Customs Saves Lives: from Mutual Understanding to Joint Action

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 01 Nov 2013

Astana, 29-30 October 2013. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the World Customs Organization (WCO) held a two-day regional seminar on the role of customs in humanitarian relief operations. This seminar is part of a series of regional seminars in response to WCO’s call in June 2011 to all its member states to ensure the highest level of disaster preparedness at national level.

In his opening remarks, the UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan, Mr. Stephen Tull, underlined the necessity to understand the role that national customs authorities are expected to play in emergency response: “In times of crisis, when needs of the affected population are highest, the system of customs regulations is there to serve and protect citizens in the most optimal way while ensuring the safety and security of the country.” Echoing Mr.Tull’s statement, Mr.Vaessen, Head of OCHA Regional Office for Caucasus and Central Asia, noted: “We have to strengthen our partnerships and create mechanisms for local authorities, customs, international and national humanitarian organizations to work as a team and move from mutual understanding to joint action.”

The seminar brought together experts from CIS countries, working in customs administrations, national disaster management authorities, Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, non-governmental and international organizations.

Climate change will increasingly lead to more frequent and larger-scale natural disasters affecting the most vulnerable populations in the region. Underlining the timely nature of the seminar, Mr. Baylar Talibov, IFRC Representative for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan said: “As a leading humanitarian organization, we are working side by side with other humanitarian actors to help those in need to provide relief, rehabilitation and development. We share a common understanding of the need for humanitarian actors to coordinate with customs authorities on these issues”. As such, the event is particularly important as a joint effort to increase the effectiveness of existing customs procedures and regulations for both humanitarian goods and humanitarian personnel.

The WCO representative noted in his remarks: “We have a serious challenge ahead of us, but I strongly believe that by joining our forces, we will come to concrete achievements to facilitate professional rescue workers in times of disasters to save as many lives as humanly possible.”

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