Page created by Ruth Patel


   January 2021



                                           January 2021

This publication was developed by Valentina Ferraro, drawing on contributions of colleagues in the WCO

Foreword .............................................................................................................................................................................................................. 4

Introduction ....................................................................................................................................................................................................... 5

Serving People by building safe and secure societies ................................................................................................. 7

Ensuring Prosperity by reducing trade barriers to create inclusive societies ..................................... 11

Protecting the Planet and ensuring its sustainability for future generations .................................... 13

Conclusions...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 16

Annex .................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 18


Last year’s International Customs Day, celebrated annually by the World Customs Organization (WCO), was ded-
icated to the theme for 2020: “Customs fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet”.

Driven by the mandate to ensure its actions reflected the above-mentioned theme, the WCO Secretariat carried
out a number of initiatives throughout 2020 which also served as an opportunity to reflect on Customs’ role in
ensuring an effective and equitable transition towards a more inclusive, sustainable and greener supply chain.
This transition can be achieved through balanced actions with respect to revenue collection, protection of society
and facilitation of legal trade. Although these core Customs competencies make a vital contribution to support-
ing sustainable economic growth and development, Customs’ role has been redefined over recent years with
even greater stress now being placed on the importance of its contribution to sustainable development.

In order for Customs to support the achievement of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable De-
velopment, coordination with other public authorities and the private sector is essential. Enhanced coordination
and sharing of data with other public and private stakeholders at borders is one of the key success factors not
only for consistent and sustainable policies but also for an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for
sustained recovery in the post-pandemic world.

The WCO’s ongoing actions to contribute to the attainment of sustainability goals have become even more rele-
vant in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has drawn attention to the environmental impact of pre-
pandemic business and social models and has highlighted the need to bolster the resilience and sustainability of
supply chains through harmonized policy responses to interconnected global challenges.

This publication is designed as a look back on the WCO theme for 2020. It is aimed at raising awareness of related
WCO initiatives and programmes and of the relevant WCO tools for building Members’ capacity to achieve long-
term economic, social and environmental goals at the national, regional and global levels.

The WCO has confirmed its ongoing commitment towards sustainability under its theme for 2021: “Customs
Bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a Sustainable Supply Chain”. Collaboration for effective recov-
ery, innovation and technological advances for renewal, and organizational resilience are key aspects that will
serve as the catalyst for this year’s efforts focused on Customs’ role in ensuring resilient and sustainable supply

At a time when trust in governments’ effectiveness in tackling pressing global challenges is declining, raising
awareness of the impact of Customs action for achieving global sustainable development goals may contribute
to the belief that governments can indeed make changes for a better future.

                                                                                             Dr. Kunio Mikuriya
                                                                                          WCO Secretary General


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are                          ganizational Development Package), Customs ad-
the global blueprint to end poverty, protect the                         ministrations can directly contribute to the achieve-
planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and                        ment, at the national level, of 13 of the 17 SDGs (An-
prosperity by 2030. The UN call for action is aimed                      nex hereto) and indirectly contribute to the others
at addressing global challenges related to poverty,                      (SDGs 2, 4, 6 and 7)4.
inequality, environmental degradation, and peace
and justice, by coalescing cross-sectoral interven-                      Although the SDGs constitute the background to
tions around 17 multidimensional and intercon-                           WCO activities in the sustainability domain, applying
nected Goals1, requiring policy integration and coor-                    an SDG lens to WCO instruments and tools requires
dinated actions at the international and national                        the identification of opportunities for contributing to
level.                                                                   the SDGs’ implementation, as well as an assessment
                                                                         of the need to further adapt the WCO’s instruments
The role of Customs administrations in supporting                        and tools so as to move towards the global targets
the achievement of the SDGs has been discussed in                        set.
both of the WCO’s high-level governing bodies, the
Council and Policy Commission2 , as well as in two of                    In order to position the future Performance Meas-
the key technical committees, the Enforcement                            urement Mechanism with respect to Customs’ global
Committee and Permanent Technical Committee                              impact in terms of sustainability, the Working Group
(PTC)3. By fulfilling their mandate and, at the same                     on Performance Measurement included the map-
tools collectively described in its Strategic Packages                   ping of performance dimensions against the SDGs in
(Revenue Package, Economic Competitiveness Pack-
age, Compliance and Enforcement Package, and Or-

