At the kind invitation of the Government of Italy, the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Policy Commission held its 89th Session in Venice, from 5 to 7 December 2023, under the chairmanship of Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service.
The Director General of Italian Customs, Roberto Alesse, welcomed all delegates to the historic city of Venice and expressed his deepest gratitude to Italy’s Guardia di Finanza and Marina Militare (Navy) for their partnership and support in hosting this important event. The Director General acknowledged the WCO’s expanded mission over time, adapting to global challenges, and lauded the Secretary General’s leadership in steering these efforts. Against this complex backdrop, and with support from stakeholders including Italy, the WCO had effectively assisted its Members in implementing advanced and appropriate solutions to secure and promote international trade.
The WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, expressed his sincere appreciation to the Government of Italy for hosting the Policy Commission in the remarkable city of Venice. He affirmed the Director General’s statements and highlighted the city as an ideal location and lauded the perfect timing of this meeting for the international Customs community to ponder its future and strengthen its cooperation, including with external partners. The Secretary General also delivered a detailed report on the status of implementation of the WCO Strategic Plan.
The Council Chairperson, Edward Kieswetter, emphasized the critical mission of the WCO in supporting global Customs’ interests and contributing to societal well-being through international standards, cooperation, capacity building and revenue collection. He stressed the need for clarity as regards the WCO's mandate, higher purpose, vision and strategic intent. He highlighted the evolving role of Customs professionals in an automated world and advocated for customer-centric approaches and the use of data, artificial intelligence and technology for efficient and effective Customs operations.
During the three-day meeting, the Policy Commission discussed a wide range of topics, including Gender Equality and Diversity, Passenger Controls, Customs-Industry Resilience, Green Customs, the WCO Data Strategy, e-Commerce and the Exploratory Study on the Strategic Review of the Harmonized System. Discussions also included the 2024 Customs Environmental Scan and upcoming activities for 2024/2025 Implementation Plan, alongside the Organization’s outlook for the years to come.
The Policy Commission also deliberated on important governance topics, and the WCO’s future direction. The Policy Commission focused on the development of a Modernization Plan to better equip the WCO to respond to Members’ diverse needs and to continue providing leadership, guidance and support to Customs administrations world-wide. With this forward looking motive in mind, the WCO theme for 2024 was launched by Secretary General-Elect Ian Saunders - Customs Engaging Traditional and New Partners with Purpose.
The Session concluded with delegates paying tribute to the WCO Secretary General, acknowledging his invaluable service and contribution to the international Customs community. His dedication and tireless commitment to serve Members will always be remembered. Delegates wished him all the best in his future endeavors. Finally, delegates also expressed their sincere gratitude to Italian Customs for their warm hospitality and for the organization of an unforgettable session.