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Guatemala Customs reviews its Standard Operating Procedures for the movement of relief goods with the support of the WCO COVID-19 Project

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role played by Customs administrations in facilitating the supply of emergency goods and in ensuring the fast clearance of relief consignments. Being that the preparedness of Customs administrations is at the core of its mission, the WCO COVID-19 Project, funded by the Government of Japan, organized on 5-8 October the "Online workshop to assist Guatemala Customs in drafting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the clearance and regularization of relief goods in case of natural disasters and other disruptive events”. Guatemala is the first Member of the Americas and Caribbean region to benefit from this capacity-building activity provided by the Project, and the third one globally, following Benin and Madagascar.

The audience included representatives of the Customs administration, other border authorities, the national coordinator for disaster risk management, competent ministries, international organizations and the humanitarian sector, for a total of more than 150 participants. During the four days of the event, attendees were guided by WCO and partner International Organizations’ experts who helped them in identifying the existing bottlenecks for the clearance of relief consignments and in complying with current international standards.

During the opening ceremony, the Director General of Guatemala Customs, Mr. W. Ovalle Ramirez, underlined the importance of the event and that “implementing harmonized recommendations is critical, as it will allow to better face future challenges.” The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guatemala, Ms. Rebeca Arias Flores, expressed her gratitude for the support provided by the WCO COVID-19 Project, thanks to which “it will be possible to make progress in the drafting of SOPs that are operational and to reinforce the capacity of humanitarian bodies.” On behalf of the WCO Secretariat, the Director of the WCO Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, commended the presence of such diverse and relevant organizations and the dedication of the network of experts attending the workshop.

Sessions dedicated to the drafting of the Standard Operating Procedures were organized in the form of working groups, fostering interaction and a fruitful exchange amongst the participants. Attendees reviewed and improved existing procedures on high priority topics, including duties exemptions, the importation of food, telecommunication devices, medicines and the temporary admission of disaster-related equipment. The work produced will be further analyzed during specific meetings with the WCO and international experts to prepare the final report.

This national workshop precedes a wider sub-regional event that will be organized by the Project on 15-17 November to enhance coordination between the Members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and foster their preparedness in dealing with pandemics and other disruptive events.

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