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Solidarity

24 marzo 2016

The threat of terrorism is increasingly darkening the global horizon with violent acts occurring around the world, with the latest right in the heart of Europe.  The WCO offers its sincere condolences to the victims and families of the terrorist attacks of 22 March, and expresses its solidarity with all of its Member States who have recently been suffering from terrorist attacks. This includes two Customs Officers from Poland, who were set to travel out of Brussels Airport, and were injured in the explosions.

Terrorism includes many facets, including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). WCO Programme Global Shield data reflects a substantial increase in IED related incidents over the last four years with estimates of over 70,000 casualties, of which some 78% were civilians.

In the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, national governments are increasingly examining their counter-terrorism structures. The WCO and its Members have long been active in counter-terrorism.  Supply chain security has played a significant role in the WCO agenda since 2001, and recently the Customs community has been examining its role in relation to national security. The Customs contribution to fighting terrorism was further crystallized recently by the Punta Cana Resolution, which was adopted at the WCO Policy Commission in December 2015.

The Punta Cana Resolution calls for Customs Administrations to play an active role in contributing to border security and highlights the contribution Customs brings to the management of security threats both nationally and internationally. While it is recognized that Customs does not have the primary responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks on the ground, the resolution acknowledges that Customs has much to offer to national security and plays a critical role in that regard.

Effective counter-terrorism efforts increasingly depend on timely information and intelligence as well as international cooperation. Customs Administrations possess vital information in relation to international supply and travel chains, and are in a critical position, through their functions, to assist other competent authorities by providing them with operational leads and information contributing to early warning systems and promoting better detection of potential terrorism related threats.

In light of recent terrorist attacks, the WCO is committed to continue providing support to all countries in their counter-terrorism efforts. The WCO Security Programme includes initiatives and tools specific to Customs authorities and their contribution to this important area of concern. These include the field of improvised explosive devices, small arms and light-weapons, strategic and dual use goods, passenger controls, and terrorist financing. All these initiatives, which include awareness-raising materials and training packages, communication platforms for information exchange, Customs-Business cooperation programmes, and operational law enforcement cooperation, provide practical and pragmatic tools for front-line Customs officers to better contribute to the management of terrorist threats that include a cross-border dimension. In addition to the mentioned tools, WCO has recently been working on various cross-cutting tools, such as the usage of API and PNR information for targeting, which will enable Customs to better contribute to national security objectives. 

In the wake of the recent attacks, WCO will further liaise with its international partners to enhance coordinated border management practices and to enhance information exchange between Customs and its fellow law enforcement agencies, especially as it relates to sharing critical security information. Similarly, WCO will work in the context of the existing global governance frameworks, for example the United Nations and G7, to further promote Customs security contribution and WCO tools. At the technical level, the organization is pursuing the implementation of its technical assistance and capacity building programmes under the WCO Security Programme making its tools available to the Membership.

One message should be crystal clear:  as the key guardians of national borders, we play an important role in ensuring that, in addition to our traditional responsibilities in revenue collection, protection of society from illicit trade, and trade facilitation, Customs works closely with police and security services to fight these brutal attacks on innocent people. The WCO is committed to redoubling our efforts to support our colleagues around the world.