Strategic Partnerships at the forefront of the 44th WCO Enforcement Committee Session

18 March 2024

On 18 March 2024, the 44th Session of the Enforcement Committee (EC) of the World Customs Organization (WCO) was officially opened by Mr. Ian Saunders, the Secretary General, at the WCO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Centered on the theme  “Enhance Customs Enforcement Through Partnerships,” this gathering brought together representatives from WCO Member administrations, Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs), international organizations, observers and key enforcement and compliance stakeholders, showcasing a global commitment to elevating customs operations through strategic collaboration.

In his inaugural address to the EC as Secretary General, Mr. Saunders emphasized the critical importance of partnerships in addressing the multifaceted challenges of customs enforcement. He stated "Thankfully, the fight against those who would circumvent or manipulate the system isn’t one that Customs fights alone; our partner agencies work alongside us, complement our efforts, and share the mission to protect society from the daily dangers to border security." He congratulated the Committee on the work accomplished over the last four decades and invited delegates to reflect strategically and prospectively over the next decade, aiming at responding in real-time to current and future threats.

The opening ceremony also featured a keynote address by Mr. Matthias Petschke, Director for the European Union at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union, who highlighted the essential role of international cooperation in advancing customs enforcement and facilitating legitimate trade across borders.  He referred particularly to one of the big customs enforcement challenges of our time, the fight against drugs trafficking, calling it “A fight that cannot be won in isolation by one authority, one country or even in one continent, but that requires a global, multidisciplinary approach based on partnership and cooperation” and he provided insight in how the EU tries to address this challenge with a new flagship initiative, the European Ports Alliance.

The Enforcement Committee, established in 1983, is the apex global forum for deliberating on Customs compliance and enforcement matters.

Under the guidance of David Dolan from US Customs and Border Protection as Chair and Gabrielle Tramby from the Australian Border Force as Vice-Chair, this year's session aims to spotlight new trends, define work priorities, and enhance both global and regional cooperation in the field.

The Committee's evolution and its adaptability to each era's challenges showcase Customs’ expanding scope.  Not only is it ensuring the appropriate collection of revenue; it is tackling a wide array of critical issues like security, intelligence, terrorism, environmental protection, border integrity, cultural heritage, money laundering, health and safety, and intellectual property rights.