The role of Customs highlighted at the International Conference in Niger on the Fight against the Counterfeiting and Illicit Trade of Medicines

26 εδΈ€ζœˆ 2013

At the invitation of the First Lady of Niger, Dr. Lalla Malika Issoufou Mahamadou, Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke at the International Conference on the Fight against the Counterfeiting and Illicit Trade of Medicines, held in Niamey, Niger, on 22 and 23 November 2013.

The First Ladies of Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Mali, Niger and the Representative of the First Lady of Equatorial Guinea participated in the Conference together with the Prime Minister of Niger, Mr. Rafini Brigi, in addition to health Ministers and Representatives of civil society organizations active in the Region. Speaking in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people, Secretary General Mikuriya emphasized the crucial role played by Customs as the first line of defence against illicit goods that pose health and safety threats to consumers, including fake medicines, while ensuring connectivity at borders for legitimate goods to contribute to economic development. Taking the example of Operation Biyela, coordinated by the WCO in 23 coastal African countries in March and April of this year, he explained Customs' risk management approach, supported by WCO instruments and technological platforms to connect Customs administrations, such as the Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) and another hi-tech tool to promote partnerships with businesses, the Interface Public-Members (IPM) that provides information supplied by Right Holders to permit the identification of fake goods. He also stressed the importance of collaboration with other authorities, such as the Ministries of Health and laboratories, to identify unauthorized and fake medicines, as well as with the Ministries of Justice and Police to prosecute crime. Secretary General Mikuriya welcomed the Conference as an important opportunity to raise awareness among consumers and also appealed to the First Ladies to support Customs with appropriate legislation and capacity building for Customs modernization.

In his capacity as WCO Vice-Chair for the West and Central Africa Region, Dr. Daniel Jatau, Deputy Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs, joined the Secretary General in encouraging the audience to take regional ownership of the serious problem of fake medicines enveloping Africa.

Other speakers included Mr. Bernard Leroy, Director of the Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), Ms. Mireille Ballestrazzi, President of Interpol, Professor Marc Gentilini, General Delegate of the “Fondation Chirac”, Mr. Abali Ekade, Minister of Public Health of Niger, and the Representative of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. They all underscored the importance of Customs’ contribution in this area and the need for collaborative efforts with all the actors. The First Ladies brought proceedings to a close by making brief comments in support of the fight against fake medicines and signing a Declaration to this effect.