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WCO Network for Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs holds its annual online conference

8 months ago
Events 15-09-2023 - 15-09-2023

On 13 September, the Network for Gender Equality and Diversity (GED) in Customs of the World Customs Organization (WCO) held its third online global conference, bringing together the Customs community to exchange views and practices on how GED can be further advanced in Customs administrations through initiatives focusing on staff engagement (people) and gender equality and diversity assessments (processes).


The WCO has been promoting the gender equality agenda since 2013, since the launch of the the Women in Customs, Trade and Leadership conference. Over the years, the WCO has developed a number of tools and initiatives, and also expanded the scope of its work to include broader diversity and inclusion issues. Following the increasing interest from WCO Members to further promote GED in Customs, the Network was formally launched on 8 March 2022 during the celebration of the International Women’s Day.


This year’s conference, which was organized in a blended format, brought together more than 150 participants.


In his welcoming address, WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, highlighted the importance of GED for WCO Members and underscored various regional initiatives aiming at advancing women’s role in Customs. He emphasized the importance of the WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT) in assisting Members to identity GED gaps and invited Members to use it.


The Conference also witnessed the keynote speech of the Ms. Velma Ricketts Walker, Commissioner of Customs of Jamaica Customs Authority (JCA). She highlighted some of the initiatives put in place by JCA to promote GED, including the Administration’s Strategy on GED, a policy to prevent sexual harassment and a policy to prevent gender based violence. The Commissioner also spoke about various initiatives aiming at raising awareness among staff on this topic, for instance through trained GED focal points.


The second keynote speaker, Ms. Carol West, Secretary of International Federation of Customs Brokers Associations (IFCBA), President and CEO of the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers (CSCB), Member and Former Chair of the Private Sector Consultative Group, stressed the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender equality, including women’s participation in the labour market, the gender pay gap and issues with work-life balance. She underscored the importance of recalling  the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, which demonstrated more than ever the need for harmonized procedures and tools to facilitate communication and collaboration between the public and private sector to overcome the negative impacts caused by the pandemic.

Organized in two successive panels, seven high-level speakers, from Botswana, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Iceland, Indonesia, New Zealand and South Africa, were then invited to exchange their views on the two topics on the agenda, after which participants asked questions to the panelists.

Based on various WCO Members’ testimonies in the first panel, it was noted that implementing staff engagement initiatives contribute to a more inclusive and open working culture within organizations embracing diversity. Listening to and proactively involving the staff in driving change has a positive impact on the success in the adoption of GED values by Customs administrations.

From the various interventions in the second panel, it was made clear that conducting assessments, using either the WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT) or other national methods or tools, helps not only to identify GED gaps – which allows Administrations to  better design policies to meet these, but also to regularly monitor progress in the realization of GED goals over time.

While the Network meets on annual basis, the WCO is working with its Members on continuous basis to proceed with this topic, in particular within its various capacity building programmes and also through its Virtual Working Group on GED. The WCO looks forward to receiving more feedback from Members on how they work towards advancing the GED agenda and encourage participants to take part in WCO global knowledge sharing activities in this important field.