Strengthening the Global Response to Environmental Legislation through Partnerships

09 February 2024

In a collaborative effort to bolster global environmental protection, the Basel Convention Environmental Network for Optimizing Regulatory Compliance on Illegal Traffic [in waste] (ENFORCE) and the partners from the Green Customs Initiative recently assembled at the World Customs Organization (WCO) headquarters. The meetings, held on 5 and 6 February and 7 and 8 February, respectively, align with the WCO’s theme of the year: “Customs Engaging Traditional and New Partners with Purpose."

ENFORCE, operating through a network of experts, is committed to promoting compliance with the provisions of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention). The focus lies in preventing and combating illegal traffic in hazardous wastes and other wastes through the more effective implementation and enforcement of national laws. ENFORCE seeks to enhance cooperation, coordination, and capacity-building activities to tackle the challenges associated to illegal traffic. Since joining ENFORCE in 2020, the WCO has collaboratively undertaken numerous initiatives with fellow partners. These efforts have been dedicated to implementing a range of activities aimed at enhancing capacity-building for Customs administrations and reinforcing enforcement operations, exemplified by the successful Operation DEMETER series that focus on fighting waste trafficking.

Launched in 2004, the Green Customs Initiative (GCI) brings together the Secretariats of trade-related MEAs, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the WCO. The collective aim is to empower Customs and border control officers to monitor legal trade while detecting and preventing the illegal trade in environmentally sensitive commodities outlined in relevant MEAs and international conventions. This collaboration aims also to advance objectives related to greening the supply chain, and is marked by successful contributions of the Secretariats of the MEAs to the development of the Harmonized System (HS).

Discussions during the meetings emphasized the importance of partnerships in capacity building and the development of tools to empower Customs officers and national environmental authorities to implement trade-related provisions of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). These strategic initiatives aim to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for effectively addressing environmental crimes, ensuring that customs officers are well-equipped to identify and tackle illicit activities threatening the environment though joint capacity-building and enforcement activities.

The meetings served as a platform for partners to reaffirm their commitment to support sustainable Customs practices. Embracing the WCO’s theme of the year, participants explored ways to foster sustainable partnerships that transcend geographical and organizational boundaries. The convergence of the ENFORCE network and GCI Partners at the WCO headquarters reflects a collective dedication to combating environmental crimes and facilitating the legal trade of environmental commodities.

During the GCI meeting, Mr. Pranab Kumar DAS, Director of Compliance and Facilitation Directorate at the WCO, stated, “The meetings on the implementation of the MEAs held at the WCO this week mark a critical moment in our commitment to address environmental challenges through shared expertise and concerted action. The partnership between the ENFORCE network and the Green Customs Initiative exemplifies our dedication to enhancing global cooperation and building the capacity needed to effectively implement environmental legislation. By fostering sustainable partnerships and empowering Customs officers with the tools and knowledge required, we aim to strengthen our collective resolve in combating environmental crimes and ensuring the lawful trade of environmentally sensitive goods."