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WCO promotes Gender Equality and Diversity

Gender Equality and Diversity (GED) are fundamental rights consistent with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) from 1948; they are considered prerequisites for achieving sustainable development and growth and enhancing performance in organizations.

Moreover, Gender Equality is a priority of the UN’s International Development Agenda for 2030, objective number 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which outlines the need for providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making.

Evidence further indicates that including GED in capacity building and development programmes can contribute to improving the overall outcomes and ensuring the sustainability of activities. Based on the above, the WCO finds it essential to make Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion priorities in its capacity building agenda.

The WCO started its work to promote Gender Equality in Customs in 2013, when the international conference “Women in Customs, Trade and Leadership” was organized, gathering 160 participants from 50 countries. This conference addressed the challenges women traders face and the need to engage women’s organizations in discussions on international trade.

As an outcome of this conference, the WCO developed the Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT), a self-assessment tool aiming at helping Customs Administrations assess their policies, practices and activities, to see how they can address GED on a holistic basis within their different areas of competences, both internally in human resource management and externally in border operations and engagement with stakeholders.

Together with the support from Members, the WCO updated this tool in 2019 to add new content, including definitions of GED-related concepts, a chapter on how to implement gender mainstreaming through project management, and new cross-cutting indicators necessary for implementing gender mainstreaming.

Under the framework of the Gender Equality and Diversity component of the West Africa Security Project (WASP), further updates were carried out to make the tool more user-friendly. A new dedicated chapter was also developed on Security and Safety, and a template was added to support Members in conducting the self-assessment.

Over the years, the WCO has broadened its scope to discuss diversity issues in its work. In 2017, the WCO Virtual Working Group for GED was launched with the purpose to provide a platform for Members to exchange experiences and raise awareness of the GEOAT. The group is composed of assigned representatives from Members and holds meetings twice a year.

The WCO has also developed training material to further assist its Members in practically implementing gender equality, diversity and inclusion. This blended training package, initially developed in 2018, has been continuously enhanced over the years. The current material is structured around a number of different modules and includes two e-learning modules available free of charge on the WCO CLiKC! and Academy platforms.

Since 2020, the WCO has also included questions related to GED in its annual survey to monitor progress among Members in this area.

A key milestone was the adoption of the WCO Declaration on Gender Equality and Diversity, which the WCO Council endorsed in December 2020.

In addition, the WCO regularly publishes Compendiums on GED in Customs, showcasing different examples of how its Members work to advance this agenda further within their respective administrations. Compendiums were launched in 2021 (first edition) and 2023 (second edition).

In 2022, the WCO also launched its Network for Gender Equality and Diversity, a high-level body aiming to promote an exchange of inspirational experiences on how to drive this agenda forward on a strategic level. The Network, which meets annually through virtual conferences, advocates for the need and benefits of implementing gender-responsive and inclusive policies in Customs and encourages enhanced and sustainable support from senior management, as well as collaboration with private sector stakeholders on these issues.

The WCO looks forward to further promoting GED in its activities and invites its Members to keep the Secretariat informed of any initiatives and progress made in this regard.

More information on these initiatives can be found on the links below. Contact: capacity.building@wcoomd.org

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