WCO Secretary General Launches Campaign on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in Customs

04 March 2024

In a significant stride towards gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in Customs, Mr. Ian Saunders, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), unveiled a new sensitization campaign on March 4. This campaign, poised to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, will unfold throughout the year, spotlighting the stories of inspirational female Customs officials, beginning with Ms. Gael Grooby, Acting Director of the Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate.

This campaign kickstarts with a compelling video, a collaborative effort with WCO Members showcasing the vital roles women play across various sectors of Customs. “This is more than a campaign; it’s a spotlight on WCO’s commitment to breaking down barriers and paving the way to a more inclusive future,” Secretary General Saunders remarked during the launch.

Reflecting on a decade of advancements in GED within the Customs community, Mr. Saunders highlighted the significant milestone that the December 2020 WCO Council Declaration for Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs represents. This declaration not only endorses the WCO's role in guiding member countries towards GED, but also exemplifies the organization's commitment to leading by example.

WCO Secretary General proudly referenced the Secretariat's recent initiatives aimed at creating a more inclusive work environment. These initiatives include comprehensive policies to prevent harassment and ensure a healthy work-life balance, underpinned by an internal GED work plan formulated using insights from the Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT).

During the launch ceremony, the Project Manager and Gender Equality and Diversity (GED) Expert Johanna Törnström shared some insights on WCO Secretariat’s situation, revealing possible gaps in GED implementation strategies such as insufficient knowledge, absence of written policies, lack of comprehensive data and monitoring frameworks, and coordination hurdles in Customs administrations.

Highlighting the importance of a collective effort, Secretary General Saunders encouraged all staff members to integrate GED principles into their daily responsibilities and WCO's broader projects. "It's about weaving GED into the very fabric of our organization," he emphasized, underlining the holistic approach necessary for meaningful change.

The Secretary General’s commitment to championing GED shone through as he articulated the significance of continuous advocacy for women's rights and broader diversity and inclusion initiatives. "Our pursuit of gender equality and diversity isn't just a question of human rights; it's a performance strategy. When we embrace diversity, we unlock innovation, creativity, and resilience," he concluded.

The "Women in Customs" campaign marks not the culmination but the continuation of the WCO's journey towards a more equitable and inclusive Customs community. Through this campaign, the WCO not only commemorates the achievements of women in Customs, but also reaffirms its commitment to fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive.