The UNODC-WCO Global Container Control Programme reviews and enhances interregional practical cooperation and information exchange

On 23-24 May 2023, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly with the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan organized in Baku, Azerbaijan the Eighth Annual Meeting of Heads and senior-level officials from Customs services and other competent authorities of the countries, participating in the UNODC-WCO Global Container Control Programme (CCP). Delegations from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, as well as UNODC and WCO Headquarters, programme partners and donors reviewed the current progress, perspectives, challenges, and priorities in implementing the CCP and the MoU on the Inter-Regional Network of Customs Authorities and Port Control Units (IREN) in the region.

In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Shahin Baghirov, Chairperson of the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan underlined the importance of the work performed by the CCP in terms of prevention and suppression of cross-border trafficking in illicit goods, customs control cooperation, and trade facilitation in the region, briefed on current accomplishments made and priority areas for further work under the Programme, and thanked UNODC and WCO for their continuous efforts and support in these matters.  

Ms. Ashita Mittal, the UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, extended the appreciation to the Government of Azerbaijan for hosting the event and to donors for their consistent and continuous support to the UNODC’s initiatives in the region and mentioned in her welcoming remarks that “The work that we do through the Container Control Programme is not only about preventing the illicit drug trafficking or its goods. It is really about also a trade promotion. This is a very unique partnership between the WCO and UNODC, developed with the perspective of supporting the participating Member States with all that we can bring. And what the UN can do is to bring to you good examples and good expertise, and most importantly – this platform to exchange the experiences and to look at the will to convert it into actionable goals that we can achieve together”.  

Mr. Bob Van Den Berghe, Deputy Head, Passenger and Cargo Border Team (PCBT), Border Management Branch (BMB) at UNODC Headquarters, reiterated in his opening remarks a unique role the PCBT plays in assisting the countries through bringing the expertise and international best practice to the region, as well as facilitating the strategic and practical cooperation. The fact that UNODC’s contribution through CCP/PCBT is informing the policy and decisions by participating Governments and Customs administrations was commended. Successes achieved through a series of interregional operations with tangible results and improved teamwork were highlighted. It was stressed that the UNODC BMB also keeps pace with new developments and trends in the international trade and supply chains, as well as a clear nexus between various faces and manifestations of the transnational organized crime to accommodate the coverage and mandates of its border management programmes to better address the resultant challenges and modus operandi.

Mr. Robert Pazos, Regional Advisor, Export Control and Border Security Program (EXBS) commended the existing cooperation under the IREN and underlined that “EXBS views these successes, created by CCP, such as IREN, as good examples of UNODC fostering cooperation and strengthening an enforcement in the region. Among the efforts to combat common threats and challenges, this meeting offers an opportunity to share best practices and experiences, and to gather knowledge on what participating countries are doing. I look forward to learning the IREN success stories and seeing what together we could foster in terms of common solutions to common challenges and priorities”.

The major global and regional highlights of the CCP, as well as accomplishments and seizures from 2022 CCP Global Annual Report were provided in the UNODC and WCO joint presentation. The countries were briefed about the current integration of border-related programming under the BMB, including new dimensions of CCP mandate towards joining efforts with AIRCOP; concerted approaches with other regional border initiatives; and overall perspectives and targets under the CCP’s 2022-2025 Strategy.

These were followed by countries’ statements and presentations on their efforts in the strategic and practical implementation of the Programme and IREN MoU at the national level, including the progress, achievements, international cooperation, joint seizures, challenges, priorities, and needs. As a result of discussions and joint work held, the participants have developed and adopted the list of meeting outcomes.

The CCP Interregional Anti-Corruption Workshop was held on 25 May 2023 for the participants as a back-to-back activity to the Annual Meeting to provide an insight to countries on anti-corruption and integrity in public and Customs systems. Vladimir Kozin, UNODC Regional Anti-Corruption Adviser in Central Asia and South Caucasus; Zhaidar Inkerbayev, the WCO Integrity Expert; and Vitalii Kasko, independent anti-corruption expert led the sessions and moderated the discussions on integrity in law-enforcement, public, and Customs systems globally; strategic response mechanisms, achievements, and challenges. Participants worked through the practical expert case studies and different scenarios of corruption in Customs and answered questions on ways and mechanisms to prevent and address them based on their legislature and enforcement practices.

The participants expressed their appreciation to UNODC for the longstanding and well-structured support provided within the framework of CCP based on countries’ national needs and priorities in terms of capacity-building and facilitating interregional practical cooperation and information exchange mechanisms and practices. The progress in the further improvement of the cooperation under the CCP IREN Network was reiterated as a crucial dedicated contribution of the Programme to countries’ efforts in preventing and suppressing illegal cross-border cargo movements and facilitating the legitimate trade.

The CCP Regional Segments for Central Asia, Southern Caucasus and Pakistan are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the Export Control and Related Border Security Program (EXBS).

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