Successful 9th Session of the Capacity Building Committee - “SMART Customs: The Gateway to High Performance and Sustainability”

02 March 2018

Approximately 200 WCO Member administrations and stakeholder organizations participated in the 9th session of the WCO Capacity Building Committee (CBC) held in Brussels from 26 to 28 February 2018.

The Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya welcomed participants to the meeting and stressed the importance of the Committee’s work in enabling the informed application of WCO instruments and tools.  In his opening remarks, the Secretary General highlighted the outcomes of high-level dialogues with the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, making particular note of Customs’ contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to non-fiscal measures of performance, including facilitation and protection of society.  Reflecting on the theme of the meeting, the Secretary General noted joint discussions between the World Bank and the WCO on the development of a richer methodology for assessing border performance, leveraging the combined perspectives of the WCO and its membership, and the expertise in the World Bank, especially the Ease of Doing Business and Logistics Performance analyses.  The Secretary General also took the opportunity to introduce the newly elected WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Trevino.

The Director General of Swedish Customs, Ms. Therese Mattsson, gave the keynote address during which she reflected on Swedish Customs’ 380-year history as an agency, and on present-day demands and changing realities that are moving the agency towards a smarter and citizen-focused model.  Mrs. Mattsson suggested that Customs needs to inspire trust and confidence among public and private stakeholders, even as changing realities, expectations and demands force administrations to embrace innovation and change.  She indicated that smart, simple solutions that provide quality service to citizens and business, while promoting voluntary compliance is key in gaining public trust.  She also emphasized the importance of diversity, partnership and building an attractive work environment in support of smart Customs and strengthened public and private partnerships at the border.

Building on the theme of “Smart Customs”, the Committee benefited from presentations on the latest technological trends that are already impacting Customs operations and training.  Developments in remote sensing, machine learning, robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality are already seeing application in the field, with the trend set to increase over the coming years.  At the same time, the Committee engaged retrospectively on the history of Customs and the evolving mandates of Customs administrations beyond revenue collection, taking into account social protection, trade facilitation and security.  Intersecting the past and the future, the Committee also discussed present-day trends in performance measurement, highlighting Member applications that promote tactical and strategic decision-making, while increasing accountability and integrity.  The Committee also took into account the latest developments on questions of diversity and gender equality, taking note of the WCO’s efforts in this area.

The Director of Capacity Building, Mr. Ernani Checcucci proceeded to brief the Committee on the WCO Capacity Building Progress Report since the last session of the CBC in March 2017.  He highlighted some of the main contextual themes of this year’s report, including the TFA, e‑commerce and emergent technologies, while underscoring the key principles of needs-based support, project management approaches, and alignment to regional and national strategic plans.  The Director went on to discuss the results of specific capacity building projects, highlighting the finalization of training materials and standard operating procedures for the EAC regional AEO programme, a new human resources management guide and high-level political commitments, such as Afghanistan’s July 2017 signing of the Arusha declaration.  He then noted the delivery of 492 missions in the reporting period, representing a 49% increase over the previous year, with 33 Members currently benefiting from support under the Tailor-Made Track of the Mercator Programme.

The Committee then welcomed and/or endorsed a number of documents/initiatives, including:

  •    A call to Members to consider the evolving mandate of Customs Administrations and the need of Customs Administrations to reflect this in their mission statements;
  •    The importance of Performance Measurement as part of smart Customs Administrations;
  •    The IMF presentation on the proposed International Survey of Customs Administrations (ISOCA);
  •    Updates to the WCO Time Release Study Guide, including a monitoring and evaluation phase and a new focus on stakeholder engagement;
  •    Latest developments in gender equality and diversity and WCO ;
  •    WCO Secretariat proposal to update the PICARD Standards;
  •    New WCO training strategy approach;
  •    Updates to the Project Management Workshop Package;
  •    Updates to the Capacity Building Directorate Compendium Chapter 5 & 10.

This session of the CBC was chaired by Mr. Per Arvid Nordli (Norway), who marked his final session in this role.  The Director of Capacity Building expressed the WCO’s sincere appreciation for the dedication and hard work of the outgoing Chair.  The CBC then held elections for a new Chair and Vice-Chair.  Mrs. Velma Ricketts-Walker, Commissioner of Jamaica Customs, was elected as the new CBC Chair and Mr. Daniel Perrier, Canadian Border Service Agency, was elected as the Vice Chair.  The next CBC is tentatively scheduled for April 2019.

An executive summary as well as a full report of this year's CBC meeting will be sent to participants shortly.