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Customs' contribution to environmental protection highlighted at an operational debriefing in China

02 diciembre 2019

WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited Shenzhen, China on 26 November 2019 to speak at a debriefing on environmental operations, co-organized by the WCO and China Customs.  The debriefing on Operation Thunderball against wildlife smuggling, co-organized with INTERPOL - and with the support of other partners from the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) -, and on Operation Demeter V to enhance control of transboundary shipments of waste, with specific focus on plastic waste as well as Ozone Depleting Substances, both carried out this year, showcased Customs’ contribution to environmental sustainability and partnerships with environmental agencies, other law enforcement agencies and additional partners.

At the opening session, Mr. Ni Yuefeng, Minister of China Customs, stated that China Customs has “zero tolerance” for smuggling of endangered species or solid waste and attaches high importance to work with international enforcement departments to fight environmental crimes. He added that Customs should further analyse seizure data to identify the origin of environmentally-sensitive commodities, and establish a policy of returning such commodities to their source countries.

Secretary General Mikuriya highlighted the fact that the fight against wildlife crime and enhanced control of transboundary movements of waste, such as ozone depleting substances and other environmentally sensitive commodities, supported by a wider programme of Green Customs initiatives, are clear contributions by Customs to the United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.  He affirmed that the key elements to successful operations were the use of WCO tools to manage risks, the application of technology for sharing and analysing data, and international cooperation among Customs and with relevant actors including environmental regulators and other law enforcement agencies.  With this in mind, Dr. Mikuriya welcomed the partnerships with and attendance by representatives from international and regional organizations, including the Basel Convention Secretariat, CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Several partner organizations also expressed their support for Customs’ contribution to protecting the environment and renewed their commitment to a partnership approach.  The CITES Secretary General, Ms. Ivonne Higuero, underlined the critical role played by Customs in facilitating legitimate wildlife trade while combating trafficking in endangered species.  The UNODC Director for Global Operations, Dr. Miwa Kato, stressed that environmental crime was a component of transnational organized crime and therefore very much linked to security and corruption issues.  INTERPOL’s Assistant Director for Illicit Markets, Organized and Emerging Crime Directorate, Mr. Daoming Zhang, underscored the importance of cooperation between Customs and Police to ensure that criminals were tracked down.

The debriefing was attended by the WCO Council Chairperson, Mr. Dicksons Kateshumbwa, and other senior Customs officials from around the world.  It was followed by an on-site visit to China Customs to observe its use of technology and to attend workshops on sharing best practices.  Dr. Mikuriya also had a series of bilateral meetings with Customs and partner organizations.