WCO Council elects Ian Saunders as new Secretary General

24 June 2023

On Saturday 24 June, Customs Directors General representing the 185 Members of the World Customs Organization (WCO) elected Ian Saunders as the Organization’s new Secretary General for a five-year term as of 1st January 2024. The WCO Secretary General is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities of the WCO Secretariat. The election, which saw two candidates vying for this top position, took place during the annual Council Sessions in Brussels from 22 to 24 June 2023.

Mr. Saunders, nominated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, assured the Organization’s Members of his commitment to driving Customs towards a safe, prosperous and inclusive future. He said, “While respecting the WCO’s rich past, there is a need to innovate and adapt to modern challenges. I intend to lead the Organization by forging strong and enduring public-private partnerships, leveraging technology, promoting inclusivity for effective global Customs cooperation, and ensuring transparency and openness as fundamental principles of good governance.”

Incumbent Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, whose term of office expires at the end of December 2023, welcomed Mr. Saunders’ appointment“ and said, “I congratulate the winner on his election and I wish him well when he assumes his duties”. Dr. Mikuriya added, “The WCO has withstood the test of time, and despite changes in global trade and the recent pandemic we have stayed relevant and proactive, and have accompanied our Members with clear and precise standards promoting certainty, predictability and security of the global supply chain. However, many challenges remain ahead of us and I am confident that my successor, with the support of the WCO’s membership and the staff of the Secretariat, will rise to the occasion and steer the Organization in the right direction for the next five years.”

Ian Saunders is a proven and principled leader with more than 20 years of Customs experience and 30 years’ experience in international relations. As a member of the U.S. Government Senior Executive Service since 2008, Mr. Saunders has a record of addressing complex challenges and elevating organizations to excellence. He has served the public and the international community in diverse and challenging roles focused on various facets of trade such as: Customs, commercial policy, travel, and infrastructure. Collaborative in style, considered in communication and accomplished in delivery, Mr. Saunders has led the implementation of programs, the formulation of policies and the forging of partnerships that have advanced facilitation and security in trade worldwide.