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Launch of Project Hammer: Caribbean Customs Small Arms and Light Weapons and Narcotics Enforcement Project

09 febrero 2022

On 8 February, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), alongside Col. Michael Jones, the Executive Director of CARICOM IMPACS and H.E. Linda Taglialatela, United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean formally launched the WCO’s Caribbean Customs Small Arms and Light Weapons and Narcotics Enforcement project which will be known as Project Hammer.

The Project Hammer is a two-year project funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State to deliver capacity building activities in the 14 CARICOM member states and the wider Caribbean region focused on Customs capability.

The WCO Project Office was launched within the CARICOM IMPACS building in Bridgetown. Col. Jones thanked the WCO for its support and highlighted the importance of this project and how it opened the possibility for future cooperation between Customs and Caribbean regional bodies in relation to Customs and Security matters in the region. Col. Jones indicated that he anticipated that the relationship between CARICOM and the WCO would grow from strength to strength and looked forward to a long and lasting relationship between the WCO and CARICOM IMPACS.

Dr. Mikuriya highlighted the risk that the Caribbean faced from the twin threats of narcotics and firearms trafficking and stated that “Customs is uniquely placed to combat narcotics and firearms smuggling in the Caribbean. Through this capacity building project, Customs will be better enabled to address these threats and contribute to the goals of the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap by reducing the illicit flow of firearms and ammunition into the region”. Dr Mikuriya also thanked Col. Jones for providing an office and logistical support for the Project.

US Ambassador to Barbados H.E. Linda S. Taglialatela highlighted the importance of Customs in combating the smuggling of firearms and narcotics, stating that, “we cannot overlook the crucial security role of Customs officials. Customs does not just raise revenues from duties on the legitimate trade in goods. It is also our first line of defense against illicit goods. Early detection and coordination at the border addresses the twin threats of narcotics and weapons trafficking”.

Project Hammer will deliver the following capacity building areas to the beneficiary administrations:

  • Capability assessments of the Customs enforcement and security procedures and facilities
  • A series on virtual regional webinars to address skills, procedures and judicial action relating to effective detection and prosecution of narcotics and weapons trafficking
  • Practical national training focused on detection staff at fast parcel and postal hubs
  • Train-the-trainer programme for Customs Administration in SALW and Narcotics detection
  • In-country follow up mentoring programme for detection skills

The project marks the first detailed cooperation between WCO and CARICOM IMPACS and is part of a greater commitment by both parties to address wider border security threats in the Caribbean. The focus of this project will be on Customs and will seek to ensure that Customs are able to support broader national and regional counter-narcotics and counter-weapon trafficking activities. It also seeks to support the development of skills needed in relation to the identification and detection of suspect shipments during border control activities, and those skills relating to evidence collection, chain of custody for seized documentation/goods, investigations and prosecutions.

The presence of a project office and project staff in the Caribbean enables these goals to be addressed more effectively with the support of CARICOM IMPACS and engage with other regional implementation partners such as Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC), and other implementers.

Further information on the WCO Security Programme and the Small Arms and Light weapons Project can be found on the WCO website or at WCOSecurityProgramme@wcoomd.org.