1 The proposed goals and targets should be seen as a network, in which the goals are linked through targets referring to multiple goals:
2 Policy Commission working document SP0626E on “Customs and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”
3 PTC working documents PC0546E on “SDGs: Environmental sustainability for global supply chains: challenges and implications for Cus-

toms control and facilitation” and PC0568E on “How can trade facilitation and Customs contribute to SDGs, especially in managing trans-
boundary movements of plastic waste and e-waste?”


the Mechanism’s design. This will offer greater clar-        and solid partnerships. As a result, the transversal
ity about Customs’ role in contributing to a sustaina-       SDGs offer vital support in the quest for Prosperity
ble future through its performance.                          and form another natural focus of the WCO’s work.

The inclusion of the SDG perspective across WCO in-          By way of example, integrity is a prerequisite for the
struments and tools may also require a review of ex-         proper functioning of a Customs administration. A
isting strategies to make them “SDG-aware”, thus             lack of integrity in Customs seriously distorts trade
ensuring that their full potential to support the            and investment opportunities, undermines public
achievement of the relevant SDGs is exploited.               trust in the work of government and ultimately jeop-
                                                             ardizes the well-being of all citizens. The WCO Re-
Adoption of the sustainability paradigm for Customs          vised Arusha Declaration is an integrity tool that
entails framing the relevant policy at the intersection      helps countries comply with their obligations under
between the economic, environmental and social               anti-corruption conventions and meet UN SDG 16,
spheres. Adopting an SDG lens should, in turn, ena-          which includes commitments to fight corruption, in-
ble Customs strategies to take account of the needs          crease transparency, tackle illicit financial flows and
stemming from resource conservation policies, the            improve access to information. By making changes
commitment to “leave no one behind” and new de-              to Customs’ operational and administrative pro-
mands raised by responsible business models that in-         cesses, in line with the 10 key factors of the Revised
clude social and environmental outcomes in their             Arusha Declaration, corrupt behaviour is curbed and
profit equation.                                             good governance is promoted, improving the busi-
The 2020 edition of the UN’s World Economic Situa-           ness environment for cross-border trade as a result.
tion and Prospects (WESP) report points out that as
weak global growth makes it harder to achieve the             Additionally, emerging technologies are accelerat-
2030 Agenda and its SDGs, policy-makers are being            ing the use of data analytics to improve the way Cus-
urged to look beyond promoting gross domestic                toms deals with evolving threats, predicts and man-
product (GDP) growth towards investment in pro-              ages non-compliance and increases productivity and
jects fostering environmental sustainability and resil-      performance. In this respect, data analytics provide
ient infrastructures, in order to increase economic          a robust foundation for core Customs’ objectives re-
resilience and cohesion and address structural vul-          lated to revenue collection, border security, trade fa-
nerabilities. This becomes even more crucial when            cilitation and integrity, thus supporting the achieve-
faced with the risk of losing momentum amid large-           ment of the interrelated UN SDGs.
scale threats of a downturn.

In line with the call for global partnership and collab-
orative actions to support the UN’s Sustainable
Agenda throughout 2020, the WCO endorsed “Cus-
toms fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity
and the Planet” as its theme for 2020. Under this
banner, the Customs community was invited to dis-
cuss and position Customs’ role in contributing to a
sustainable future in which social, economic, health
and environmental needs are at the heart of govern-
ment and private sector actions.

Against this background, Customs’ contribution to
sustainability revolves around the SDGs and targets
related to “People”, “Prosperity” and the “Planet”
(Figure. 1).

