Security Programme

Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction, the trafficking of small arms and explosives, and the illicit diversion of dual use goods pose a serious threat not only to the security and safety of people, but also to the economic development, political stability and social cohesion of countries across the globe.

At international border crossings, Customs administrations play a critical role in whole-of-government efforts to mitigate these threats. Customs manages cross-border flows of goods, people and means of transport to ensure they comply with the law. The elevated threat level faced by countries after the surge in terrorism saw an increasing number of Customs administrations include security as part of their core mandate.

The significance of Customs’ role in border security has been reiterated in various United Nations Security Council Resolutions (e.g., UN SCR 1540 (2004)) and through other high-level political commitments, such as G7 and G20 declarations.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the WCO adopted the SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (SAFE FoS) in June 2005 as a global Customs instrument to deter international terrorism, secure revenue collection and promote trade facilitation worldwide.

Following the escalation of global terrorist activity, in December 2015 the WCO Policy Commission issued the Punta Cana Resolution, which readdresses and highlights Customs’ role and contribution in the context of border security and counter terrorism. Shortly after the adoption of the Punta Cana Resolution, the WCO launched the WCO Security Programme to support the strengthening of Customs administrations’ capacity to deal with specific security-related risks.

With the SAFE Framework of Standards the WCO developed the blueprints for effective Customs controls from a supply chain security perspective, while additional guidance regarding specific security related-risks is provided by the Security Programme. In addition, the WCO cooperates on a regular base with United Nations (UN) bodies and other international organizations to help its Members to cope better with their international obligations under various UN Security Council Resolutions.

The WCO Security Programme is now well recognized by the international community, and is highlighted in the “G7 Action Plan on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism” adopted at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit held in Japan in 2016. Furthermore, the WCO Security Programme is also mentioned in the “G20 Action Plan on Countering Terrorism” adopted in July 2017.

The WCO Security Programme aims at reaching border security outcomes in six strategic areas.

These include:

  • Policy setting and foresight;
  • Providing guidance and good practices on Customs controls in relation to security;
  • Coordination of security-related Customs law enforcement programmes and operations;
  • International cooperation;
  • Technical assistance and capacity-building; and
  • Private sector outreach.

The Programme consists of five commodity based/thematic areas and a holistic technical assistance and capacity building initiative that includes:

  • Passenger Controls;
  • Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) - Programme Global Shield;
  • Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) Programme;
  • Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Project;
  • Terrorist financing;
  • Border Security Initiative (incorporating regional Security Projects).

More information on the WCO Security Programme can be obtained from the WCO Website or by contacting the WCO Security Programme at

Photo 1: Security Programme in brief

Security Programme Chart
  • Passenger Controls

    The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014) calls on member states to focus their attention around the so-called “foreign terrorist fighters” phenomenon and to prevent the movement of righ-risk individuals to and from conflict areas. The WCO’s Passenger controls initiative is focused on assisting Customs to utilize Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR) as part of their passenger risk assessment processes.

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  • Programme Global Shield

    Programme Global Shield is one of the WCO’s longest running security initiatives. It is a multidisciplinary effort to monitor the licit movement of the most common chemicals and other components used by terrorists and violent extremist organizations to manufacture Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and prevent illicit trafficking and diversion. The WCO partners in this programme with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Global shield is a Programme that saves lives and limbs.

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  • Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) Programme

    The STCE Programme is focused on weapons of mass destruction and the prevention of illicit trafficking of items that could be used in such weapons or in their delivery systems. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) calls for proper export and transit controls to prevent proliferation. The STCE Programme is the main WCO vehicle for supporting Members in establishing and enforcing such controls at the borders.

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  • Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Project

    In the aftermath of the adoption of the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the WCO established a special SALW Project to help its Members implement measures designed to prevent illicit trafficking of firearms. In addition to the ATT, the United Nations Programme of Action (PoA) and the Firearms Protocol of the Transnational Organized Crime Convention (TOC) provide the framework for the activities of the WCO SALW Project.

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  • Terrorist Financing

    United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373 (2001) and 2178 (2014) urge member states to tighten their controls around financial flows and to ensure these flows won’t end-up with extremist groups. The Security Programme is addressing this pressing issue through its work related to the prevention of cash and bearer negotiable instruments and cultural heritage smuggling.

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  • Border Security Initiative

    The WCO Border Security Initiative provides capacity building and technical assistance across all the afore-mentioned commodity based/thematic areas. The objective of the initiative is to facilitate Members’ activities to implement measures – whether standards, guidance, IT tools, operations, or specialized training – to enhance states’ border security and management capacities in a holistic manner.

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