Customs’ contribution to security against violent extremism

14 January 2015

Following recent terrorist attacks in various regions, violent extremism continues to be a major concern for the international community. Violent extremism and terrorism are increasingly global in nature and frequently have cross-border implications. Customs, which has the prime responsibility for controlling cross-border movements of goods, means of transport and people, plays an important role in the deterrence of border related security threats.

The WCO’s landmark security instrument, the SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade, continues to be the international Customs standard for supply chain security.  The WCO also delivers several vital security programmes, such as Global Shield which aims to deter the use of improvised explosive devices.

Due to the differing mandate and legal competencies of each Customs administration, there is no one-size-fits-all model for Customs’ security functions, but there is a common thread underlying the Customs contribution. Customs contributes through the deterrence of smuggled dangerous goods, such as weapons, explosive chemicals, dual use goods, as well as narcotics, cigarettes and other items that can financially support terrorism and organized crime. In addition, some administrations have a broadened security mandate that also covers prevention of terrorist financing and enforcement of travel bans.

One recent border related issue receiving attention by Customs relates to challenges posed by the foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) phenomenon. Even if immigration controls are not necessarily the primary function of most Customs administrations, Customs is a sought-after partner through the various border related information flows it possesses in relation to goods and travelers. In many countries Customs receives the API and PNR information allowing responsible authorities – such as Customs, Immigration, or Police to detect movements of identified FTFs in air transport, making Customs a critical component of national counter-FTFs efforts.   

“Customs administrations are well-placed to increasingly contribute to security and border protection. Through the receipt of API and PNR information, Customs can assist in countering FTF related risks. I strongly encourage Customs administrations to use and share API and PNR information actively, as well as to implement and use the relevant WCO instruments and tools. Closer co-operation between Customs and other law enforcement agencies enables effective border controls, better security, and facilitation of legitimate trade”, said WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya.  

WCO will continue to closely follow all security developments and has recently been in consultation with the UN Security Council in its efforts to explore further use of API and PNR information. WCO will keep its Members updated on the progress in relation to this UN initiative.