By using a range of WCO tools for revenue collection,
trade facilitation and border control, Customs can
play an active role in supporting the achievement of
all the UN SDGs, thus striving towards serving People
better, ensuring Prosperity and protecting the

However, the achievement of Prosperity goals re-
quires peace, strong and trustworthy institutions

Figure 1: SDGs related to People, Prosperity and the Planet

     Source: Adapted from CIFAL Unitar 2018,

                                                                         range of RKC provisions, such as those on standardi-
Serving People by building safe and                                      zation and simplification of Customs procedures, risk
                                                                         management and audit-based control, has been
secure societies                                                         proven to enhance revenue collection and overall
                                                                         national economic growth. This approach directly
                                                                         contributes to supporting countries in their efforts to
                                                                         end hunger and poverty and foster social well-being.
The SDGs related to “People” (SDGs 1, 3, 5, 16 and
17) address the overarching objective of ending pov-                     In addition, the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards
erty and hunger as well as ensuring that all human                       (SAFE FoS) is another leading instrument that sup-
beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equal-                  ports Member Customs administrations striving to
ity, in a safe and secure environment. 5                                 secure the global supply chain, fight crime and en-
                                                                         sure compliance with safety standards, while facili-
Customs effectively contributes to poverty and hun-
                                                                         tating legitimate trade. The three Pillars of the SAFE
ger reduction by facilitating global trade flows, which
                                                                         FoS, emphasizing partnerships involving Customs-to-
in turn support the creation of employment oppor-
                                                                         Customs, Customs-to-Business and Customs-to-
tunities and revenue collection.
                                                                         Other Government and Inter Government Agencies
It is widely recognized that the WCO’s Revised Kyoto                     in the compliance and security domains, can prove
Convention (RKC) is a flagship instrument fit for mul-                   effective in ensuring the seamless movement of
tiple purposes. It offers a comprehensive set of mod-                    goods and means of transport globally, especially
ern and efficient Customs procedures to facilitate le-                   through the use of technology including non-intru-
gitimate trade while conducting Customs controls,                        sive inspection equipment (NII).
thus ensuring fair revenue collection and protection
                                                                         Customs plays a key role in enforcing multiple safety
of society. Customs legislation complying with a
                                                                         and security regulations that protect citizens and



