The WCO COVID-19 Project supports Madagascar Customs in enhancing its preparedness by drafting Standard Operating Procedures to expedite the movement of relief goods and humanitarian aid

03 June 2021

On 25-28 May 2021, the WCO COVID-19 Project, funded by the Government of Japan, hosted and facilitated the "Online workshop to assist Madagascar Customs in drafting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the clearance and regularization of relief goods in case of natural disasters and other disruptive events”. Through this national-level initiative, the WCO Secretariat was able to provide support specifically tailored to the needs of the beneficiary Member.

The workshop was attended by more than 90 participants, representing Customs, the National Disaster Risk Management Office (NDRMO), competent ministries and the humanitarian sector. With the guidance provided by the WCO and partner International Organizations’ experts, participants had the opportunity to identify the bottlenecks in the importation of relief consignments and to reflect on how to streamline procedures and better manage relief goods and equipment clearance processes.

“Simplified procedures have been put in place to tackle COVID-19, but they are temporary. We now need a formal tool to expedite clearance.” stated Mr. Ernest Zafivanona Lainkana, Director General of Madagascar Customs, in his opening remarks. Ms. Nirina Adriatsimetra, Acting Director of the NDRMO, and Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, Director of the WCO Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, welcomed the initiative and agreed on the important role played by Customs in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of citizens during disasters.

During the workshop, Guinea and Mali Customs provided an overview of the experience they gained through their involvement in the WCO Customs for Relief of Epidemic Diseases (C-RED) Project and shared the best practices developed during the Ebola epidemic.  

The sessions dedicated to the drafting of the guide were organized in working groups, each of which focused on a specific topic. The discussions were instrumental in identifying the gaps to be filled in the national legislation and improving the processes and procedures implemented for the treatment of humanitarian aid imported goods and equipment.  Matters of priority covered by the newly drafted SOPs include, but are not limited to, Customs duties exemptions, inspections, and the processing of medicines and disaster-related equipment.

On the last day of the event, participants gathered in a plenary session during which they jointly reviewed the work carried out by the working groups and discussed the finalization and validation of the operational guide.  The next step will be to hold a training session and simulation exercise to test the mechanisms in place for the facilitation of relief consignments, thus identifying potential adjustments to be made, fostering Customs’ readiness and enhancing coordination between all stakeholders involved in the supply chain.

This workshop is the first in a series of national capacity-building activities that will be carried out by the WCO COVID-19 Project in the months to come to the benefit of a number of Members in all WCO regions.