The South African Revenue Service (Sars) said yesterday that it had welcomed the election of its Commissioner Edward Kieswetter as chairperson of the World Customs Organization (WCO).
The election took place on June 24, 2023, at the organisation’s Council session at the WCO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
The WCO has 185 members, three-quarters of which are developing countries, and the Council is its highest decision-making body.
It was established in 1952 as the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), and is the only intergovernmental organisation exclusively focused on Customs matters and is recognised as the voice of the global Customs community. In 1994, the CCC adopted the working name of the WCO.
The previous and only other time the country chaired the WCO Council was between 2001 and 2006 under the leadership of the then Commissioner Pravin Gordhan.
In accepting the challenge to lead the WCO for a year, Kieswetter expressed appreciation to his colleagues, who found him appropriately suitable to lead such a prestigious body, Sars said.
Kieswetter said: “Leadership is an inordinate responsibility and a rare privilege to assist international efforts to bring matters of Customs to the centre of international trade facilitation. This election is ample evidence that the leadership of Sars in matters of Customs is acknowledged after many years of State Capture”.
The elections were preceded by the Policy Commission. The discussions at the Policy Commission ranged from progress on WCO Customs technical programmes, emerging and new challenges plaguing the Customs world, and organisational development issues around governance and modernisation of the WCO as a member-driven organisation, Sars said.
‘’Given the foregoing topical issues on the agenda currently, Commissioner Kieswetter sits at the pinnacle of a global stage to provide appropriate stewardship that will ensure that the WCO is fit for purpose and stays relevant in providing leadership and support to the global Customs community,’’ Sars said.
According to Sars, Kieswetter outlined the agenda that will inform his chairmanship as working with his colleagues and peers from member countries to listen actively and ensure that WCO’s strategic intent finds practical expression through an effective, well-managed Secretariat, a transformational modernisation plan, an appropriate set of priorities, a clear sense of what winning means.
He said this meant the advocacy for greater inclusivity with a strong focus on women and people with disabilities; Building resilient and effective partnerships with all stakeholders; Striving towards an enhanced profile of the important role of Customs in the service of society, and ensuring the well-being, especially of the most vulnerable.
Kieswetter thanked the outgoing secretary general, Kunio Mikuriya, and chairperson Ahmed Al-Khalifa for their abled stewardship that drove so successfully the agenda of the organisation.
Meanwhile, the Policy Commission also elected Ian Sanders of the US as the new secretary-general of the WCO. Sanders will start his term on January 1, 2024.