A very successful last meeting of the HLWG

23 abril 2009
A very successful last meeting of the HLWG

April 2009

On 15 - 16 April, a total of 47 delegates representing 30 Customs Administrations and observers from the private sector and academia gathered at the WCO Headquarters to attend the High Level Working Group meeting on Capacity Building, training and technical assistance.

Director Lars Karlsson opened the meeting by stating that this event was historical and very special as it was the last meeting of the HLWG. Indeed, following a recommendation of the December 2008 Policy Commission, the HLWG was to be transformed into a WCO Committee that shall be called “the Capacity Building Committee”. This decision was taken with a view to institutionalize capacity building and give more visibility to the work achieved in this area.

The Capacity Building Director emphasized the problems met by Customs Administrations worldwide as a result of the current financial crisis and reiterated the importance of strengthening Customs through capacity building in these critical times.

An update was given on the various Capacity Building Directorate’s activities, including a progress report on Phase III of the Columbus Programme, the PICARD Programme and the WorldCap database.

The theme of the afternoon of Day 1 was : the Capacity Building implications of Customs in the 21st Century. This topic was discussed within syndicate groups. All groups agreed to say that the WCO needed to build on what it had already done in the Capacity Building area in order not to lose the momentum. They stated that the WCO needed to show leadership in these times of crisis because now more than ever Customs administrations needed help to increase their revenue, improve trade facilitation and fight against commercial fraud. The importance of regional structures was stressed as well as the need to improve donor coordination.

The meeting discussed the terms of reference for the new Capacity Building Committee at length which was indicative of the importance the Members put on the future work of the new Committee. It was also suggested by all Members of the HLWG that given the excellent Chairmanship of Canada and for the sake of continuity, the current Chair should remain in post during the transition period and presides over the first meeting of the new Committee whose date is yet to be decided by the Council in June this year.

As Director Lars Karlsson indicated in his closing remarks this last meeting of the HLWG went beyond all expectations thanks to the active participation of all Members who were well prepared to wrap up a cycle of 7 meetings of the HLWG that paved the way for the new Capacity Building Committee.