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Fellowship Programme

1. Background

The Fellowship Programme forms part of the WCO Leadership and Management Development Programme and its initiatives to develop Member administrations’ management capacities. The aim of this Programme is to assist Customs administrations with their organizational development by endowing certain managers, selected on the basis of their potential for development within their administrative structure, with the technical knowledge and capacities required for their administration’s reform and modernization activities.

The selection of participants is consequently based on candidates’ skills, analytical abilities, work experience and development capacities.

The WCO Fellowship Programme has been run successfully more than 75 times since 1985. Two Programmes take place every year, one in French and the other in English. A Spanish Fellowship Programme was recently developed, with the pilot being rolled out in November 2010.

So far, almost 900 officers from 142 countries have benefited from this Programme. It is designed for managers strategically regarded by their administration as key people. Experience shows that a significant number of Fellows have subsequently been appointed as Ministers, Directors General, Deputy Directors General and to other senior positions.

2. Programme strategies

The WCO Fellowship Programme provides a grant covering travel, subsistence and other approved expenses to enable promising mid-level Customs managers from developing countries to undertake a detailed study course in a specialized Customs area. The Programme aims to boost their chance of occupying a senior position within their Customs administration and to lead the reform and modernization of their administration in a dynamic and sustainable manner.

The Fellowship Programme is aimed at:

  • enabling mid-management officials from Customs administrations in developing countries to conduct an in-depth study of the WCO’s Conventions, instruments and recommendations;
  • increasing the participants’ international experience;
  • developing important international networks for the participants;
  • contributing to the change management process in a specific Customs area.

In order to fulfil these aims, during his/her time at the WCO Secretariat each participant undertakes to make the most of the overlapping benefits of:

  • his/her discussions with Secretariat staff and the other Fellows;
  • his/her multifaceted Customs and management training;
  • his/her thorough understanding of international Customs standards promoted by the WCO and issues relating to their national implementation;
  • his/her direct experience of management tools for these standards (attendance at sessions of the WCO technical Committees, work of the Secretariat and the regions, etc.).

Participants who successfully complete the Fellowship Programme continue to receive WCO Secretariat support to help maintain their new contacts and networks. This provides them with a broad and solid foundation for their own leadership and management within their home Customs administration.

3. Sponsors

Each participant is sponsored by a donor organization.

To date, the Commonwealth, the European Union, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the WCO have sponsored participants.

Since 1985, numerous Customs administrations have welcomed Fellows on study trips: Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

4. Programme planning

The Programme lasts six weeks. The first four weeks are spent at WCO Headquarters in Brussels and the last two weeks entail a study trip to a Customs administration in a developed Member country.
The French-speaking Programme takes place during the first quarter of each calendar year, and the English-speaking Programme during the fourth quarter. The Spanish-speaking usually takes place each spring (the first programme was held in November 2010).

5. Agenda for the Fellowship Programme


First week

Study of Secretariat activities. The Fellow familiarizes him/herself with the work of the WCO and its Secretariat, including its Conventions and legal international instruments, the WCO’s management structure and different programmes.
Study of a specialized area. The Fellow gains detailed knowledge of the work in the selected area of study. Scope definition of the Fellow’s research paper
Participate in the Leadership and Management Development workshop.

Second week

Participate in the Leadership and Management Development Workshop.

Third and fourth weeks

Work with the tutor on the chosen area of study and prepare his/her research paper.

Fifth and sixth weeks

Study trip to a national administration to observe Customs operations.

6. Selection of participants

Candidates for the Fellowship Programme must be Customs officials holding a university degree or equivalent qualification, and must be no more than 45 years of age. They should have completed at least four years’ service in Customs, during which they have risen to a mid-management rank and ought to have the assessed potential of rising to higher management positions.

Selection criteria:

Eligibility requirements

  • Graduate or equivalent
  • At least four years’ service in Customs
  • Maximum age: 45
  • Proficient in the Programme language (English, French or Spanish)
  • Nominated by his/her administration

Selection factors

  • Donor preference/restrictions
  • Facility availed in the past to other candidates from the same administration
  • Backing of home administration
  • Educational background
  • Language
  • Age
  • Present position
  • Area of study and relevance of the research proposal

Maximum number of participants in each Programme: 15

Gender balance and regional balance might also be taken into consideration in the selection process.

7. Research paper and Report on the practical training to be submitted

a) Research paper

The structure of the research paper should adopt the practical approach favoured by the Programme, and focus on the implementation of WCO standards within the participant’s administration.

The research paper should not exceed 25 pages in total and its detailed report plan must be presented at the end of the second week of the Programme. As for the final report, it must be presented to the tutor by the Thursday preceding the Programme closure in Brussels.

The report should consequently be structured as follows:

1. Introduction:

  • Seeing how the objectives of the WCO Fellowship Programme fit in with Customs administrations’ capacity building activities and requirements;
  • Defining the precise technical issue selected by the Fellow in relation to his/her experience in the field and in the chosen study area.

2. A more detailed examination focusing on:

  • The analysis of the situation within the Fellow’s national administration, and the challenges and problems noted in the study area, and more specifically in connection with the issues defined;
  • A presentation of the WCO’s tools and standards linked to the study area and issues;
  • Implementation stages and avenues for resolving operational problems.

3. Conclusion

4. Annexes (maximum of four Annexes):

  • Presentation of the programme of work completed and the knowledge acquired/expertise enhanced.
  • Other additional information.

b) Report on the practical training related to the study trip to the host administration:

The Fellow must present a report describing the activities carried out and the knowledge gleaned during his/her study trip. This report, which should not exceed 5 pages and ought to focus on the tangible aspects, procedures and practices of the chosen study topic, must be sent to the WCO Secretariat at the end of the study trip to the host administration.