Georgia celebrates the 10th anniversary of the UNODC WCO Global Container Control Programme – A Milestone for Interagency Cooperation in the Fight Against Transnational Crime

On June 14, 2022 the Container Control Programme (CCP) in Georgia celebrated its 10th anniversary. CCP’s mission is to combat illicit trafficking while facilitating legitimate trade. In Georgia the programme has established three interagency units: Two Port Control Units (PCUs) in Poti and Tbilisi as well as an Air Cargo Control Unit (ACCU) at Tbilisi International Airport. 

Members from the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Finance, representatives from the United Nations and the World Customs Organization (WCO), as well as other stakeholders attended to acknowledge this important milestone. The Georgian ministries and UNODC reiterated their commitment to the programme by signing a renewed Memorandum of Understanding. Honoring the importance of CCP both, the Minister of Internal Affair Vakhtang Gomelauri and the Minister of Finance Lasha Khutsishvili. underlined how crucial interagency cooperation is on a national as well as a regional level in order to combat transnational crime and to ensure national security. Considering the many conflicts in and around the region, this cooperation is more important than ever. 

Further addresses were given by UN and WCO representatives, each highlighting a different aspect of CCP’s work in Georgia and the wider region: Dr. Sabine Machl, the UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia, stressed that Georgia has proven to be a reliable partner in the region since joining the United Nations almost 30 years ago. Ashita Mittal, the UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, spoke about Georgia’s relevance for regional security in the light of conflict and instability in Ukraine and Afghanistan and thanked US, Canada and EU for their financial support to CCP development tin Georgia . Gerhard Retief from the WCO, who was the first trainer to ever visit a unit in Georgia, fondly remembered his visits to Georgia. In the past decade, Georgia has become a role model for sharing systems and information within the CCP framework.

Tofiq Murshudlu, the Head of Coordination for UNODC’s Border Management Branch, highlighted how CCP in Georgia has truly made a spectacular development: The units here are one of the best examples for interagency cooperation in the Global programme which led to significant seizures of narcotics, strategic and dual use goods, etc. But he also cautioned that there are significant challenges ahead -most notably the war in Ukraine, and transiting shipments through Georgia have subsequently increased two and a half-fold. This development puts a strain on CCP’s capacities.

Ketil Ottersen, Head of UNODC CCP gave a presentation about Global programme development,  methodology and achievements,  highlighting  that  Georgia is often used as CCP  best practice example. Possible future challenges and solutions may will include the use of block chain technology, the issue of abandoned containers, and the model of National Targeting Centers, to name just a few. Rossitza Petrov, Security Advisor, US State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Programme, underlined that the United States firmly believe that interagency and international coordination and cooperation are vital to ensuring security and non-proliferation. Georgia is an important strategic partner at the crossroads of major trade routes. Thus, the United States remain committed to CCP in Georgia and the region, as trade and border security need to be strengthened in light of Russia’s aggression. The event was concluded by the signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding. Signatories were the Minister of Internal Affair Vakhtang Gomelauri, the Minister of Finance Lasha Khutsishvi, and the UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia Ashita Mittal. Furthermore, all members of the three units were then awarded certificates to honor their exceptional work and contribution to Georgia’s security and prosperity. The Georgian Revenue Service generously hosted an official reception to conclude the celebration.