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The 141st/142nd Sessions of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Council

5 months ago
Belgium Events 22-06-2023 - 24-06-2023

The 141st/142nd Sessions of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Council, the highest decision-making body of the Organization, were held at WCO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium from 22 to 24 June 2023. The Sessions saw the participation of Directors General of Customs representing the WCO’s 185 Members.

 

Under the guidance of Mr. A. Al Khalifa, Director General of Bahrain Customs and outgoing Chairperson of the WCO Council, the 2023 Council Sessions reviewed the work carried out by the WCO throughout the year. The discussions covered international standards, guidance documents and recommended practices developed by the different WCO working bodies with a view to enhancing the management of cross-border trade.

 

The Council focused its deliberations on various areas of Customs work, including Capacity Building, Rules of Origin, Valuation, Nomenclature and Classification, Compliance, and Trade Facilitation, as well as on budgetary and financial matters.

 

The Council took note of the progress made in implementing the Strategic Plan 2022-2025, particularly in the key focus areas of Technology and Innovation, Green Customs and Governance and Accountability.

 

Regarding Technology and Innovation, the Council acknowledged the efforts of the Data and Statistics Working Group in implementing the WCO Data Strategy, and took note of the establishment of a Data Scholarship for capacity building.

 

Recognizing the urgent need for Customs to address environmental concerns, the Council endorsed the Green Customs Action Plan. Additionally, the Council adopted three Harmonized System (HS) recommendations aimed at improving the monitoring of the movement of waste oils, certain substances controlled under the Rotterdam Convention, and substances controlled under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

 

Delegates expressed their support for the newly developed WCO Action Plan on Fragile Borders and Conflict-Affected Situations, emphasizing the importance of Customs adapting to such contexts.

 

In the area of Governance and Accountability, the Council took note of the progress made in developing a WCO Modernization Plan and endorsed the WCO Secretariat Equality and Diversity Work Plan.

 

The Council endorsed the Implementation Plan 2023-2024, along with the activities planned for the next financial year, and supported the budgetary recommendations of the Finance Committee. These decisions enable the Secretariat to continue its work in supporting its Members.

 

During the sessions, the Directors General of Customs elected Mr. Ian Saunders from the United States as the new WCO Secretary General for a five-year term as of 1 January 2024. They also elected Mr. Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, as the Chairperson of the WCO Council. Furthermore, new regional Vice-Chairs were appointed.

 

Regarding accessions to WCO instruments, the Council witnessed the Gambia depositing its instrument of accession to the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Revised Kyoto Convention – RKC), thus becoming the 134th Contracting Party to the Convention.

 

The Council delegates also witnessed the signing of several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), including:

 

MoU on the formalization of the establishment of the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) in the United Arab Emirates.

MoU on the recognition of Regional Dog Training Centres in Australia, Hong Kong (China), and Indonesia.

MoU on the recognition of the Regional Customs Laboratory’s Professionals Programme in India.

On a lighter note, the Customs Administration of Algeria won the annual WCO Photo Competition. The winning photo showcases how Customs officers adapt to the changing landscapes and climatic conditions while carrying out their missions to protect borders in cooperation with other border agencies.