In a precedence-setting move, CEO/Commissioner of the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), Mrs. Velma Ricketts Walker, has been elected by the membership of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to serve as Chairperson of the WCO’s Capacity Building Committee (CBC). She has the distinction of being the first female chairperson of the CBC, and the first person from Jamaica and the Caribbean to hold the post.
Mrs. Ricketts Walker vied for the post at the 9th Session of the WCO Capacity Building Committee (CBC), which was held in Brussels from 26 to 28 February 2018, under the theme “Smart Customs: The Gateway to High Performance and Sustainability.”
Mrs. Ricketts Walker will serve for a period of one (1) year and will be eligible for re-election. Canada will serve as Vice-Chair for the Committee, with Norway being the outgoing Chair. Previous chairpersons were from Canada, Brazil and Norway. The CBC enjoys wide membership support and comes in second, with over 200 participants, only to the WCO’s Annual General Council Meeting.
Jamaica has been a member of the WCO since 1963. The WCO has 182 members from across six (6) regions; namely the Americas and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa and the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The CBC has been gaining increasing support in recent times, as Customs administrations focus on modernization and capacity building, especially in light of their obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on February 22, 2017.
The CBC’s mandate is to initiate work and studies on capacity building to consider overall capacity building priorities, and to prepare guidelines, standards, tools and instruments to support capacity building objectives. It also provides a forum for cooperation and information exchange on development topics.
These initiatives are informed by an annual needs assessment process carried out together by the WCO Secretariat and Member administrations, and supported by the Regional Offices for Capacity Building (ROCBs).
Since the last session of the CBC, held in March 2017, 492 capacity building missions have been conducted across all six (6) regions of the WCO, with more than 130 Members benefitting from this support. Jamaica has been benefitting from various capacity building initiatives including the WCO Knowledge Academy, WCO Fellowship Programme, various WCO Accreditation Workshops, WCO Time Release Study Workshop, WCO Strategic Planning Workshop, WCO Rules of Origin and Advance Rulings Workshop.
A near future engagement of the Jamaica Customs Agency is the WCO Mercator Programme, which aims to assist governments worldwide to implement trade facilitation measures, including the WTO TFA, in a uniform manner, through the use of WCO instruments and tools.
Other future and current capacity building engagements the JCA will participate in include the human resource boosting Leadership and Management Development Programme (LMPD), WCO e-learning platform CLiCK! (Customs Learning and Knowledge Community), the Virtual Customs Orientation Academy (VCOA) and various scholarship programmes.
Other key areas of focus for the WCO’s CBC include building capacity in integrity, in order to adopt new methods and develop new tools to combat corruption and promote integrity; and gender equality and diversity.
Gender equality and diversity is an area being given keen interest by WCO Members, resulting in the WCO’s participation in the “Women and Trade International Forum,” organized by the European Commission in Brussels. The Forum gathered policymakers, private stakeholders, and civil society organizations with the aim of promoting inclusive trade policies to promote women’s economic empowerment.
A Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity is to be launched by the WCO Secretariat with the objective of gathering best practices on Gender Equality and Diversity initiatives implemented by Members and promoting the exchange of information in this field.
Further, a special section of the WCO website has also been devoted to this topical issue. It is expected that work will continue under the CBC on these two very important areas, to the benefit of the Members, particularly Members from Developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including Jamaica.