Virtual PITCH training deployed in Panama within the WCO-UNODC Container Control Programme

07 June 2021

Within the framework of the WCO-UNODC Container Control Programme (CCP) and due to funding by the US State Department, the WCO conducted its specialized PITCH (Preventing Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage) training for the Air Cargo Control Unit (ACCU) Tocumen International Airport and for the Port Control Units (PCU) in Panama. The training was conducted online, from 31 May until 4 June 2021. Thirty-two Customs officers participated in the courses, delivered by the WCO trainer in cooperation with the external experts from INTERPOL, Ministry of Culture of Peru and Ministry of Culture of Panama, Spanish National Police, UK Border Force and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Mr Jose Ismael Herrera, Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture of Panama, Ms Tayra Barsallo, Panama Customs Director General along with Ms Melissa Flynn, Head of the UNODC Regional Office for Central America and Caribbean in Panama and a representative of the WCO opened the training. The dignitaries from Panama underlined the importance of the protection of cultural heritage, provided a brief overview of the combatting illicit trafficking of cultural heritage in Panama and thanked the WCO and UNODC for bringing the PITCH training to their country. The representative of the WCO pointed out that the objective of the training was to raise awareness of the threat stemming from illicit trafficking of cultural objects and to provide the ACCU and PCU officers with operational tools and instruments for their work in the airport and seaport environments.

The PITCH training included modules on the identification and documentation of cultural objects, the use of international and national databases, inter-agency cooperation, and Customs techniques for smuggling identification and prevention.

Panama is the second country in the Americas region after Cuba that received the specialized WCO PITCH training.