contribute to supply chain integrity and, in so doing,       Criminals have attempted to use the COVID-19 pan-
contribute towards the achievement of the UN SDGs.           demic to exploit potential vulnerabilities in Customs
In this context, there is a crucial need to incorporate      controls. Environmentally-sensitive commodities
effective enforcement regimes in Customs’ overall            regulated through various Multilateral Environmen-
strategy and approach.                                       tal Agreements (such as the Basel Convention on the
                                                             Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous
Enforcement requires Customs to take action against          Wastes and their Disposal; Montreal Protocol on
those entities that do not comply with and abuse do-         Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; Conven-
mestic and international legislation, rules and regu-        tion on International Trade in Endangered Species of
lations that govern international supply chains. Cus-        Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); Minamata Convention
toms is the primary enforcement agency at the bor-           on Mercury; Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the
der and its various actions contribute towards im-           Convention on Biological Diversity, etc.) are fre-
proving the integrity of the supply chain. One of the        quently and illegally moved between jurisdictions in
tactics deployed by Customs is to take criminal ac-          contravention of prevailing laws, and Customs rules
tion against criminals and, to this end, the WCO Cus-        and procedures. In this context, the application of
toms Operational Practices for Enforcement and               the Compliance and Enforcement Package is instru-
Seizures (COPES) Programme continues to support              mental in ensuring the facilitation of legal trade
the Organization’s Members by sharing best prac-             while providing a safe and secure environment for
tices and standards in the areas of evidence collec-         citizens.
tion, seizures of criminal assets, criminal investiga-
tions and prosecutions. All these core functions of          Revenue fraud, perpetrated through the smuggling
Customs ultimately support the achievement of                of excise goods (tobacco, alcohol, fuel and other re-
SDGs aimed at serving People, as illicit trade poses a       fined petroleum products, etc.), other high-value
fundamental risk to the implementation of the SDGs           goods (precious metals and gemstones) and through
and consequently to sustainability for all. Accord-          commercial fraud activities (undervaluation, over-
ingly, effective enforcement remains a cornerstone           valuation, misclassification, misdeclaration of origin,
of a modern day Customs strategy.                            drawback fraud, etc.), is not only an area of constant
                                                             concern for developing countries but also greatly af-
 The Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE)              fects developed countries. It causes significant dam-
Programme provides key input to Customs officials            age not only in the form of revenue leakage but also
and, on a larger scale, to administrations by embed-         by hampering the economic competitiveness of com-
ding non-proliferation knowledge and measures into           pliant traders. In response to WCO Members’ re-
their daily practices. Through the provision of this         quests for capacity building to counter problems re-
Programme at the global level, Customs enforce-              lated to revenue fraud, the WCO has produced a
ment capabilities in this field continue to support ef-      number of tools such as Technical Materials on
forts to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruc-         Commercial Fraud, Guidelines for Post-Clearance
tion and, in so doing, contribute to the SDG aimed at        Audit, and Guidelines for Strengthening Coopera-
protecting societies from terrorist attacks.                 tion and the Exchanging of Information between
Customs administrations are promoting the use of             Customs and Tax Authorities at the National Level
advance passenger data, in the form of Advance Pas-          and the Customs-Police Cooperation Handbook. It
senger Information (API) and Passenger Name Rec-             has also created a closed expert group, TobaccoNET,
ord (PNR), to address global terrorism and serious           as a platform for combating illicit trade in tobacco
organized crime while simultaneously facilitating            products and for information- and intelligence-shar-
travel. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, ad-            ing in this domain, as well as devising a short-term,
vance passenger data has been used to support con-           regional and non-commodity specific operation to
tact tracing and contactless procedures for interna-         combat cross-border smuggling, known as Opera-
tional travel.                                               tion LYNX, with the primary purpose of increasing
                                                             the volume of spontaneous intelligence- and infor-
The WCO Customs Risk Management Compendium                   mation-sharing.
includes several documents covering organizational
and operational aspects of risk management in order          The spread of drug trafficking through international
to ensure optimum levels of trade facilitation while         trade undermines efforts by the Customs community
enhancing risk-based selectivity and compliance.             in the area of trade facilitation. The fight against
The WCO Cargo Targeting System facilitates the               drug trafficking is at the core of the WCO's activities,
practical implementation of this approach by Cus-            facilitated through capacity building and infor-
toms.                                                        mation-sharing projects and programmes. In part-
                                                             nership with other international organizations, the

