Border control cooperation in the Sahel and Maghreb

14 March 2013

At the invitation of the United Nations, Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya of the WCO spoke at the Conference on Border Control Cooperation in the Sahel and the Maghreb, which was held in Rabat, Morocco on 13 March 2013.

The Conference invited Customs, police and the security services of 11 countries from the Sahel and Maghreb regions that were confronted with porous borders and terrorist activities linked to transnational organized crime.

After opening remarks by Morocco's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Saad Dine El Otmani, and the Minister Delegate in the Interior Ministry, Charki Draiss, in his speech Secretary General Mikuriya explained the evolution of Customs, which now included the security of the trade supply chain.

He detailed risk areas in illicit trade, which could be used to finance terrorists and organized crime groups that threaten the stability and prosperity of States, and the responses of the WCO in close cooperation with other relevant international organizations, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee and INTERPOL.

These responses includes Project Aircop to detect cocaine smuggling in West Africa, various operations focused on seizing fake medicines in West and North Africa, and Project Global Shield to monitor the worldwide movement of chemicals that could be used as explosives. Based on these experiences, the Secretary General offered several WCO tools to tackle border management issues.

Firstly, the WCO had developed a diagnostic method for Customs to identify gaps and provide recommendations. The WCO also participated in UN assessment missions relating to security measures. One recommendation is to involve Customs in national security committees in a more prominent manner.

Secondly, the WCO provided training organized by the UN using existing Customs training centres and in this regard, the Secretary General recognized the important role Morocco Customs plays in hosting a WCO Regional Training Centre in Casablanca, where most French-speaking African countries send their officers for training.

Thirdly, the WCO had developed tools using technologies, such as CENcomm, a secure communication system, and the Interface Public Members (IPM), a tool to combat counterfeiting. Operations coordinated by the WCO that targeted these risk areas extensively used these tools. In addition, the WCO was ready to offer information contained in its seizure databases.

Secretary General Mikuriya concluded his remarks by underscoring the importance of political commitment, the training of officials to ensure professionalism and integrity, and the partnership approach with different players present at the meeting in order to enhance cooperation at the international, regional, sub-regional and bilateral level.

The UN representative appreciated the evolution of Customs in nurturing a culture of security and the concrete measures that the WCO and its Members could provide in the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. After the opening session the Conference started its three-day meeting at the technical level to produce recommendations on the way forward.

During his visit to Morocco, the Secretary General took the opportunity to visit Morocco Customs to follow up on regional matters following the recent Meeting of the WCO MENA region in Saudi Arabia.