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The 38th Session of the Enforcement Committee discusses SMART borders and how to enhance Customs controls

19 marzo 2019

More than 200 Customs delegates participated in the 38th Session of the WCO Enforcement Committee (EC) which took place in Brussels from 11 to 15 March 2019 under the theme “SMART Borders: Knowledge-based Customs enforcement”.

The theme of this year’s Committee was chosen to reflect how data and technology have a crucial role to play in optimizing Customs enforcement activities. The international Customs community is relentlessly faced with new emerging risks and must embrace technology-driven tools and solutions to address cross-border security challenges while facilitating the movement of legitimate trade. The EC’s theme was purposely in line with the WCO’s general theme for 2019 “SMART borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport”. During one week of intense and lively discussions, the Committee shared and exchanged on many projects and initiatives relevant to this general objective of achieving more secure and efficient controls at the borders while facilitating legitimate trade and movement of passengers.

The meeting kicked off with the keynote address by Mr. Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director, European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), who highlighted the importance of combating cross-border criminal activities. In that regard, he emphasized the shared role of FRONTEX, the WCO and national Customs and praised the WCO - FRONTEX cooperation which he expected to see grow into a strong partnership over the coming years. While explaining the FRONTEX mandate, he denoted the many new threats at EU borders and how important it was to balance efficient controls with facilitation. Referring to the EC and the WCO’s themes of the year, he specified how important technology and data had become and how these should be factored into our risk management processes. Finally, Mr. Leggeri concluded with a description of the activities and systems in place at FRONTEX to assist in the organization’s enforcement work.

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO, then took the floor to thank the Executive Director of FRONTEX for his strong message and went on to emphasize the importance of coordinated border management, balancing facilitation and enforcement in Customs actions and stressed the necessity to implement technology that would assist in adopting a risk based approach. He also emphasized that fostering partnerships with all relevant stakeholders was the way forward to ensure strong and effective responses to emerging risks and threats.

An Awards Ceremony then followed, presented by the Chairman and the Secretary General of the Bureau International des Containers et du Transport Intermodal in acknowledgement of the UNODC – WCO Container Control Programme (CCP) and for its contribution to the Customs and law enforcement community. Dr. Mikuriya received the BIC award alongside Mr. John Brandolino, Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Following the introductions, the Committee dug into the different items contained in the Agenda. These included nine sessions covering key topics addressed by the WCO Enforcement programmes namely: Environment; Drugs; Security; Intelligence and Risk Management / CEN; Cultural Heritage; IPR, Health and Safety; Revenue; Customs Investigations and for the first time, Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing. Following the success of last year’s format, the interactive panel discussions were maintained. The Meeting was presented with an array of experts from the different sectors who delved into topics of interest and provided valuable input to EC participants. The Drugs panel for example, explored the necessary safety measures to be taken into account by Members during controls of potentially harmful substances, like Fentanyl. The IPR, Health and Safety panel provided some insight into the functioning of the United Arab Emirates’ Free Trade Zones, and the speakers touched upon the importance and the challenges of enforcing controls in these zones. The sessions ended with a very interesting presentation on the use of the artificial intelligence in satellite imagery and how this could be applied to Customs enforcement

Many partner organizations were present and joined the discussions, whether in panels or from the floor. These included FRONTEX, UNODC, Basel Convention, INTERPOL, TRAFFIC, the International Narcotics Control Board, the University of Leuven, the Small Arms Survey, the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Amazon, the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Europol and Pixstart.

The meeting ended with the elections for the Chair and Vice-Chair of the EC. Following the tradition, the current Vice-Chair, Mr. Debi Dash from the Central Board of Excise and Customs of India was elected Chair, and Mr. Jean Herby Nelson from Haiti, was elected as Vice-Chair of the 39th Session of the WCO Enforcement Committee. The two newly appointed delegates thanked the Committee for the vote of confidence and commended the current Chair, Ms. Abigail Bradshaw from the Australian Border Force, for her guidance and excellent management of the meeting over the past two years.