World Customs Organization dedicates 2021 to bolstering the process of Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain

04 December 2020

The Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, has announced that 2021 will be devoted to the united efforts of the global Customs community to take on a leadership role, use innovative technologies, and collaborate with its stakeholders in bracing for the future, with the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain.”

Customs, working with other agencies at the border, plays a pivotal role in facilitating trade and travel, simplifying, standardizing and harmonizing border procedures, and securing the borders. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the relevance and critical role that Customs plays in this context, by ensuring the continuous operation of the supply chain and guaranteeing that essential and medical goods cross borders without delay at a time when it is most needed.

Against this background, Customs administrations will be invited to embrace digital transformation at the borders, while paying particular attention to automation, the use of innovative technologies, and the adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.

During the reconstruction process after the disruption the pandemic had caused on the global supply chains, Customs will be called upon to play a leadership role, at national and international levels.  The COVID-19 crisis has proven that coordinated border management is possible, efficient, and can be further institutionalized at international and national levels. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the importance of the integration of major innovative and technological concepts into Customs operations. These include all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating processes. Inspections can be facilitated by using non-intrusive devices. Other technological advances such as blockchain or artificial intelligence can also offer tangible benefits in terms of collecting, combining, sharing and analysing data, and these benefits should be maximized.

In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to systemic risks such as pandemics, Customs administrations will be called upon to build on the lessons learned. To create greater resilience, “people” should be at the centre of the recovery model. Customs will have to rethink the way they operate, and enhance the preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service, with Integrity remaining high on their agenda.

“The nature of trade and business has changed irrevocably with the pandemic, and Customs will have to be nimble, as key agency at borders, to ensure a smooth recovery of the global supply chains,” said Secretary General Mikuriya. He added that “the WCO slogan ‘Borders Divide, Customs Connects’ is more relevant than ever during these challenging times and the WCO will continue to provide guidance to its Members, and support them through capacity building/technical assistance for the achievement of the above goals.”

The WCO’s annual theme will be launched on International Customs Day, which is celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in remembrance of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.

The WCO invites the Customs community to mark 26 January 2021 in their diary.