42nd Session of WCO Enforcement Committee concludes successfully

01 April 2022

On 1 April 2022 the Enforcement Committee (EC) ended its 42nd Session, held in hybrid format and bringing together more than 450 delegates, including 64 delegates who attended in person. This was the largest in-person attendance at a WCO meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. In addition to delegates from 106 Member administrations, 13 observers from other international organizations such as EUROPOL, WHO, FRONTEX, CCLAC and CARICOM, as well as guests from the private sector, were actively engaged throughout the two phases of the meeting.

During a two-week document-based phase that took place prior to the meeting, the WCO Secretariat and the Members, using the CLiKC! discussion forum, diligently prepared the more than 60 Agenda items for the week-long hybrid meeting session held from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April at WCO Headquarters.

The Session, dedicated to the theme of the year “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”, was opened by WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, who highlighted a new challenge for the Customs community – the current conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. He remarked that in this humanitarian catastrophe, Customs is playing a central role in facilitating the cross-border movement of humanitarian supplies whilst effectively controlling goods to further protect civilians from the health, safety and security threats that arise in these circumstances.

Dr. Mikuriya urged WCO Members to implement the necessary WCO instruments and tools that will allow for the efficient and expeditious delivery of humanitarian supplies to the population affected by this humanitarian crisis. He also elaborated on the WCO theme, reminding Members about the importance of data and the exchange of information, and the creation of operating models for capturing and exploiting data from across the trade ecosystem.

He also expressed his hope that the panel discussion scheduled to take place under the Environment Programme would help to identify the Customs’ enforcement role in the Circular Economy, through discussions about the challenges and the progress made by Customs administrations world-wide.

Under the Chairmanship of Mr. Jean Herby Nelson of Haiti, who had been re-elected as Chair, the delegates took note of, discussed and approved an important number of activities, instruments and tools, as well as some ambitious new projects.

The EC, through its thorough discussions, provided guidance for further strategic and operational activities in the area of Compliance & Enforcement. Delegates discussed the implementation of the new WCO Strategic Plan 2022-2025 from an enforcement perspective, and approved a comprehensive Compliance & Enforcement Action Plan for financial year 2022-2023.

The first three days of the Meeting were dedicated to in-depth discussions on current and future WCO Compliance & Enforcement focus areas such as the WCO Action Plan on the COVID-19 pandemic, data-driven Customs, the role of Customs in the Circular Economy and the fight against illicit trafficking. Fruitful panel discussions were conducted on some of these topics with Members, other international organizations and private sector representatives, providing well- informed guidance for the implementation of the Strategic Plan.

Inter alia, the Deputy Secretary General Mr. Ricardo Trevino Chapa reported on progress made with the implementation of the WCO COVID-19 Action Plan, and the EC agreed on the way forward for Operation STOP II – the largest-ever Customs-led global operation, involving 160 Member Customs administrations, designed to crack down on the illicit trade in medicines, vaccines and medical devices related to COVID-19. The Meeting welcomed the Secretariat’s work and new projects in the area of data collection, analysis and sharing, as well as better visualization of the Customs Enforcement Network database.

The Secretariat presented the first draft of the Strategy on Fighting Commercial Customs Fraud, and delegates provided their views on this question which is a top priority for most Customs administrations. Also, the Secretariat presented the WCO/UPU/INCB initiative on synthetic drugs shipped in the mail and in postal freight, which was welcomed by delegates as was the exploration of ways to achieve enhanced cooperation between Customs and the transportation sector in the fight against illicit trafficking. Another highly-appreciated panel discussion focused on the future role of Customs in the global Circular Economy and identified the need for Customs to further elaborate this crucial question. Many other relevant activities and tasks were discussed and guidance provided for the Compliance and Enforcement (C&E) Sub-Directorate programmes, including for example on the Customs contribution to the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

As per tradition, the EC considered the work undertaken since the 41st Session under the C&E Sub-Directorate’s various programmes and projects. Comprehensive updates and proposals for the way forward were presented to delegates in all areas of enforcement, i.e., Environment, Drugs, Security, Revenue, Cultural Heritage, IPR Health and Safety, Intelligence and Risk Management, the CEN Programme, and Customs investigations with the COPES project and the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing programme.

In his closing remarks, WCO Director of Compliance and Facilitation Mr. Pranab Kumar Das thanked the Chair and Vice-Chair for their strong leadership, and thanked delegates for their active participation in the 42nd Session of the EC and their unfailing commitment to advancing the work of the WCO.