The WCO COVID-19 Project supports Pacific islands Customs in efficiently facilitating the movement of emergency goods during disruptive events

27 October 2021

The WCO COVID-19 Project, funded by the Government of Japan, aims to improve the capacity of Customs administrations to tackle the challenges stemming from COVID-19, other infectious diseases and natural disasters. Considering the unique geographic and socio-economic features of Pacific islands, the “WCO online sub-regional workshop to assist Pacific Islands in improving their capacity in the clearance and regularization of relief goods in case of natural disasters and other disruptive events” was organized in cooperation with the Oceania Customs Organization Secretariat (OCO) from 19 to 21 and on 26 October 2021.

Customs play a key role in the supply of critical goods and in the release of relief consignments at borders. For this reason, they need to be well equipped and prepared to efficiently respond to any type of disruptive event. The Workshop prioritized the elaboration of practical recommendations to improve the facilitation of relief goods and equipment during emergency operations. It also enabled the fostering of synergies between Customs administrations, national disaster management authorities, international and regional organizations and relevant stakeholders, bringing together participants from different areas of competence.

During the opening ceremony, OCO Chairman, Mr. Xavier Mitchell, and OCO Head of Secretariat, Mr. Richard Brennan, warmly thanked the WCO for organizing the event and encouraged participants to make the most of the opportunity. The Head of the Regional Office for Capacity Building Asia/Pacific (ROCB AP), Mr Norikazu Kuramoto, expressed his gratitude for the financial support provided by Japan and commended the work carried out by the WCO COVID-19 Project. The Director of the WCO Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, underlined the importance of the initiative to strengthen “a coordinated and proactive approach to be implemented with all concerned agencies.”

The workshop focused on raising awareness of the role of Customs in disaster relief and on the challenges faced by Customs administrations and the humanitarian community for the clearance of relief consignments. Relevant international instruments and tools were highlighted, such as the WCO Guidelines for disaster management and supply chain continuity, recently developed by the WCO COVID-19 Project and approved by the WCO Council in June 2021. Participants analysed, with the support of the WCO, partner International Organizations and Australia and New Zealand Customs experts, the current procedures implemented in case of emergencies for certain category of imported goods, such as medicines and telecommunication equipment, and formulated practical recommendations.

The lessons learnt from such an interactive and collective reflection will be instrumental in updating current legislation, computerized Customs management systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), thus ensuring effective coordination and communication between all the actors of the humanitarian supply chain operating in the region. The WCO COVID-19 Project will continue to support WCO Members in this important task by providing technical assistance and training.

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