on the global situation and enforcement on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), this evolving phenomenon was discussed and the delegates agreed to support regional operational activities in this regard.

During the elections of the EC Chair and Vice-Chair, many delegates supported the current tandem of the United Kingdom and Senegal and praised them for the clarity and efficiency of the Committee meeting’s structure and deliberations. Therefore, the current Chair, Mr. Jeremy Lee from the United Kingdom Border Force was confirmed in his position as a Chair and Mr. Ismaila Diop from the Directorate General of Customs in Senegal was re-elected as a Vice-Chair of the 36th Enforcement Committee that will take place in spring 2017.