WCO Drugs and Precursors Programme provides                The UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme
practical support to the Organization’s Members            (CCP) serves as an example of what Customs and
through the Container Control Programme (sea and           other law enforcement agencies can achieve when
air cargo), AIRCOP Project (targeting high-risk airline    targeting illicit trade at operational level and by join-
passengers) and Colibri Project (general aviation          ing forces to address the challenges posed by all
monitoring and control). In collaboration with its         types of cross-border crime in the cargo sector. The
partners, the WCO is intensifying controls on syn-         Programme, designed to establish sustainable and
thetic drugs and precursors trafficked in express          intelligent Customs enforcement capabilities in key
freight and continues to develop advanced tech-            seaports and airports, incorporates numerous SAFE
niques for the deployment of detector dogs.                FoS recommendations and international best prac-
                                                           tices on risk management and profiling, whilst main-
Cooperation among Customs administrations and              taining an adequate level of trade facilitation. Fol-
with competent law enforcement entities in identi-         lowing implementation in more than 60 countries
fying and tackling illicit goods is a crucial element of   worldwide, the Programme has demonstrated its po-
a holistic risk management approach which leads to         tential in meeting the SDG goals for the benefit of
reduced yet risk-focused controls and, as a result,        People and the Planet.
swift clearance procedures for legitimate traders. In-
itiatives such as the AIRCOP Project promote coop-         In order to protect the public against counterfeit/il-
eration between border control authorities and seek        licit medicines and other medical supplies and equip-
to incorporate information and intelligence supplied       ment associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the
by these entities in the risk management process.          WCO launched Operation STOP. Some 99 WCO
This concept leads to improved inter-agency cooper-        Members as well as the Organization’s Regional In-
ation, enhanced risk assessment and, as a corollary,       telligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) participated in this
better results with less interference in the move-         Operation, supported by the United Nations Office
ment of passengers and cargo.                              on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, Europol
The activities of the Security Programme actively          and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The Op-
aim to reduce violence and improve the security sit-       eration was aimed at stemming the significant in-
uation within countries by restricting the illicit trade   crease in trafficking of medicines and medical sup-
in small arms and light weapons (SALW) and impro-          plies associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
vised explosive device (IED) precursors which are          Comprehensive data analysis is unquestionably a key
drivers of violence around the world.                      component supporting effective and efficient Cus-
                                                           toms enforcement activities. The information cap-
As outlined in the SDGs, the rate of intentional hom-      tured in the WCO Illicit Trade Report (ITR) provides
icides per 100,000 population has increased in re-         crucial insight into occurrences of illicit trade,
cent years. Many of these homicides are carried out        thereby assisting Customs administrations to under-
using illicitly obtained weapons. Furthermore, SALW        stand trends and patterns and make well-informed
are being used both by extremist groups and orga-          decisions to secure cross-border trade. The ITR is an
nized criminal groups and, as a result, are a threat to    annual publication offering a comprehensive study
the security, stability and wealth of countries and re-    of illicit trade flows through an in-depth analysis of
gions. The illicit use of SALW has also been found to      seizure data and case studies voluntarily submitted
disproportionately affect women and children. The          by WCO Member Customs administrations world-
WCO SALW Programme provides awareness-raising              wide.
and training for Customs administrations to assist in
the detection of illicit SALW at borders.                  Of particular importance for enforcement activities
                                                           as well as for the accomplishment of the SDG targets
The WCO Security Programme also supports the re-           is the identification of sensitive commodities at bor-
duction of armed conflict through its Programme            ders. The key tool for identifying and classifying
Global Shield (PGS) activities. These activities are       goods globally is the Harmonized System (HS). Work
aimed at reducing the threat from IEDs by monitor-         on the HS relating to the SDGs is ongoing over several
ing the movement of the 13 most commonly-used              years, as changes to the HS are made during five-year
chemical precursors and other materials involved in        cycles. Last year, the focus was on preparing the ma-
the manufacture of IEDs. PGS enables Customs to            terials for the upcoming HS 2022 edition, comprising
set up effective enforcement regimes to protect            improvements to support the SDGs, as well as work-
their citizens and safeguard international supply          ing on the HS 2027 review cycle amendments. Mul-
chains.                                                    tiple changes are included in the HS 2022 in support
                                                           of the SDGs focused on “People”. Some highlights


include provisions for diagnostic kits for Zika virus          some donors with local rules, and disruption to nor-
and other diseases spread by Aedes genus mosqui-               mal procedures. In this context, the implementation
tos, blinded clinical trial kits, cell cultures and cellular   of national/regional Single Window solutions could
therapy products. Such changes help simplify trade             potentially contribute to ensuring transparency of
in important health and health research-related                the regulatory framework and efficient cooperation
goods and assist governments to monitor and facili-            among all the stakeholders involved.
tate such trade. The HS 2022 also introduces new
provisions identified by the Food and Agriculture Or-          Another example relating to protection of People,
ganization (FAO) as important for monitoring global            namely the Convention on Temporary Admission
and regional food security, as well as more precise            (widely known as the Istanbul Convention), contains
classifications for explosive goods, various dual use          facilitation measures for the temporary admission of
items and a range of other products that impact the            goods and equipment imported for humanitarian
health and safety of People.                                   purposes.

