terms of reference for the policy commission
confirmed by the council - june 2005
updated - june 2013
chairperson : the policy commission is chaired by the chairperson of the council.
vice-chairperson : the policy commission rules of procedure provide that the commission may elect one or more vice-chairpersons, although in practice it has not done so to date.
established : 1978.
duration : unspecified.
the policy commission was established to act as a dynamic steering group to the council.
as is specified in council decision no. 334, membership of the policy commission is restricted to a specific number of wco members, elected by the council on a regional basis from among the active members in the region. the policy commission members are :
the chairperson of the council (as chairperson of the commission).
the vice-chairpersons of the council, each representing one of the wco's six regions.
twenty-four members, selected on a regional basis as follows :
east and southern africa : 2
europe : 8
far east, south and south east asia, australasia and the pacific islands : 5 north of africa, near and middle east : 2 north america, central america and the caribbean : 5 west and central africa : 2 as observers, belgium (in its capacity as host nation), the chairperson of the finance committee, the chairperson of the audit committee, and any member that is not a member of the policy commission and is to host a session of the commission away from headquarters.
in an ex officio capacity, former chairpersons of the council who are still serving in their national customs administrations (for a maximum of two years after ceasing to hold office as chairperson).
3. purpose and scope
the competence of the policy commission is defined as follows in council decision no. 334 :
"the commission shall concern itself with broad policy questions relevant to the wco's activities. the commission shall act as a dynamic steering group to the council. it shall initiate studies on the policies, practices, and procedures of the wco with the objective of assisting the council to achieve the broad aims of its activities".
4. key deliverables
the key deliverables of the policy commission are :
(a) to examine questions referred to it by the council, by individual members of the policy commission or council, by the finance committee or by the secretary general (either on his own initiative or at the request of one of the wco's technical committees or other bodies);
(b) in regard to the questions thus examined, to make recommendations to the council or the relevant committee, or provide advice to the secretary general. the commission may also instruct the secretary general to undertake further research or reflection on an issue, on the basis of which the policy commission will consider the matter further;
(c) in case of urgency, the commission is empowered to ask the secretary general to take such action as the commission deems necessary in the interests of the wco and to report such decision to the next sessions of the council;
(d) each june, to conduct a preliminary examination of the strategic plan which is prepared each year by the secretariat, and is submitted first to the policy commission and then to the council;
(e) each december, to examine a programme budget for the following financial year and make recommendations to the finance committee on the general budgetary orientations (including the total amount of the general operating expenses) to be presented to the council for that year;
(f) each december, to conduct a mid-year review of wco activities, based on written and oral reports presented by the secretary general, as a means of monitoring progress on behalf of the council;
(g) each june, to examine the audit report in the light of the comments on it made by the finance committee, and make recommendations to the council accordingly.
5. means of operation
the policy commission, under its chairperson (who is the chairperson of the council), examines issues on the basis of documents prepared by the secretariat or, from time to time, committee reports or papers submitted by individual members. although the policy commission is a "restricted membership" body, the working documents prepared for the sessions are circulated to all wco members for information.
the policy commission's rules of procedure specify that the policy commission shall hold at least two sessions a year, one of which shall be held in conjunction with the council sessions. in practice, the policy commission holds two 3 or 4-day sessions each year, one about half way through the financial year (almost always in december), and the other immediately before the annual council sessions (almost always in june).
the members of the policy commission are elected by the council (the composition of the commission is described under part 2 - membership, above). the ordinary members of the commission are elected for a 2-year term, renewable indefinitely, whereas the council chairperson and vice-chairpersons are elected for a 1-year term, renewable once only unless the council considers otherwise.
the rules of procedure specify that policy commission members and observers must be represented by their heads of administrations, although exceptionally a head of administration may authorize a high-ranking official to represent him/her. delegates and observers may be accompanied by advisers.
being a "restricted membership" body, the policy commission is not open to observers (apart from belgium as the host nation, the finance committee chairperson, the audit committee chairperson, and members hosting a session away from headquarters).
nevertheless, in exceptional circumstances a wco member which is not a member of the policy commission may be invited to attend part of a policy commission session, for example to present a paper it has submitted, or to participate in discussions on a topic which it initiated, or to report on a meeting at which it represented the wco.
although the policy commission is essentially an advisory body for the council, as opposed to a decision-making body, and normally arrives at its recommendations by consensus, there are detailed provisions governing voting in the policy commission; these are set out in an appendix to the policy commission rules of procedure. essentially, these provisions state that each member of the policy commission shall have one vote, representatives of a simple majority of the policy commission's members shall constitute a quorum, and a two-thirds majority of those present and entitled to vote is needed in order to carry a decision.
6. resources required
the wco secretariat is responsible for making the arrangements and preparations for policy commission sessions, providing professional, administrative and technical services during the sessions, and performing follow-up tasks after the sessions. when the policy commission meets immediately before the annual council sessions, its report must be drafted during the session and adopted before the close of the session, so that it can be circulated to the council on the following day. for the policy commission's mid-year session, the report is prepared and circulated by the secretariat a few weeks after the session.
all members are required to bear the expenses (travel and accommodation) of their own delegations to the policy commission.
if a policy commission session is held away from wco headquarters at the invitation of a member, then that member will normally be required to meet the additional costs which the organization has incurred by reason of accepting that invitation (e.g., hiring meeting facilities, travel and accommodation expenses of secretariat officials attending the session, etc.).