The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Sri Lanka Customs launched a pilot project on Digitising Global Maritime Trade. Sri Lanka is the second country to officially join this pilot programme, following Cambodia in October last year.
The Digitizing Global Maritime Trade project is a specialised data integration solution called ASYHUB, currently being developed by UNCTAD’s customs reform and automation programme. ASYHUB helps to create a seamless exchange of cargo data between a country’s customs system and multiple trade data providers, with the programme enabling speedy clearance of sea cargo, reduced transit times and ultimately minimizing the trade costs for the private sector. The submitted advance sea cargo data will allow customs administrations to conduct risk analysis earlier to determine which cargo to inspect, and which cargo to release as goods arrive, ultimately reducing total transit times for companies. Reducing transit and dwell times are associated with trade growth and subsequently GDP growth and job creation.
Present at the launch ceremony were Director of Sri Lanka Customs Rtd. Major General Mr. Vijith Ravipriya, UNCTAD Director Division on Technology and Logistics Ms. Shamika Sirimanne, GIZ Country Director Ms. Christiane Einfeldt and colleagues from Sri Lanka Customs, UNCTAD and GIZ joined virtually.
Comments by UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer-Hamdy at the launch event:
We are all glad to be associated with this new initiative aligned with the Sri Lanka e-government strategy. This initiative is also well aligned with Sri Lanka’s national strategy of becoming one of the world’s leading maritime hubs using its unique location and the significant container traffic it attracts in the South Asian region. The initiative builds upon digital technology, which we know will continue to be essential in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, we also recognise that with increased interest in maritime activities comes a host of concerns such as maritime crime and the destruction of natural resources and coastlines.
UN Agencies in Sri Lanka such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) work on coastal conservation. While our colleagues from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and their Global Maritime Crime Programme Headquartered out of Sri Lanka supports maritime law enforcement authorities to tackle maritime crime. This includes, for instance, capacity building in Navy, coastguard and port authorities to ensure safe and secure waters for continued prosperous maritime trade. Further, the UN works with Sri Lankan authorities to ensure cross-agency cooperation, including customs, to tackle crimes in the fisheries sector.
Our initiative today is only one of the many efforts by the UN in Sri Lanka and globally to facilitate international trade in a fair and equitable manner to ensure that it leads to sustainable development that leaves no one behind. Our efforts to promote international trade hinges on three areas;
Firstly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes international trade as an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction, and an important means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Secondly, economic and social progress throughout the world depends in large measure on a steady expansion of international trade. The extensive development of equitable and mutually advantageous international trade creates a good basis for an atmosphere of mutual confidence and understanding among nations. It also promotes higher living standards and more rapid economic progress in all countries of the world.
Finally, we promote a human rights-based approach to trade and investment which aims to transform existing systems of international trade and investment from engines of economic growth into a multi-purpose framework for the promotion of holistic, people-centered development.
Therefore, as always the United Nations in Sri Lanka is glad to join with the Government and bilateral partners such as Germany to promote trade and development and help facilitate programmes such as the one launched today on Digitising Global Maritime Trade – to create a more equitable and prosperous world for everyone.