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Opening of the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for the West and Central Africa Region

20 enero 2009

Opening of the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for the West and Central Africa Region
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 16 January 2009
Address by WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya
H. E. President of the Republic,
Directors General of Customs,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to the Côte d’Ivoire Authorities and the WCO Regional Vice-Chairperson, the Director General of Senegalese Customs, for inviting me to the opening of this regional structure which is a priority for the international Customs community. I am all the more touched by the wonderful hospitality extended to me since arriving in Abidjan yesterday, as it takes me back three years to when I came here to explain the concept of the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) to Directors General of Customs during the regional meeting. The time has flown by since then, but West and Central Africa has never lost sight of these capacity building needs and priorities, as borne out by today’s gathering.

It is Customs authorities’ mission to support the external trade system linking the national economy to the whole world in order to facilitate trade and promote investment whilst, at the same time, maintaining revenue collection and safeguarding the health and safety of citizens in the face of scourges such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting and other harmful products including hazardous waste. At this time of global financial crisis affecting trade, it is vital to secure fiscal revenue and to simultaneously facilitate trade. Globalization has made it necessary to secure the supply chain against terrorism, organized crime and money laundering, whilst facilitating legitimate trade which poses no threat. In response to these issues, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has developed standards and tools based on best practices used throughout the world in order to enhance the performance of Customs operations. In addition, in this 21st Century there is an ever-growing need for Customs from all countries to act together as a worldwide network based on comparable approaches and management so that they can rise to the challenges of a globalized economy. It is therefore crucial for the international community to implement WCO instruments worldwide, although that should not mean marginalizing developing countries.

Capacity building has consequently become a priority for the international Customs community. Its aim is to assist Member countries implement WCO tools in order to develop a global Customs network whilst meeting countries’ specific requirements. Countries from the same region share concerns and face similar problems. The region is actually the most appropriate and best placed structure to seek and find joint solutions which will serve as a basis for Customs reform projects. Donors appreciate it when countries take ownership of reform programmes drawing from the lessons learned by comparable countries and from the WCO’s standards. In addition, regional integration offers Customs administrations a further opportunity to co-operate not only between themselves, but also with public and private sector partners. Synergy exists at regional level between services and players with financial and human resources at their disposal.

The Abidjan ROCB being inaugurated today will be entrusted with the important task of assisting the Region’s Customs with a variety of programmes. It will have to identify their needs, promote the sharing of experiences and offer customized tools. Likewise, it will help its Members to communicate and approach authorities and donors to express their modernization needs, by developing diagnostics and action plans. By way of example as regards activities carried out by ROCBs, the Bangkok Regional Office established in 2004 has forged excellent bonds of co-operation with lending agencies and other regional institutions, with the result that it is now approached to participate in and organize missions and seminars in the Asia/Pacific Region.

The WCO is renewing its commitment to and support for this regional approach, and especially for the Abidjan ROCB, by organizing workshops, training experts and contacting donors. In point of fact, I held discussions with the European Union’s 27 Member countries last week with a view to co-operating more closely, and we agreed that implementing capacity building would be one of our joint priorities. Aided by the Abidjan ROCB, I hope to be able to identify and assist several countries in this Region with support from European Customs. Other countries are interested in the establishment of this ROCB in Abidjan, such as Japan which has funded a regional seminar bringing together representatives of the Region’s 21 Member countries as well as the Head of the Regional Training Centre in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in order to develop regional initiatives and assist Members with their reforms and modernization efforts. The WCO will continue to raise awareness among potential donors in the interests of African development.

The Abidjan ROCB is a regional structure requiring support from the Region’s Member countries coupled with political commitment from Côte d’Ivoire’s highest authorities, as demonstrated today by the presence of the President of Republic and the Minister of Economy and Finance.

I wish to congratulate you on this regional initiative and I hope that with support from all of you, the Abidjan ROCB will thrive under the best possible conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.