WCO Secretary General addresses the Fifth Meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Committee

31 August 2020

The Fifth Meeting of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Committee took place as a virtual meeting on 28 August 2020. Members of the Global Compact, including the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, were asked to exchange views on how they had delivered their priorities and continued to support their members throughout the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

After the opening session, Dr. Mikuriya led the statements from the Heads of Compact Entities, acknowledging that, like many international entities, the WCO has had to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19; in his statement, he provided a summary of the issues faced by Customs, including the need to ensure that, while borders are closed or restricted for the movement of people, Customs had to keep borders open to facilitate the movement of goods, including essential goods such as critical medical and safety equipment. To facilitate critical trade, the WCO, working closely with the World Health Organization, published a list of medical supplies and medicines together with their corresponding HS classification codes.

The Secretary General highlighted that the international community had to recognize that the COVID-19 situation could be exploited by organized crime and terrorist groups to gain illegal profits; to address this threat, the WCO has organized “Operation STOP” as an emergency response targeting the illicit trade in critical medical supplies and counterfeit medicines in close cooperation with INTERPOL and a number of other Global Counter-Terrorism Compact partners. He announced that the outcome of the seizures following this operation and an analysis of emerging illicit trade would be published shortly.

Dr. Mikuriya highlighted that, in the area of security, the WCO had adapted its capacity building programmes to the pandemic situation and converted them to online delivery. For example, the WCO had delivered a series of virtual training courses on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, strategic goods used in weapons of mass destruction, and the illicit trade in the precursor chemicals and the components used to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In connection with IEDs, it was explained that the WCO would publish guidance tools to help Customs properly address the broader issue of managing the dangerous goods in storage at ports following the recent tragedy in Lebanon.

In addition to goods in trade, the Secretary General mentioned that Customs also processes travellers at borders. It was therefore vital to obtain accurate data at borders that can play a role in managing risks, including Advanced Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record data, and as such the WCO was working not only with the air travel industry, but also in the maritime environment in collaboration with the UN system.

In conclusion, Dr. Mikuriya reiterated his commitment to continuing to work closely with the Compact Entities in order to secure trade and travel in the current pandemic situation.

The close working relationship between the WCO and the United Nations was acknowledged by Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, who as Chair of the session thanked Dr. Mikuriya for the WCO’s contribution and the close collaboration that the WCO had developed with the United Nations, including in the area of the effective implementation of passenger controls.

Following the statements given by the Heads of a number of UN agencies, the meeting endorsed the further enhancement of collaboration among the international organizations engaged in the fight against terrorism.