The STOP II Project ends on a high note with outstanding results

11 July 2022

The “Project on the urgent need for facilitation and coordinated Customs control of cross-border consignments linked to COVID-19” (known as the STOP II Project) drew to a successful close on 30 June 2022. The Project, implemented with financial support from the Customs Cooperation Fund of Japan (CCF/Japan), is one of the components of the World Customs Organization (WCO) COVID-19 Action Plan, established in response to the Resolution of the Customs Co-operation Council on the role of Customs in facilitating the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, and is designed to protect citizens’ health and safety during the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Over the course of one year and three months, the Project helped bolster Customs’ role in controlling illicit vaccines and medicines and facilitating the increasingly important distribution of authentic vaccines.

The main deliverable of the Project was organizing the largest-ever Customs-led global operation (codenamed STOP II) involving 160 WCO Member Customs administrations and aimed at intercepting, seizing and destroying cross-border shipments of illegal goods related to COVID-19. During the three phases of the operation, a total of 2,769 cases of trafficking were reported by 90 Members and some 4,034 cases of seizures were recorded. Of the 501.5 million units seized, 273.6 million were medicines related to COVID-19 (ivermectin, doxycycline, pregabalin, etc.), 214.4 million were medical devices (COVID-19 test kits, face masks, used gloves, sanitizer gel, oxygen cylinders, etc.) and approximately 13.5 million were doses of COVID-19 vaccines. STOP II has reaffirmed the crucial role played by Customs in safeguarding public health and protecting society.

One of the major achievements of the STOP II Project was the collection and use of data. The WCO analysed Members’ seizure reports promptly to identify the latest trends and risk indicators, and immediately shared the latter with Members. The Project made use of its secure communication tool (IPR CENcomm Group) for data exchange on counterfeit medical supplies and fake medicines. Through the Project, the IPR CENcomm Group functionalities were improved to enable timely sharing of information among Members. A mobile IPR CENcomm Group application was made available to Members’ National Contact Points (NCPs), while new IPR CENcomm Group features to facilitate the NCPs’ work were rolled out at the start of the operation. A Communication Plan for Operation STOP II was also developed, taking account of the WCO’s approach to strategic communication. The Communication Plan was aimed at increasing the visibility of Customs, strengthening collaboration with stakeholders and engaging in meaningful discussions with Members to enhance the WCO’s tools and instruments. The STOP II analysis report is a very comprehensive document containing the main findings, new trends and recommendations stemming from the operation. It will undoubtedly be of use to the entire Customs community when it comes to combatting illicit, counterfeit and substandard COVID-19-related goods.

A total of 95 webinars and training sessions were conducted to build the capacities of participating Member administrations still further. These events were attended by 5,100 participants who gained the knowledge required to make the operation a success. These webinars and training sessions also made Customs better equipped to identify counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines and curb trafficking therein. These capacity building activities were organized in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and the operation itself was planned and conducted in close cooperation with partner international organizations, namely Europol, INTERPOL, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In response to a growing number of requests for technical assistance by the WCO’s West and Central Africa region and Americas and Caribbean region, the Project Team organized Regional Accreditation Workshops in these two regions for Technical Operational Advisers (TOAs) in the intellectual property rights (IPR) field. The goal of these workshops was to set up a pool of French- and Spanish-speaking IPR TOAs to conduct training on behalf of the WCO. Eleven candidates in total were selected as pre-accredited experts from these two workshops. It is expected that those participants who successfully completed the accreditation process will be added to the pool of experts and will work together with the WCO Secretariat to help Members requiring support to boost their IPR enforcement capabilities.

To sum up, the analysis and use of data will continue to play an important part in enhancing enforcement measures related to illicit medicines, vaccines and medical devices. Accordingly, it is critical that Members keep on using the new trends and risk indicators identified during Operation STOP II as part of their enforcement efforts.

For more information about Operation STOP II, please contact: