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UN appreciates WCO contribution to SDGs, Security, and Protection of Cultural Heritage

20 febrero 2019

WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York on 18 and 19 February 2019 to explain WCO’s contributions and to deepen the engagement with various UN agencies.

In view of exchanging ideas on the ways Customs contribute to achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Secretary General met with UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed who is leading the work on SDGs. They discussed a range of areas where Customs could contribute to the UN 2030 agenda including domestic resource mobilization, border management to improve the life of people and promotion of trade through trade facilitation. They also acknowledged the crucial role played by Customs in regional integration, especially in the context of the intra-continental Trade and development in Africa.

Dr. Mikuriya also met with Sir Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary General of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and both underscored the importance of a fast (re-)opening of the borders after a natural disaster or crisis has taken place, to ensure fast clearance of relief goods. In that context, effective coordination among border agencies was highlighted as a critical success factor. They also discussed about border management in conflict zones where the Secretary General indicated the importance of security - development nexus. He added that extreme measures such as closing borders by military force can be avoided by putting Customs in the frontline, and maintain trade at the borders to support the economy, including in border areas, while using risk management to detect conflict-related flows of goods, people and currency.

During his visit, Secretary General Mikuriya went on to meet with Under-Secretary General Vladimir Voronkov, Head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT). This office was established in 2017 to enhance coordination and collaboration of UN efforts in the area of counter-terrorism. In 2018, they launched a Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact involving 38 partners including various UN agencies, INTERPOL and WCO. Mr. Voronkov expressed his appreciation for WCO’s efforts and contribution to counter-terrorism in border management. Both agreed on enhancing coordination in the area of passenger controls, and on the UN participation in the cruise ship passenger control efforts led by the WCO. While appreciating the improved communication between UNOCT and the WCO, they identified several areas where cooperation could be further enhanced.

The UN Group of Friends on Cultural Heritage comprising 22 countries, co-chaired by Italy and Cyprus, invited the WCO Secretary General to share with them Customs’ contributions in this area and ways that Member countries can support the WCO in advancing the agenda. Dr. Mikuriya explained the WCO’s initiatives, including the ARCHEO platform to exchange information and enhance collaboration among stakeholders, and the recent launch of the Training Handbook on the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage (PITCH).

The countries’ representatives to the UN acknowledged the critical role the WCO can play in this field, and pledged their support. Relevant bodies such as the UN Monitoring Committee, UNESCO, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL were also in attendance, demonstrating the close collaboration that exists between all these relevant international organizations in this area. The recent UN Resolutions often refer to the role of WCO in protecting cultural heritage.

The High Representative of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), Mrs. Izumi Nakamitsu, welcomed the enhanced cooperation between both Organizations in the area of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms trafficking. She concurred with the Secretary General that in the context of the WCO Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) Programme and the operationalization of the Arms Trade Treaty (2014), there is a need to explore avenues for further collaboration.