Sars’ Kieswetter elected chairperson of the World Customs Organisation

26th June 2023

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer


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The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has welcomed the election of Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter as chairperson of intergovernmental body the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

The election took place on June 24, at the WCO’s Council session at its 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.

The WCO, established in 1952 as the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), 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 WCO working name.

Sars states that, 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.

“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,” said Kieswetter.

The elections were preceded by the organisation’s 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 members-driven organisation. 

“Given the foregoing topical issues on the agenda currently, Kieswetter sits at the pinnacle of a global stage to provide appropriate stewardship that will ensure the WCO is fit for purpose and stays relevant in providing leadership and support to the global customs community,” Sars adds.

At the election, Kieswetter outlined the agenda that will inform his chairmanship.

The first aspect of this agenda includes working with his colleagues and peers from member countries to listen actively and to ensure that the WCO’s strategic intent finds practical expression.

This will be done through an effective and well-managed secretariat, a transformational modernisation plan, an appropriate set of priorities and a clear sense of “what winning means”.

The second aspect of this agenda will advocate for greater inclusivity, with a strong focus on women and people with disabilities.

This agenda will also seek to build resilient and effective partnerships with all stakeholders and strive towards an enhanced profile of the important role of customs in the service of society and ensuring the well-being of the most vulnerable in society.

The previous and only other time South Africa chaired the WCO council was between 2001 to 2006, under the leadership of the then Sars Commissioner and current Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Kieswetter thanked WCO outgoing secretary-general Dr Kunio Mikuriya and chairperson Ahmed Al-Khalifa for their abled stewardship that so successfully drove the agenda of the organisation. 

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 next year. 

Kieswetter lastly thanked his colleagues from the African continent, especially from East and Southern Africa, South Africa’s Brics partners and other regions for bestowing this honour on South Africa.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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