Fiji’s celebration of its 50th year of independence is not only a celebration for the country but for the region as well.
It has also been 50 years since the father of modern Fiji and Pacific statesman, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara coined the words “Pacific Way” at the United Nations in 1970, to symbolise a way of doing things specific to the Pacific where people of different races, opinions and cultures can live and work together for the good of all, can differ without rancour, govern without malice and accept responsibility as reasonable people intent on serving the interests of all.
As individuals, Pacific island nations are too small to be heard in the global space but as a region or in the “Pacific Way”, our voices are more amplified.
Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO), headquartered in Fiji, is an example of the “Pacific Way”. With a membership of 23 countries in the Pacific region, OCO’s mission is to facilitate and help customs administrations align with international standards and best practice, which would lead to greater economic prosperity and increased border security.
OCO was born out of the Customs Heads of Administration Regional Meeting (CHARM) held annually in the 1980s, which was a forum to promote harmonised and simplified customs procedures, introduce new methods, exchange information and generally improve communication between member administrations.
Over the years, it became clearer that the needs of the 23 customs administrations had grown and there was a need to have a secretariat. OCO was established at the final CHARM gathering in August 1998 in Tonga, which was the first OCO Annual Conference of Customs Heads.
The OCO secretariat was initially hosted by Australian Cus- toms in Brisbane before it was moved to Noumea, New Caledo- nia in 2002 and eventually Fiji.
As not all Pacific Island nations are members of the World Customs Organisation or the World Trade Organisation, OCO has been bridging the gap in these nations through knowledge sharing, training and assisting customs administrations to im- plement standards of the same level as the two global organisations.
But while customs administrations in the region have evolved and progressed, there are also challenges that we must address urgently.
Without a doubt the role of customs is important in an econ- omy- to facilitate trade and generate revenue as well as to ensure border security.
We are seeing emerging threats within the customs environment such as the trade of counterfeit goods, illicit