The global Customs community celebrates International Women’s Day 2020

06 March 2020

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is pleased to join the international community in celebrating International Women’s Day 2020, with the theme “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.”

The WCO proactively promotes “Gender Equality and Diversity” and has included this topic in its capacity building agenda. Over the past few years, the Organization has stepped up its efforts – developing new tools and launching new initiatives.

“Gender Equality and Diversity” was one of the topics covered at the last session of the WCO Policy Commission in December 2019.  As a result, Members agreed to a number of actions to move the agenda forward, including the development of a WCO Declaration on Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs. The draft Declaration was discussed at the 11th Session of the WCO Capacity Building Committee in March 2020 and is expected to be adopted by the WCO Council in June 2020.

WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya stated that, “Women play a central role in economic and social development, hence it is essential that Gender Equality and Diversity be realized in Customs administrations, based on a gender equality policy.” He added that “WCO Members are, therefore, encouraged to take stock of best practices and share them further at the international level to ensure a multiplying positive effect.”           

To get a better overview of the state of play of Gender Equality and Diversity implementation in Customs administrations, the WCO has conducted two surveys among its Members. The most recent one from 2019, received 95 responses and permitting the identification of some important progress on gender equality in Customs.

For instance, 75% of respondents, indicated that they have implemented at least one measure to promote work-life balance, and 80 % indicated that they have implemented at least one measure to prevent sexual harassment. The survey also showed that Customs is still a male dominated sector, although the figures vary significantly between countries, with a global average of 62% men and 38% women employees.

Ms. Fathmath Abdul Rahman, from Maldives Customs and Member of the WCO VWG on Gender Equality and Diversity, indicated that “Taking part in the work of the WCO Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity was an eye-opener. It has transformed women working in Maldives Customs to become stronger and bold. We can now raise our voices against gender inequalities and we feel more energized to fight against unfair treatment.”

The WCO reaffirms its strong commitment to keep promoting and supporting the advancement of gender equality and diversity among its Members, and to continue working closely with its international partners to move this agenda forward.

Further reading

The WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT) was updated last year to further align it to international standards. This tool, which was originally launched in 2013, enables Customs administrations to assess their own policies and procedures to advance gender equality in their different areas of competence.

The new updates include definitions of gender and diversity related concepts, a chapter on how to implement gender mainstreaming through project management, as well as new cross-cutting indicators that are relevant when implementing gender equality.

In 2019, the WCO also launched a Blended Training Package entitled “Advancing Gender Equality in Customs,” which includes a one-week workshop on implementing gender equality as an integrated part of Customs reform and modernization programmes. The Package also includes an e-learning module that is available on the WCO CLiKC! Platform in English and French and aims at raising general awareness of gender equality and inclusiveness in Customs.

The WCO also continues to work with its Members through the Virtual Working Group (VWG) on Gender Equality and Diversity. This Working Group meets every two months to discuss how to promote gender equality and diversity within Customs, and enables WCO Members to share experiences.

Moreover, the WCO is enhancing its collaboration with other international development partners on the topic of gender equality and trade, to create synergies and visibility for the WCO’s work. For instance, the WCO jointly organized a panel session together with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the European Commission on the occasion of the World Trade Organizations (WTO) annual “Aid For Trade Global Review” Conference in July 2019.