Welcome to the website of the WCO.

Please choose your preferred language

There is some content available for this page in other languages

Columbus Programme: Aid for Safe Trade

Since 1 January 2006 the WCO has initiated a number of Capacity Building programmes and activities. The most significant is the Columbus Programme, Aid for SAFE trade. The Columbus Programme is the largest and most comprehensive Customs Capacity Building initiative on record. The aim of the Columbus Programme is full implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards, and other WCO conventions and instruments, as well as best practices in the area of Customs administration.

The Columbus Programme consists of three phases:

Phase 1 - Needs assessment - A comprehensive diagnostic needs assessment of the current situation in the Customs administration
  • A strategic assessment based on the WCO’s Diagnostic Framework tool that has been acknowledged by organizations like the UN, OECD, the World Bank, IMF and others.
  • A diagnostic carried out by Capacity Building experts through interviews with all concerned parties including the members of the trade community.
  • A diagnostic report covering the current situation, a gap analysis to full implementation and the suggested way forward through a number of recommendations.

Phase 2 – Planning and Implementation - Support for action planning, donor matchmaking, planning of pilot activities and implementation

  • Support in preparation of an overall Customs modernization plan or specific project action plans;
  • Support in the development of project proposal and business cases for submission to stakeholders and potential donors;
  • Support in preparing and conducting pilot projects towards sustainable implementation of modernization initiatives;
  • Support to identify possible sources of financial support;

Phase 3 – Monitoring and Evaluation - Monitoring progress and evaluating results

  • The Capacity Building Directorate has developed a progress monitoring methodology for Members wanting to take stock of their reform and modernization efforts.


  • Phase 3 missions seek to achieve several specific objectives:

    • Evaluation of the implementation of Phase 1 recommendations;
    • Evaluation of the overall progress achieved in terms of modernization at a point in time;
    • Evaluation of the results of the key actions taken to achieve this progress;
    • Assessment of the manner in which the reform has been conducted and managed;
    • Issue recommendations to improve the continued modernization efforts; and
    • Identify lessons learned to apply to future implementation.


  • The Phase 3 monitoring and evaluation looks at progress achieved in the context of the individual administration, taking into consideration the unique conditions and environment.  Phase 3 nevertheless evaluates the progress of the implementation of key WCO standards and recommendations, namely the SAFE Framework of Standards, Revised Kyoto Convention standards prioritized by the Member, as well as other relevant conventions, instruments and standards.  Experience from conducting Phase 3 progress evaluations to date, has also resulted in recognition that referring to the key elements of the Customs in the 21st Century vision is appropriate, as discussions lead to recommendations on how these elements can be integrated in the administration’s modernization process.  

The WCO recognizes the valuable financial and human resources support provided by donors and Member administrations in completing Columbus Programme reform and modernization assignments.

The WCO and its Members are fully committed to provide continued support for the success of the Columbus Programme and the development of Customs administration in all regions of the World.