The WCO Harmonized System (HS) Convention is                   The growing volume of trade, introduction of new
one of the most prominent and long-standing univer-            trade requirements, ever-changing concept of bor-
sal standards for boosting global trade and disman-            der management and emerging security threats
tling trade barriers. It has a truly global reach, with        place a strain on Customs administrations. Customs
more than 200 countries and economies using the HS             administrations’ human resources have a significant
as a basis for their Customs tariffs and for the collec-       impact on the effectiveness of service delivery. Hu-
tion of international trade statistics, and with over          man resilience and well-being in the workplace are
98% of the global trade in goods classified in terms           becoming ever more important, as Customs leaders
of the HS. The HS is widely recognized as the com-             acknowledge the link between content, safe and
mon language of international trade, reducing barri-           healthy staff and an organization’s performance and
ers between nations and contributing to the smooth             sustainable development. Given the major chal-
flow of legitimate trade. It has also played a vital role      lenges that face Customs administrations, coupled
during the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises by               with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, tradi-
facilitating and minimizing disruption to cross-bor-           tional leadership is no longer valid and Customs ad-
der trade in goods, particularly essential goods such          ministrations are increasingly being called upon to
as medicines, food and energy, as well as by combat-           develop a human-centric leadership culture.
ing the trade in fake medicines, etc.                          The current crisis has transformed employment rules
Against the current global background of the COVID-            and changed the principles underpinning the rela-
19 pandemic, WCO instruments and tools such as                 tionship between staff and management. Today’s
Chapter 5 (Relief Consignments) of Specific Annex J            employment agreements should focus on positively
to the RKC; the Framework of Standards (FoS) on                impacting the well-being of staff while honing their
Cross-Border E-Commerce; and the Resolution of                 skills. Organizations should offer employees more
the Customs Co-operation Council on the Role of                flexibility, thereby creating common interests and
Customs in Natural Disaster Relief have proven to              goals as well as building deeper connections. Chang-
be even more relevant in helping Members protect               ing trends in the work environment reflect a marked
People while ensuring supply chain continuity. This            acceleration in new forms of working in which tradi-
underscores the importance of focusing greater re-             tional and complex structures must give way to agile
sources on capacity building in the humanitarian               and simplified structures. Moving forward, a human-
area and of ensuring risk preparedness and coordi-             centric (Humanistic) approach to the workplace that
nated responses. In particular, the promotion and              focuses on staff experience and care will become the
implementation of the FoS on Cross-Border E-Com-               norm in order to maintain an organization’s reputa-
merce play a vital role in strengthening appropriate           tion and win stakeholders’ trust and loyalty.
regulatory responses by Customs to the extraordi-              Customs administrations foster sustainability by
nary volume and dynamism of E-Commerce during                  building safe and secure societies. In order to per-
the COVID-19 crisis.                                           form this important and challenging task, Custom of-
When natural disasters occur, cross-border trade               ficers require ongoing education and training, espe-
rules applicable to consignments containing human-             cially in this new era of emerging technologies. They
itarian assistance - particularly for highly regulated         also need to keep abreast of trends in the global
items such as foodstuffs, medication, medical equip-           trade environment. In this regard, the WCO builds
ment, vehicles and telecommunications - are compli-            the capacities of Customs administrations by devel-
cated by the vital need for speed, the unfamiliarity of        oping highly educated, knowledgeable, skilful and
                                                               professional staff to carry out sustainable Customs

