Drugs and Precursors Programme

Drug trafficking has an enormous impact on the health and safety, security and economic development of States. It is closely linked to other illegal activities, and its proceeds are used by organised criminal groups and terrorists.

The challenge faced by Customs and its partner agencies is very serious. The drug markets continue their expansion, routes and modalities of drug trade constantly change, and during the recent years, apart from the ‘classical’ drugs, such as opiates, cocaine and cannabis, a significant rise of the new psychotropic substances (NPS) has attracted the global attention of the law enforcement agencies. The WCO Illicit Trade Report provides trends and patterns analysis in this area on the annual basis.

The WCO Drugs Programme is aimed at countering global illegal trade covering the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug restriction and prohibition laws. The Programme consists of several major components:

  • Global Canine Fora 
  • Operational activities.

In particular, dog and handler programmes were originally aimed at enhancing Customs anti-drug trafficking activities. This traditional role has grown to encompass other areas such as fighting terrorism, especially through the detection of weapons and explosives, and more recently to combating trafficking in currency, counterfeit CD-ROMs, cigarettes or even pharmaceuticals and CITES protected species. Dog and handler teams now form a key component of global risk management programmes established by Customs administrations.

Training of Customs officers plays a significant role in the framework of the WCO’s support to its Members. These trainings usually take place prior to the international operations coordinated by the Secretariat. The trainees study the latest risk management techniques, concealment methods and previously detected drug routes; they learn to use the WCO’s CENcomm, and other tools and instruments. Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) also play an important role in supporting these capacity building and operational activities. Moreover, throughout the last decade the WCO has been continuously providing its facilities at the Headquarters in Brussels to host the Operational Coordination Unit (OCU). The functioning of the OCU has proven to be the major pre-requisite of successful operations.

The WCO works closely other law enforcement agencies and international partners, such as the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for Combating Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors (CARICC), European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), INTERPOLInternational Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to name a few.

  • Project Aircop

    In 2008, in response to the emerging threat posed by the opening up of the new trafficking route for cocaine from South America to Europe via West Africa, the WCO carried out the first Operation Cocair.

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  • The UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme

    In 2003, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) initiated the Container Control Programme (CCP) for the purpose of enhancing port surveillance in developing countries to minimize the risk of maritime containers being exploited and used for illicit drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and other forms of fraudulent activity.

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