In commemoration of International Customs Day, The Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Kunio Mikuriya, shares his views with Indonesian Customs on the critical role played by national Customs administrations in protecting the environment with the support of the WCO Secretariat.

World Customs Organization (WCO)

In most countries, Customs administrations play an essential role at the border in protecting the environment given their frontline position. As the first line of defense at borders, Customs are charged with ensuring compliance with the trade-related provisions of multilateral environmental agreements and with national legislation. They are also the primary government agency responsible for monitoring the trade in certain environmentally sensitive commodities and endangered species, identifying and detecting fraud and other non-compliance, and helping to raise awareness about this illegal trade among members of the public.

Environmental crime is a significant and increasingly lucrative business and affects society in many negative ways. A number of examples illustrate this: the poaching of endangered species affects the income of rural populations and has driven some species to the brink of extinction; deforestation caused by illegal logging is a major contributor to climate change, causing up to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions; ozone depleting substances (ODS) destroy the ozone layer which can lead to the suppression of the human immune system resulting in skin cancer and cataracts, in addition to contributing to climate change; hazardous waste causes long term poisoning of soil and water which affects the health and living conditions of people, with this unscrupulous trade regarded as criminal under the Basel Convention on the Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. By its nature, environmental crime is trans-boundary and in many cases involves cross border criminal syndicates.

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has long been involved in efforts to combat the illegal trade in environmentally sensitive goods, with its Council – the Organization’s highest decisionmaking body – having adopted several Recommendations on environmental crime. The latest Recommendation approved in June 2008 calls for all WCO Members to continue their efforts to combat environmental crime and to ensure that the environment remains a priority issue for Customs across the globe.

Headings and subheadings for environmentally sensitive commodities in the Harmonized System – the international goods nomenclature managed by the WCO – have also been amended to enable the most traded commodities to be identified and monitored. In addition, data elements for hazardous waste will be incorporated into version 3 of the WCO Data Model to facilitate not only Customs in their control and identification of imported and exported hazardous waste but also to assist other responsible government agencies in their control measures. Modification of data elements associated with the identification of endangered species is also under consideration.

The WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) has also been widely used for information exchange for border environmental enforcement. Seizures of endangered species and hazardous waste reported globally by Customs are stored in the CEN too. A new ODS seizure database will be available in the near future. Alerts, trend analysis, as well as information from other organizations keep Customs officers around the world informed about emerging trends associated with illegal trafficking

In addition, a new tool “ENVIRONET” will soon be available for Customs officers involved in environmental enforcement to exchange real time information, with the help of experts from international organizations and national competent authorities. Detailed risk indicators on endangered species, ozone depleting substances and hazardous waste developed by the WCO Secretariat support frontline Customs officers in their daily work.

a Joint Response to Protect The  Environment

Recently, 85 WCO Members participated in an operation which targeted endangered species and later in the year, many administrations will participate in another environment operation targeting hazardous waste. Indonesia participated in the first operation and is committed to participating in the second one, which is a clear demonstration of the importance it attaches to environmental protection.

To ensure more effective border enforcement operations, the WCO and its partners have been developing training tools to assist frontline officers: a “Customs, wild fauna and flora” training course covering CITES (the Convention governing the trade in wild fauna and flora) is now available on the WCO e-learning platform. The course benefits not only Customs officers, but also other parties involved in controlling this trade or combating any illegal trade.

At the regional level, the network of WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILO) and Regional Offices for Capacity Building (ROCB) have been very active in environmental border protection activities by collecting and analysing seizure information, hosting training events, and participating in capacity building initiatives.

On the international front, the WCO Secretariat continues to work closely with other international organizations involved in environmental issues. This cooperation has been formalised through a series of Memoranda of Understanding with partners such as the CITES Secretariat, the Basel Convention Secretariat and UNEP, which maximises joint efforts in the fight against environmental crime. Since 2001, the WCO has been an active partner in the Green Customs Initiatives (GCI), which is a series of collaborative activities that include workshops, training material, and joint actions by partner organizations aimed at raising the awareness of Customs officers to environment issues

To raise further awareness about the importance of protecting the world’s natural heritage, the WCO has dedicated to environment issues under the theme: “Customs and the environment: Protecting our natural heritage”.

The Indonesian Customs administration continues to be an active partner in protecting the environment and its contribution is much appreciated both in the region and internationally. In acknowledgement, the WCO Secretariat would like to thank the Director General of Customs and Excise in Indonesia for their total commitment to protect the earth’s natural heritage by ensuring effective border enforcement.

 

Customs: Response to Protect The  Environment – Temporaktif