reforms and modernization. It also ensures equal ac-                     range of stakeholders and be able to reach out in dif-
cess to Customs training by offering a comprehen-                        ferent languages and to individuals with a disability,
sive range of e-learning courses and the possibility to                  individuals who are illiterate, etc. Several references
participate in global and regional training workshops                    can be found to this end in the GEOAT.
through the WCO Customs Learning and Knowledge
Community (CLiKC!) platform. The WCO’s ex-
tremely valuable training materials and a wealth of
useful information are available in many different                       Ensuring Prosperity by reducing
languages.                                                               trade barriers to create inclusive so-
By developing specific e-learning courses tailored to                    cieties
the needs of external supply chain stakeholders and
other international trade professionals, vocational
training via the WCO Academy promotes active dis-                        The SDGs related to “Prosperity” (SDGs 8, 9, 10, 11,
semination of information and knowledge related to                       16 and 17) aim to “ensure that all human beings can
WCO standards, tools and instruments to a wider au-                      enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that eco-
dience and supports activities aimed at sharing this                     nomic, social, and technological progress occurs in
information and knowledge worldwide.                                     harmony with nature”.6
In addition, raising the awareness of, offering train-                   International trade plays a significant role in support-
ing to and sharing knowledge with the trading com-                       ing prosperous, sustainable and resilient societies
munity and society are critical if Customs wishes to                     and economies.
partner with legitimate businesses that strive to be
compliant but lack the overall knowledge to this end.                    Data collected from the last WCO Single Window
The WCO/JICA Master Trainer Programme (MTP)                              Survey in 2019 confirms that Single Window Environ-
contributes to enhanced cooperation and mutual                           ments (SWEs) are still deemed one of key enablers
understanding between Customs and business by                            for trade facilitation. The role of Customs admin-
means of training events delivered by local Customs                      istrations in SWEs also involves leading or co-leading
trainers. It uses materials developed through the                        initiatives and therefore playing a specific role in Co-
Programme, thus tackling the unique issues and chal-                     ordinated Border Management (CBM) and influenc-
lenges faced and contributing to achieving the SDGs                      ing the enactment and operationalization of con-
in partnership with business.                                            sistent policies.

By proactively implementing gender responsive and                        Digital Customs is well recognized as a key enabler
inclusive measures in line with the WCO Gender                           for reducing information asymmetries, procedural
Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT),                         complexities, discretionary powers and physical in-
Customs administrations can improve their services,                      teractions with economic operators. This, in turn,
ensuring that these meet the diverse needs of the                        has a positive effect by reducing indirect trade costs
public and different stakeholders. The GEOAT makes                       and inefficiencies as well as removing incentives for
reference to sexual harassment and gender-based vi-                      corruption.
olence and encourages Customs to ensure safety at
                                                                         This approach can be implemented through harmo-
borders by providing sufficient infrastructure, devel-
                                                                         nized and standardized electronic data based on in-
oping reporting mechanisms and also assessing staff
                                                                         ternational standards such as the WCO Data Model,
safety, acknowledging that the needs may be differ-
                                                                         as well as enhanced pre-arrival risk management. 7
ent for female Customs officers and stakeholders
                                                                         Data standardization across supply chain processes
(building safe and secure societies). To ensure that
                                                                         also enables visibility, traceability and predictability
the Customs policies in place are inclusive, encom-
                                                                         of cross-border trade, while at the same time ensur-
passing not only women traders but also small and
                                                                         ing data quality and accuracy.
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in general and mi-
nority groups to maintain a balanced diversity per-                      The implementation of the RKC provisions, the SAFE
spective, it is important to engage with a diverse                       FoS, the FoS on Cross-Border E-Commerce and other



