Donor Co-ordination

The WCO recognizes that donor support to Customs administrations is not a new trend, and has been part of the global sustainable development agenda for more than 20 years.  During the 2005 G7 and WTO Ministerial meetings, international development organizations, including the World Bank and the IMF were called upon to assist developing countries to better adapt to trade liberalization trends, resulting in the launch of the Aid-for-Trade initiative under the stewardship of the WTO as part of the Doha Development Agenda.  The effectiveness of early aid-for-trade schemes has been the subject of some critique, often linked to a lack of focus and results achievement as a consequence of the lack of a global trade agreement that would provide a framework for assistance.

The coming into force of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA), including its mandatory provisions related to the modernization of Customs procedures, has reinforced the need to support Customs administrations in developing and least developed countries to align Customs laws, procedures and systems with international trade facilitation standards.  On the enforcement side, continued challenges associated with smuggling, international terrorism and illicit financial flows reinforce the need for Customs capacities to be supported with international resources.

The WTO TFA brings substantial opportunities Customs administrations to access funding for reform and modernization initiatives through more structured and coordinated approaches.  This is due largely to the centrality of Customs to the implementation of the TFA. The Special and Differential Treatment provisions of the TFA enable developing and least developed countries to implement the TFA according to their individual capacities and resources, while Article 21.3 (d) of the TFA commits donors to coordinating between and among themselves and other relevant institutions, including regional economic communities, to ensure maximum effectiveness of and results from TFA-related technical assistance and capacity building.

The TFA mandates a more structured approach towards donor liaison with respect to trade facilitation projects. In this regard, article 22 of the TFA mandates the submission of information of donor programmes and contact points to a centralized repository at the WTO. Article 22 also mandates that developing and least developed countries appoint a contact point within their governments to coordinate and prioritize external support.  Customs administrations are encouraged to review the profiles of various donor organizations on the WTO website, while remaining abreast of national and regional TFA implementation support programmes.

The WCO advises Customs administrations to play an active and constructive role in fostering donor coordination and reducing duplicative efforts.  Chapter 10 of the WCO Capacity Building Development Compendium encourages Customs administrations to:

  • Establish a coordinating office;
  • Track needs and align them with donors working in each respective space;
  • Maintain records of current and past donor engagements;
  • Actively monitor and evaluate of current and past donor-supported interventions;
  • Participate in and promote donor coordination meetings, nationally and regionally;
  • Advocate that donors share necessary information.

In sum, the WCO encourages close collaboration between modernization / reform or project management offices and an administration’s international affairs office is crucial, as is active engagement with multi-stakeholder forums such as the NCTF.

Donor coordination requires an appreciation of the different strengths and modalities of the donor community.  While efforts may be uneven, donors are investing considerable effort into the sharing of information and coordination with other actors.  Coordination also requires transparency on the part of the Customs administration.  By transparently sharing information on existing and planned projects with prospective donors, the chances of duplication can be reduced.   Donors interact with one another on a regular basis, both at the national level, and at the international level.  An important aspect of these dialogues is the sharing of information and discussions on forward plans, including potential collaborations.  While it may seem expeditious for a Customs administration to send the same proposal to multiple donors without regard for each donor’s strengths, modalities and priorities, this type of engagement is actually inefficient, as it demonstrates a lack of understanding or regard for donor programmes, or a lack of strategic orientation.

The WCO has a strong history of coordinating effectively with other donors and development partners in supporting sustainable economic growth through Customs reform and modernization.  The WCO’s capacity building programmes benefit from the bilateral support of donor governments (such as Japan, China, Republic of Korea, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, United States, and Germany, among others), as well as multilateral entities.  In relation to the WTO and TFA, the WCO is part of a group collectively known “Annex D organizations” (i.e., IMF, OECD, UNCTAD, WCO, World Bank), among whom an extensive history of collaboration already exists.