Laying the foundations for a roadmap on disaster management in Central America

22 November 2021

From 15 to 17 November, as part of its activities to foster the preparedness of Customs administrations in tackling the challenges stemming from COVID-19, other infectious diseases and natural disasters, the WCO COVID-19 Project, funded by the Government of Japan, held an online sub-regional workshop to assist Central American Customs Committee Members in improving their capacity in the processing of relief goods in cases of natural disasters and other disruptive events.

The Workshop brought together participants from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. It raised awareness of the role played by Customs in disaster management, encouraged the exchange of best practices on the importation of relief goods, provided information on the most relevant international instruments and tools for the release of relief goods and paved the way for future cooperation between Customs, other government agencies and stakeholders involved in the humanitarian supply chain.

The opening ceremony was followed by a high-level panel discussion during which Customs Directors General shared their views on disaster relief operations and on the need to improve the ability of Customs administrations to effectively respond to unpredictable scenarios. Mr. W. Ovalle Ramírez, President Pro Tempore of the Central American Customs Committee and Director General of Guatemala Customs, highlighted that natural disasters regularly occur in the area, hence the Presidency considered it particularly important to hold this Workshop. The need to foster cooperation was mentioned by several speakers. “Customs need to join humanitarian aid coordination mechanisms” stated the Regional Disaster Response Advisor of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Barbara Batista Rodriguez.

The Deputy Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa, facilitated the session and commended the commitment of border authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. He referred to the Workshop as an important opportunity to reinforce regional and sub-regional synergies and “to exchange views with Customs administrations’ Directors General on the achievements of the past months and to pave the way for further cooperation”.

Throughout the event, participants reviewed the legislation in force, with special attention given to the Central American Uniform Customs Code (CAUCA) and its Regulations (RECAUCA).  With the support of the WCO and other partner International Organization experts, they formulated strategic and operational recommendations to harmonize the procedures and processes related to a number of critical imported goods and to align them to international standards, making them “more fit to tackle current and future disruptive events and to respond to the requirements of all stakeholders involved in humanitarian operations”, stated WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa. The digitalization of processes and capacity-building for Customs staff and stakeholders were also mentioned as key to improving the processing of relief consignments.

The recommendations will be presented and discussed during the next Central American Customs Committee Members meeting in December, possibly in the presence of other stakeholders involved in the humanitarian supply chain, to develop a roadmap and achieve a general, common vision for the sub-region.

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