WCO SG participates in a Virtual High Level Engagement on Promotion of Safe and Inclusive Working Environment for the ESA region

24 August 2023

On 23 August 2023, at the invitation of the East and Southern Africa Regional Office for Capacity Building (ESA ROCB), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), attended the High Level Engagement on Promotion of Safe and Inclusive Working Environment for the ESA region. The Conference was organized by the ESA ROCB.

This forum was part of the ESA Region’s Regional Strategy implementation , dedicated to promoting gender equality and diversity among ESA members, stakeholders and partners. Among their priority areas is the cultivation of a safe, conducive, diverse, equal, inclusive and violence-free working environment. This commitment is rooted in the Declaration of the Customs Co-operation Council on Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs, which was endorsed by WCO members in December 2020. The declaration underscores the importance of preventing any form of harassment and/or gender-based violence in all areas of Customs - whether among staff or committed by staff towards the public and vice versa. This commitment is also in line with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reflecting the impact of emerging issues on Customs and Trade.

In his Keynote Address, Dr. Mikuriya emphasized that a positive working environment is a crucial concern for any organization, as it fosters safety, health, satisfaction, and thereby enhances workforce productivity. He highlighted that an ideal work place is one where employees feel supported, engaged, equipped with necessary resources, and empowered to advance in their careers. Elements such as a well-defined mission, collaborative teamwork, performance-based rewards, training for skill development, and life-work balance are essential ingredients to attract talent. He noted that this human resource and organizational development aspect is a pivotal element for Customs modernization, reflecting the belief that people are the most valuable of an organization.

In this context, he encouraged the region to share insightful contributions, including best practices, challenges overcome, and innovative approaches towards Customs modernization. Given that administrations in the same region often face similar challenges, sharing experiences can be highly beneficial.

The Conference witnessed high-level engagement from the ESA Vice Chair, the head of Customs administration from Zimbabwe, as well as representatives from the private sector and related trade partners. The discussions provided an excellent opportunity for delegates to exchange knowledge and learn from one another. Furthermore, the event served as a call to action, urging efforts towards the implementation of comprehensive and sustainable policies, procedures, projects, programmes and initiatives that promote safe and inclusive working environments.