Global Customs Community Strengthens Security Measures

25 March 2015

The WCO and its Members have pledged to remain vigilant and to continue to take an active security role in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in the different regions.  Customs plays a vital role in security by protecting borders, securing supply chains, curbing the illegal trade in weapons, strengthening passenger controls and identifying terrorist financing that can profit from illegal activities, such as trade in CITES-protected species, drugs and precursors trafficking, and counterfeiting.  Customs, as the lead border agency with responsibility for the regulation of supply chains and the cross-border flows of goods, and in some cases passengers, has a large portfolio of instruments, tools, and techniques to respond to existing and emerging security threats. 

Security was discussed at length during the annual WCO Enforcement Committee (EC) meeting that is currently taking place from 23 to 26 March. More than 200 delegates from Customs administrations, international organizations such as Frontex, INTERPOL, UNODC, other United Nations bodies, and the advisory organization Global Financial Integrity are participating in the annual Committee meeting. 

The outcomes of the EC meeting will include several new actions to enhance the role of Customs on security.  During the plenary discussions, special attention was dedicated to the importance of cooperation between law enforcement and border agencies to achieve tangible, long-lasting results. The use of Coordinated Border Management techniques was described by WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya during his keynote address on 23 March as being essential for security purposes.  In particular, as demonstrated by examples from different countries, inter-agency cooperation is vital to deter terrorism.

In addition to the SAFE Framework of Standards, the WCO manages an extensive portfolio of instruments and tools that contribute to enhanced security. For instance, in June 2012 the WCO Council adopted a Recommendation concerning the use of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR) for efficient and effective Customs controls.  In light of recent developments, the EC highlighted the importance of the Recommendation and, in an effort to ensure widespread implementation, the Committee welcomed a proposal to establish a virtual Working Group on API/PNR within the existing WCO structure.

In view of the entry into force of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in December 2014, the EC endorsed the WCO Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Strategy that includes practical steps assisting Customs administrations to implement the provisions of this binding instrument. Delegates expressed appreciation for the WCO’s prompt response and the inclusion of this item on the global Customs enforcement agenda.

The success of the first global operation on Strategic Trade Controls Enforcement (STCE), code-named Cosmo, and the development of a training curriculum for Customs officers in this highly technical domain were also highlighted, and WCO Members expressed their willingness to support the WCO to further develop the Strategic Trade Controls initiative.

The direction and scope of the WCO Security Programme is also under review in order to incorporate the latest initiatives and will be presented at the Policy Commission in June.