WCO and BRS Conventions Secretariat Strengthen Collaboration on illegal trade of hazardous wastes

20 March 2024

On 18 March 2024, Mr. Ian Saunders, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), welcomed Dr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions Secretariat, to the WCO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, underscoring deepened collaboration against the illegal trade and trafficking of hazardous wastes and substances.

In line with the WCO’s theme for 2024 "Customs Engaging Traditional and New Partners with Purpose," the discussions sought to enhance strategies for identifying illicit trade in hazardous materials. This cooperation aims at safeguarding environmental integrity and promoting sustainable development through improved enforcement and regulatory measures.

The longstanding partnership between the WCO and the BRS Conventions Secretariat dates back to 1997, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two Organizations. This cooperation has fostered initiatives like the Green Customs Initiative (GCI) and networks including the Basel Convention’s ENFORCE (Environmental Network for Optimizing Regulatory Compliance on Illegal Traffic), which promotes capacity building, compliance, and enforcement operations.

Secretary General Saunders emphasized the WCO’s commitment to environmental protection, mentioning initiatives such as the introduction of new Harmonized System (HS) codes for specific priority waste streams and chemicals regulated by the Conventions. He highlighted that the ongoing work on new codes represents a crucial step in enhancing Customs' ability to identify and manage environmentally sensitive goods effectively. He also mentioned the significant outcomes of Operation DEMETER IX. This operation, which focused on waste and substances under the Montreal Protocol, illustrated the power of targeted enforcement in environmental conservation, marking a record in the detection of infringements.

Looking forward, both organizations aim to build upon their existing foundation to bolster environmental legislation compliance, explore new joint activities, and strengthen enforcement operations. They advocate for continuous collaboration and dialogue between Customs and environmental authorities at all levels to enhance the effectiveness of global environmental governance.

Dr. Payet, in the framework of the Enforcement Committee Meeting, stressed the crucial role of Customs in thwarting environmental crime and sustaining development efforts. Such crimes not only yield illegal profits for organized networks but also pose significant barriers to sustainable progress. The reinforced partnership between the WCO and the BRS Conventions Secretariat represents a unified front against environmental challenges, aspiring to ensure a healthier planet for future generations through sustainable practices and stringent enforcement of environmental regulations.