CBC10: Reflecting on the Past, embracing the Future

The 10th Session of the WCO Capacity Building Committee (CBC) was held in Brussels from 8 to 10 April 2019, under the theme “Reflecting on the Past, Embracing the Future”.  This Session was particularly important as it commemorated the decade mark since the first CBC was held back in 2010.

The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya welcomed delegates to the Session and stressed the importance of the Committee’s work in supporting the WCO’s theme for 2019 : SMART Borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport.  Dr. Mikuriya highlighted the need to reflect on the progress made over the past decade in terms of capacity building.  He recalled the evolution of the Columbus Programme into today’s Mercator Programme with its numerous supporting standards, tools and instruments.  In this connection, he encouraged delegates to give further thought to the impact, effectiveness and relevance of the tools and initiatives implemented.  Dr. Mikuriya underscored the critical interplay between technology and human resources to address Customs’ emerging challenges, noting developments such as data science, artificial intelligence and blockchain, and taking into account questions of training, expert mobilization, partnerships, diversity and working methodologies.

The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis, delivered a keynote address focusing on “The Future of Customs: Embracing Technology to foster an Environment of Efficiency, Effectiveness and Excellence” during which he reflected on Brussels’ centuries-long position as a centre of trade and Customs.  He noted the rapid pace of change in Customs, considering a three-fold increase in the volume of traded goods in the European Union between 2007 and 2017, along with growing complexities brought about by developments such as e-commerce and the use of disruptive technologies.  Mr. Dombrovskis highlighted the European Union’s investments in technology, standardization and data analytics, noting that 99% of declarations were being filed electronically.  On the other hand, Mr. Dombrovskis also stressed the need for increased investments in human capital, given the human and institutional foundations in technology-based reforms, such as the Single Window.

Building on the key messages emanating from the opening session, a panel comprising WCO Members, the private sector, academia and development partners discussed the progression of capacity building in the Customs context.  The panel provided recommendations on optimal approaches that could contribute towards achieving a balance between skills in modern Customs techniques (such as data analysis, risk management, technology-driven controls, and other enabling tools) and the resources that are required to implement them.  Members then shared experiences and debated the important interaction of trust between and among stakeholders, and the equally important roles that human relationship building, technology and automation play in an efficient Customs administration. 

The CBC also actively discussed and provided guidance on other topics, including:

  • The Capacity Building Delivery Report
  • The WCO Capacity Building Strategy
  • Progress under the Mercator Programme Tailor-made Track
  • The Report of the 11th Meeting of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) Working Group
  • Emerging areas of capacity building delivery :

‒     Business Process Management to Meet the Demands of the 21st Century;

‒     Connecting Small Island States to Global Economies through Capacity Building;

‒     Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce; and

‒     Performance Measurement.

  • Customs professionalism, focusing on :

‒     The Report of the ROCB-RTC-VC Global Meeting;

‒     The Picard Professional Standards;

‒     Leadership and Management Development;

‒     E-learning;

‒     Management and Deployment of Experts; and

‒     Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs.

The 10th Session of the CBC was chaired by Mrs. Velma Ricketts-Walker, Director General of Jamaica Customs, who was re-elected as Chair.   Mr. Daniel Perrier from the Canada Border Services Agency was re-elected as Vice-Chair.  The next Session of the CBC will take place in Brussels in February 2020 and it will include a joint Session with the WCO TFA Working Group.