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WCO Risk Management Forum - Concluding remarks by Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General

01 julio 2010

WCO Risk Management Forum

Brussels, 28-29 June 2010

Concluding remarks by Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General

Good afternoon.

During the last two days, we have had the chance to enjoy many interesting presentations and discuss many different aspects of risk management. The past days have brought together a wide range of risk management expertise in various fields enabling us to exchange experience, best practices and addressing both current and emerging challenges in relation to our constantly changing operating environment.

Before thanking all the parties contributing to the Forum and letting you all go home, I would like to briefly touch upon some key themes that have emerged during the forum. I am sure that I do not need to convince you about the benefits of risk management. They are evident as we have once again heard during the last two days.

As stated in Panel 1, in the era of static or declining resources and high volumes of trade and travel, risk management is a necessity for Customs and border agencies. As expressed by the speakers of Panel 1, risk management is something that needs to be implemented across the organization from the highest decision-making levels to the field level. From an organizational perspective, risk management provides Customs administrations with a structured framework for decision-making and enables better allocation of resources leading to a more efficient achievement of organizational goals. At the operational level risk management enables Customs to better achieve the balance between facilitation and control and to concentrate on goods and passengers posing the highest risk. This part is theoretical, but it is also good for Customs officers to understand the theory behind their daily work.

The discussion in Panel 2 clearly showed how important early and accurate data are in managing risks. At the same time it became evident that intelligence has a key role in supporting risk management practices at all decision-making levels. In facilitating the information and intelligence flows both in the intra- and inter-agency contexts, different automated information exchange and analysis tools can tremendously facilitate the work of Customs and other border agencies. One of the key messages which also emerged related to the importance of the Customs-Trade partnership enabling more efficient risk management practices through the provision of timely and quality data. Indeed how to get and manage data has been a central theme for all panel sessions.

The discussion on revenue related risks in Panel 3 clearly showed that risk management can assist in improving revenue collection, often assisted by information technology (IT). Of course there is a cost implication but investments in systems allowing better risk management practices are relatively inexpensive compared to revenue yields they can bring about. In this connection, it is important to measure the performance of a risk management system. There is also a need to address the question of the informal trade sector and to see whether there are available measures to encourage informal traders to become part of the formal trade sector. Cooperation with tax administrations in sharing information is identified as one powerful measure to address this issue.

The presentations and discussion in Panel 4 indicated that when managing security and health and safety related risks, there is a need for good national and international cooperation between different agencies having border control responsibilities. This cooperation should also, in addition to governmental organizations, include the private sector. While the risks might be perceived from different angles, the ultimate goal of other border agencies is similar to that of Customs. Therefore it is essential to ensure consistency in risk management among border agencies. It is useful to share real-time information to carry out joint operations to address common risks, facilitated by the use of information technology such as CENcomm – the WCO’s secure communication system – in close collaboration with the police and other border agencies. It is also necessary to apply one’s mind on identifying risk by discerning the discrepancy between the Customs document and the commercial document, as evidenced by the IPR risk assessment model.

Based on Panel 5 it is apparent that modern technologies provide us with great opportunities in relation to risk management. These opportunities – both IT and inspection technology related – should be used to the extent possible to facilitate our work in managing various risks in our operating environment. The use of nCEN in connecting national databases and that of passenger name records in the air transport area has great potential in assisting Customs in assessing the risks attached to the cross-border movement of goods and people. However, we do also need to remember that these tools are supportive in nature and should not be considered as a ready-made solution. It takes time to deploy a risk management system as it is a continuous learning process. We have to update continuously to keep pace with developments in the operating environment. Fraudsters and smugglers are always ahead of Customs and other law enforcement agencies. In this context, the value of skilled and trained officers at all levels of the organization should not be underestimated. After all, staff and employees are our biggest assets in implementing and operating efficient risk management.

As pointed out in Panel 6, capacity building and technical assistance are indeed important to enable further implementation of risk management. We often talk about the need to ensure consistent and comparable risk management at the global level, but this will probably start at the sub-regional and regional level. The WCO supports Members in applying WCO tools and in maximizing the use of information technology but above all, what is necessary is to change the culture by embracing facilitation to implement risk management. The WCO together with its partners and other international organizations needs to make sure that our developing Members will receive assistance in their risk management related efforts. I can assure you that under my term as Secretary General, the WCO will be active in assisting its Members in their efforts to build risk management capacity.

Based on all the different discussions during the Forum, it is clear that Customs administrations seem to understand the different risk management concepts rather well. Therefore, the future challenge relates to putting this theory into practice.

The Risk Management Compendium will be a practical tool, which will form a solid foundation for risk management in Customs. As mentioned yesterday, it is aimed at enabling WCO Members to implement a comprehensive risk management programme and culture throughout all the different decision-making levels of their organizations. It will also provide a practical guide supported by many case studies and practical examples, leading to best practices.

However, the creation of tools alone is no silver bullet without their proper implementation at the national level. Acknowledging the implementation challenge, I am looking forward to the regional workshops, which will have an operative focus enabling concentration on different implementation aspects of a risk management culture and programme throughout an organization. We need to hear from you about your problems, how you overcame them and what the remaining challenges are, which will be fed to the regional seminars and eventually the Compendium. In parallel we will develop a pool of experts to respond to the future needs of national seminars.

I would once again like to thank you all for your contribution and participation in this important event. I hope that we were able to provide an opportunity for participants to establish bilateral contacts and I am sure that all speakers are willing to share more information in response to further enquiries. I would also like to thank all the WCO Secretariat staff and our interpreters for making this Forum possible. Last but not least I would also like to thank the Chairperson of the Forum, Director Mike Schmitz, for his excellent work before moving to a well-earned retirement tomorrow and starting his full-time job as a Grandfather.

With these words I would like to close the WCO Risk Management Forum and wish you all a safe trip home.

Thank you very much.


Click here to read the Secretary General’s Opening Speech.