The Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council wishes to extend congratulations and best wishes to all regional Customs Administrations and the wider international Customs fraternity on the occasion of International Customs Day, being celebrated on January 26, 2024. The significance of this day and date is linked to the origins of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and this year’s theme is dedicated to: “Customs Engaging Traditional and New Partners with Purpose”. This theme is relevant to us in the region as we transition into a treaty-based organisation, but more importantly as we embrace the significance of new trends and opportunities for improving and enhancing the role of customs administrations within the respective countries.
The work of Customs in the region remains strategically important to achieving Governments’ fiscal targets as well as other economic and social policy imperatives. The customs mandate is ever expanding beyond the traditional roles, for example, to incorporate environmental issues within the context of climate change and the thrust towards implementing sustainable development goals. There are also threats and concerns related to cyber security and the impact of technology including artificial intelligence (AI) on the operating systems and processes. There is an urgent need to reassess and improve the skills sets of customs officials, in view of placing greater emphasis on data management and analytics, to facilitate the effective use of risk management systems and intelligence led decision-making at all levels of the organisations.
Our law enforcement and revenue recovery efforts must be focused on greater collaborative approaches between Customs administrations on one hand and the wider network of law enforcement capabilities at the regional and international levels. Information and data exchange has become the lifeblood of our existence and tendencies towards insularity and a reluctance to securely share pertinent information is hindering our progress. The value of the CCLEC, CARICOM IMPACS and the WCO will never be fully realized if we continue to restrict ourselves in these ways.