WCO Statement on the recent disasters impacting Members

12 September 2023

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is deeply saddened by the news of recent disasters that are having a significant impact on our Members, including the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco on the evening of 8 September, and the unprecedented flooding in Libya over the past few days. These catastrophic events have resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, left many more injured or unaccounted for, and caused extensive damage to homes, roads, bridges and historic sites.
As the first line of defence at the borders, Customs plays a pivotal role, particularly during natural disasters, in ensuring that high volumes of life-saving supplies and equipment reach the impacted communities in a timely manner. These essential goods are critical not only for the survival of the affected population but also to equip rescue workers and humanitarian aid providers.
Supporting our Members in a comprehensive and agile manner has always been a top priority for the WCO, and it becomes even more crucial in the event of disasters. Customs administrations have access to various instruments and tools that can enhance the effectiveness of their emergency responses. These resources are designed to streamline border procedures and facilitate the cross-border movement of relief consignments efficiently and legitimately.

Members’ and stakeholders’ attention is drawn to the WCO web page on natural disaster relief, which can assist Customs administrations in swiftly identifying, accessing and reviewing several instruments and guidance materials relevant to this area of work, such as Chapter 5 of Specific Annex J to the Revised Kyoto Convention, the Resolution of the Customs Co-operation Council on the role of customs in natural disaster relief (June 2011) and the WCO Guidelines on disaster management and supply chain continuity, among others.

The relevant WCO instruments and tools prescribe that the clearance of relief consignments for export, transit, temporary admission and import shall be carried out as a matter of priority, as well as specify the facilitation measures that Customs should implement for of relief consignments. The facilitation measures include the lodging of a simplified Goods declaration or of a provisional or incomplete Goods declaration subject to completion of the declaration within a specified period; lodging and registering or checking of the Goods declaration and supporting documents prior to the arrival of the goods, and their release upon arrival; clearance outside the designated hours of business or away from Customs offices and the waiver of any charges in this respect; and examination and/or sampling of goods only in exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, clearance of relief consignments should be granted without regard to the country of origin, the country from which they arrived or the country of destination.

The June 2011 Council Resolution invites Members to manage borders in an efficient, simplified and coordinated manner, including the sharing of information, with the other national authorities involved in the handling of relief items, while using existing clearance systems in order to provide for rapid, efficient and centralized processing of these consignments.

The WCO extends its  heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the affected communities and stands ready to support its Members, as necessary, during this challenging period.