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The Capacity Building Strategy

The WCO Secretariat, following an extensive review of the global market for customs development and the development tools provided has established a comprehensive strategy for the sustainable ongoing development of Customs and Border Management Services to meet the demands of Member Governments for the 21st century.

The strategy was approved by the Council in 2003 and recognises the key economic role of customs either as a primary or secondary function to

  • Manage the international supply chain
  • Provide social protection
  • Generate economic statistical
  • Maintain revenue streams

The WCO Capacity Building Strategy is an ambitious, dynamic, yet pragmatic approach to meet the role of Customs in the 21st century. Further, it reflects the need for individual Members to take responsibility and ownership for their own development as well as to create and manage their own capacity development programmes.

The WCO defines capacity building as

“All Members of the WCO having the capability to :

  • influence, construct and manage policies which meet national requirements, regional and international obligations; and
  • implement and sustain the appropriate operational policy, support systems and procedures to meet these obligations.”


Capacity building is development and implementation. It is about taking decisions and delivering results. Implementation need not be complicated, but to be successful there has to be a strategic, holistic and structured approach to prioritized, practical, operational activities based on proper needs assessment.

These are the main and most important principles of the WCO capacity building strategy :

  • Political will, leadership and commitment are essential for successful capacity building.
  • Holistic development, which looks at the impact of changes across the whole of the Customs service, must be coupled with a sustainable implementation approach.
  • Customs services must be empowered to take full ownership of the capacity building programme.
  • There must be a steering vision of the results of capacity building, with concrete targets, recognized programme management techniques, and measurement of implementation and results.
  • Integrity must be an integral part of the capacity building programme, implementation plans and projects.
  • Partnerships at the global, regional and institutional levels between Customs, trade, donors, development agents and academia are essential.

To support the implementation of the strategy a number of policies, tools and services have been and continue to be developed, these include: