Constructive discussions at the WCO Enforcement Committee on how to secure trade and travel

27 March 2018

More than 150 Customs delegates participated in the 37th Session of the WCO Enforcement Committee (EC) which took place in Brussels from 19 to 23 March 2018 under the theme “Customs enforcement: securing trade and travel”.  

This year’s theme for the Committee reflects the increasingly important role played by the international Customs community in addressing cross-border security challenges while safeguarding the interests of legitimate traders and travellers.   It also fits in very well with the WCO’s general theme for 2018, "A secure business environment for economic development", with many initiatives and related projects presented to the Committee throughout all the sessions contributing to creating such an environment.

Other WCO partner organizations joined the discussions, including representatives from the CITES Secretariat, Europol, Frontex, the International Criminal Court, INTERPOL, the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Mr. John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), who was invited to deliver a keynote address during the opening session of the meeting, emphasized the importance of Customs’ role in tackling illicit wildlife trade and praised the strong partnership that the CITES Secretariat and the WCO had managed to build over the years.  He also highlighted the fact that both Organizations were committed to balancing controls with facilitation, before noting the progress made to date and reflected particularly by the decline in levels of elephant poaching globally from 2012 to 2016 coupled with a rise in the number of ivory seizures made by Customs administrations worldwide.

The Deputy Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa, also took the floor.  He thanked the Secretary-General of CITES for his leadership and partnership approach, which had been of great value in the fight against wildlife crime, before stressing the important role played by the EC in directing Customs enforcement activities towards effective mitigation of emerging risks.  He underscored the need to continue fostering partnerships with other relevant government agencies at all levels, so as to ensure joint and effective responses.

The Agenda of the meeting was divided into eight sessions covering topics addressed as part of the main WCO Enforcement Programmes, namely Drugs and Precursors; Environment; Intelligence and Risk Management; IPR, Health and Safety; Revenue; Security and Trafficking of Cultural Objects.  During each session, an interactive panel discussion on a topic of pressing interest was held.  For the topic on securing travel, for example, several experts took part in a panel on “Airports in the 21st Century” to discuss existing best practices and identify challenges faced.  During another panel on Customs investigations, the various existing investigative processes were presented together with some of the key elements for conducting this activity, such as cooperation mechanisms and partnerships, efficient evidence collection, well-established legal frameworks and regulations and an intelligence-led approach.

Turning to the elections for the EC Chair and Vice-Chair, many delegates supported the current duo comprising the Delegates of Australia and India, praising them for the efficient way in which the Committee was conducted and structured as well as for the quality of the deliberations.  As a result, both the current Chair, Ms. Abigail Bradshaw from the Australian Border Force, and the current Vice-Chair, Mr. Debi Dash from the Central Board of Excise and Customs of India, were re-elected to their respective positions.  It was announced that the 38th Session of the Enforcement Committee would take place in spring 2019.