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Small Island Economies (SIEs): The Customs administrations of the Indian Ocean region provide their contribution to the WCO initiative on SIEs

26 junio 2019

In the context of the strategic initiative dedicated to support Small Island Economies’ Customs administrations, the WCO Secretariat organized a sub-regional Workshop for Customs administrations in Small Island Economies (SIEs) from the Indian Ocean region. The Workshop was funded by a WCO Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF-Reserves) and hosted by Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) in the WCO Regional Training Centre (RTC) located in the Customs House in Port Louis from 11 and 14 June 2019.

In his opening remarks, the Director General of MRA, Mr. Sudhamo Lal pointed out that regional cooperation between SIEs in the Indian Ocean region is imperative for reaching common goals and underscored the necessity of sharing national experiences and enhancing mutual support. He mentioned that Customs administrations in the region should join their efforts to face common challenges and find appropriate solutions.

The Workshop gathered more than 15 participants representing the Customs administrations of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. During the opening ceremony, the Workshop enjoyed the participation of relevant external stakeholders such as the Mauritius Port Authority, among others. The Workshop was intended to involve the Customs administrations of the region in this WCO SIEs’ initiative, to collect best practices and share national experiences among the Indian Ocean region SIEs, with the final aim of enriching the content of the envisaged Guidance for Customs administrations in SIEs.

Aiming at familiarizing the participants with the existing WCO instruments and tools that are relevant in the context of SIEs, the WCO experts made several presentations related to trade facilitation, capacity building, security and risk management, among others. They stressed and explained the necessity of the accession to, and the implementation of these instruments and tools for the Customs administrations in SIEs and stirred the discussions.

Throughout the break-out session discussions, the participants highlighted their specific context and stressed the social, economic, trade and environmental vulnerabilities and disadvantages associated with their small size, remoteness and proneness to natural disasters. They enumerated many common challenges that their respective Customs administrations are facing like drugs trafficking, passengers control difficulties, risk management system deficiencies, etc. They, then, strongly expressed the need for Capacity building and technical assistance activities to be provided by the WCO.

The sub-regional Workshop was also an opportunity for the WCO experts to present the Draft Guidance for Customs administrations in SIEs and the recently established Virtual Working Group on SIEs, their objectives, along with how to support and participate in its work. Participants expressed their willingness to provide their inputs during the development process so that the envisaged Guidance could be finalized in due time. The WCO will, in the near future, organize a similar event for the Customs administrations of SIEs in the Pacific islands.

In the margins of the Workshop, the WCO mission team visited the Secretariat of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and had a very strategic meeting with Mr. Raj Mohabeer, Officer in charge at the IOC Secretariat. During this meeting, avenues of cooperation between the WCO and the IOC were discussed and will further be explored in the future.