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WCO Green Customs Regional Workshop

10 julio 2009

WCO Green Customs Regional Workshop
WCO Regional Training Centre, Mombasa , Kenya

8 July 2009

Opening Remarks, Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General, WCO

Commissioner General Wareru, Commissioner of Customs Namu, distinguished guests and participants, dear friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

It is my pleasure to talk about global concerns relating to environment protection with my customs colleagues and our partners. Let me express my sincere appreciation to the Kenya Revenue Authority for hosting this event at the Regional Training Centre in the traditional trading hub of Mombasa. My special thanks also go to UNEP and other partner organizations as well as Japan and the Netherlands as donor customs administrations in financial and human resources. I also would like to welcome all participants from 20 customs administrations in the East and Southern Africa region.

Nowadays, trans-border environment crime is a growing problem with serious consequences, ranging from dumping of hazardous waste to smuggling of environmentally sensitive commodities, such as ozone depleting substance and toxic chemicals, to trafficking of endangered species. When the WCO organized International Customs Day on 26 January with the theme “Customs and environment: protecting our natural heritage”, I urged the customs community to be part of this worldwide effort to show its relevance. This appeal has met with many positive and often enthusiastic responses from WCO Members. Customs officers are proud to join global efforts in addressing the global concerns of citizens. At the national level they informed me of improved communication and better working relationships with competent authorities. This progress enables customs to ensure better compliance of cross-border movement of goods with a range of trade-related Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) and their related national regulations. In his opening speech the KRA Commissioner General gave a good Kenyan example of incorporating environmental concerns into trade supply chain management.

At the same time this partnership approach in environment protection shows a good example of ‘coordinated border management’, which is one of the core elements of the WCO vision for customs in the 21st century. While the fiscal function is still important for the majority of customs administrations, many are now playing a bigger role in border management by assessing the health and safety risks for citizens of goods. The judgment of admissibility of goods into a national territory naturally should reflect the viewpoints and expertise of other border agencies involved in border regulation and enforcement and therefore requires close cooperation, coordination and collaboration with these competent authorities.

In parallel to efforts at the national level, the WCO continues to work closely with other international organizations involved in environmental issues. Since 2001 it has been an active partner in the Green Customs Initiative, a partnership of international organizations for enhancing the capacity of customs officers and other law enforcement personnel in facilitating legal trade while fighting environmental crime, as detailed by the representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in his welcoming remarks. Likewise, WCO tools have gradually incorporated the enlarged responsibilities of customs. Following the five-year review cycle, the WCO Council last month adopted the 2012 version of the Harmonized System, in which tariff headings have been amended to help customs identify and monitor the most traded commodities covered by MEAs. The next version of the WCO Data Model incorporates the data requirements of other border agencies, including data on hazardous wastes, to serve as an enabling tool for the single window environment. These efforts also involve the private sector for purposes of raising their awareness and to ensure better cooperation as they are also one of the main stakeholders in preserving our natural heritage.

Another important element of the WCO vision for the customs in the 21st century is ‘globally networked customs’. Information technology has enabled customs to be connected electronically to each other, which facilitated the exchange of information in customs operations, including border protection related to the environment. The WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) and its real-time communication system CENcomm have been widely used to share information and report seizures. The Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) also plays a major role in ensuring regional cooperation by using the system to organize joint operations.

Using these regional networks, the WCO organized an intensive global one-day CITES operation to intercept the trafficking of endangered species, as the representative of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force underlined in his welcoming remarks. This operation was carried out on 15 January 2009 and involved 90 customs administrations who recorded seizures totaling 4630 endangered live specimens and their products, covering 80 kinds of species. These included ivory tusks, rhinoceros horns and lion skins.

Another customs action was Operation DEMETER. It was carried out between March and May 2009 and targeted illegal shipments of hazardous goods. This operation involved customs administrations in 64 countries, both exporting countries in Europe and importing countries in Africa and Asia/Pacific, and was supported by national environment agencies and relevant international organizations. The seven RILOs were involved in exchanging intelligence messages using the CENcomm system and recorded 57 seizures with 30,000 tons and 1,500 pieces of illegal hazardous wastes, ranging from household wastes to used vehicles to used electronic appliances (e-waste).

Based on these successful joint operations, the WCO offers its new environment communication system known as ENVIRONET to involved national environment agencies, the police and international organizations. ENVIRONET was launched on 5 June 2009. This is another effort to enhance ‘coordinated border management’ – the sharing of information on environmental issues, using the tool that facilitates ‘globally networked customs’ and extending it to ‘globally networked stakeholders in environment protection’. As we are currently experiencing a global financial crisis, it is the responsibility of customs and all stakeholders to join efforts for a quick recovery while duly taking environmental concerns into account by forming a global network to ensure sustainable development.

Naturally in discharging customs’ responsibilities, it is necessary to focus on human resource issues particularly capacity building. The WCO fully supports regional initiatives and therefore I appreciate the efforts by the East and Southern Africa region through its Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) and its Regional Training Centre (RTC) to address this issue. I am pleased to see that our partner organizations are also using our regional network and capacity building infrastructure for our shared goal.

To conclude, I wish you a fruitful workshop and good deliberations in tackling the common challenges through our partnership approach. Together we will continue to fight against environmental crime.

Now, I formally declare the WCO Green Customs Regional Workshop open.

Thank you.