Human Capital at the centre of Customs’ Strategies in a Post-COVID world

30.06.2021 Lisa McAuley
Human Capital at the centre of Customs’ Strategies in a Post-COVID world

The current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the reality of every person around the world. Globally, people and organizations have experienced the shock of lockdown and the fear of not knowing what will happen from one day to the next.

Customs administrations worldwide have not been spared by the COVID-19 crisis. In order to determine the priorities of Customs administrations in the World Customs Organization (WCO) West and Central Africa (WCA) region in terms of capacity building during the COVID-19 crisis, the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for the WCA region, with the support of the Investment Climate Reform (ICR) Facility, conducted a study in the third quarter of 2020 Among other things, this study concluded that there was a need to hold a series of webinars on topics deemed a priority by Customs administrations in the WCA region, including human resource management (HRM) in times of crisis.

Given the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Customs staff, HRM professionals within Customs administrations are, now more than ever, being called upon to play an active and strategic role not only in managing the response to the crisis but more specifically in preparing the organization for the future.

However, it is clear that during the COVID-19 crisis, many Customs administrations’ human resource (HR) professionals have had to make many decisions in a very short time, without necessarily having sufficient data and without the benefit of previous lessons learnt or best practices.

In this situation, Customs administrations’ HR professionals must both adapt and act proactively to a changing environment while also ensuring the fluidity and proper functioning of activities encompassing revenue collection, trade facilitation and supply chain security and distribution, especially of vaccines, in order to meet the needs and expectations of their governments, stakeholders and citizens.

Although the speed of vaccination differs from region to region, the prospect of regular vaccination portends hope of eventually overcoming COVID-19.

In this regard, the current priority of Customs administrations around the world is to start looking towards the post-COVID era and to seize future opportunities beyond immediate priorities, while exploiting opportunities stemming from the current challenging situation in order to further enhance the efficiency of Customs administrations for a better world.

More than ever, Customs leaders are therefore expected to leverage all available resources, including Human Capital, in order to ensure the legitimate movement of goods and people and ultimately contribute to global socio-economic prosperity.

This regional initiative by the WCO and the ICR is part of the support provided by the WCO and its WCA regional structures (Vice-Chair and the ROCB-WCA) to its Members, and especially to Customs HR professionals so that they can provide - along with other Customs officials - an effective response to the current crisis and potential future crises while prioritizing staff safety, engagement and productivity and supporting organizational performance.

Structure of the webinars

This virtual conference, presented as a series of webinars, will showcase the experiences of and lessons learnt from the global Customs community as well as private and public international organizations around the world (Directors General (DGs) and HR Directors from Customs administrations and international organizations, together with development partners, universities, the private sector and consultancy firms).

The webinars will be broadcast live on 14 and 15 July 2021 using the ZOOM platform with simultaneous interpretation (English, French and Portuguese). Provision has been made to organize and hold six webinars in the form of panel discussions, addressing Human Capital positioning strategies in the post-COVID environment.

Objectives of the webinars

The overall objectives of the webinars are to:

- promote the importance of HRM modernization efforts in a Customs context; and

- help build the capacities of Customs administrations in the WCA region with respect to crisis management and business continuity.

The aim of this first series of webinars is to develop a platform for sharing and collecting best regional and international practices concerning the role of Human Capital in the success of post-COVID Customs strategies. The main lessons drawn from the webinars will make it possible to:

- provide a platform for sharing and collecting international and regional best practices concerning the role of Customs HR professionals in managing the COVID-19 crisis and potentially handling similar future crises;

- enable HR professionals from Customs administrations in the WCA region to gain a greater understanding of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis and similar crises in the future; and

- strengthen (i) the link between HR professionals from Customs administrations in the WCA region, and (ii) the link between Customs administrations in the WCA region and their technical and financial partners.