international instruments and tools such as the              Two areas posing a high risk to countries’ revenues
World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation            are Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and revenue fraud.
Agreement (TFA) assists Customs administrations in
harmonizing and modernizing their procedures and             As a result of a collaborative effort between the WCO
operations. As a result, Customs can reduce the time         and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence
and cost of moving licit goods across borders and            Units, in March 2020 the WCO launched the “Cus-
stimulate legal trade activities, thus increasing in-        toms - FIU Cooperation Handbook”, serving both as
come and employment, promoting national and for-             a reference document and as a tool for Customs and
eign investment and expanding the connectivity of            Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) in the fight against
micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises                  money laundering and terrorism financing activities.
(MSMEs) to global value chains.                              Strong partnerships between the WCO and other in-
The Mercator Programme, launched in June 2014, is            ternational organizations have proven important in
a flagship WCO initiative supporting the Organiza-           the WCO’s work with its Members to combat these
tion’s Members worldwide with implementation of              types of crime. Technical support with the valua-
trade facilitation measures, and particularly those          tion, classification and origin assessment of goods is
associated with the WTO TFA, expeditiously and in a          also essential in this domain. Highly technical and le-
harmonized manner through the application of WCO             gally complex issues in valuation, classification and
tools and instruments. The Programme provides tai-           origin are often exploited as vehicles for IFFs and rev-
lor-made support and acts as an important vehicle            enue fraud. Assistance to Members with the imple-
for coordinating the needs and priorities of all con-        mentation and use of the WTO Agreement on Cus-
cerned stakeholders. The second edition of the Mer-          toms Valuation is a high priority for supporting the
cator Programme Report was published in Novem-               collection of essential revenues for countries. This
ber 2020. It highlights some common implementa-              also increases the transparency and integrity of val-
tion challenges and outlines how the Programme is            uation procedures, in turn supporting the transversal
assisting Members in providing tailor-made solu-             issues covered by SDG 16. Coordination between
tions. The Report also includes a series of descriptive      Customs and Taxation agencies on valuation, espe-
case studies that demonstrate the connection be-             cially in relation to profit shifting and transfer pricing,
tween the TFA and the real-world application of              has also been an area of WCO work in 2020.
WCO instruments that are already delivering tangi-           Revenue fraud is one field where the application of
ble results in many Member administrations. The              data analytics as promoted by the WCO BACUDA
production of the Mercator Programme Report is               project may provide major benefits. The WCO BA-
based on an understanding of the importance of doc-          CUDA project was launched in September 2019 as a
umenting the work of the WCO and its Members in              collaborative research platform focused on data an-
implementing the TFA. It is engaging and reflects the        alytics. The project brings together Customs officials
uniqueness of the WCO and its position as the global         responsible for risk management, statistics and IT
centre of excellence in Customs matters. It also             systems, as well as professional economists and data
demonstrates the “how-to” approach that helps fur-           scientists with an academic background in computer
ther develop the peer-to-peer relationships within           science. The project’s name is an acronym which
the global Customs community that define the WCO.            stands for “BAnd of CUstoms Data Analysts”. It is
Continued vigorous efforts are being made by the             also a Korean word that means “to change”. Indeed,
WCO to support its Members with the implementa-              the aim of the project is to help Customs administra-
tion of Advance Ruling (AR) systems according to             tions embrace analytical tools and methodologies by
the standards enshrined in Article 3 of the TFA, with        providing them with data analytics algorithms in
a view to making international trade more certain            open-source languages and facilitating change man-
and predictable. The WCO and WTO standards in                agement throughout the administration.
that area have been harmonized in the form of tech-          Apart from the direct impact in terms of making
nical guidelines, and technical assistance is provided       trade faster, easier and cheaper, trade facilitation re-
to Members wishing to move forward with the im-              forms are also positive steps towards human, enter-
plementation of AR systems.                                  prise and institutional development. They help small
Furthermore, by taking strong action against com-            traders, often women, enter the formal sector, make
mercial fraud and tax evasion, Customs also ensures          economic activities more transparent and accounta-
that national governments are not deprived of criti-         ble, promote good governance, generate better
cal revenues necessary to fund public infrastructure         quality employment, strengthen information tech-
and services.

nology capabilities and generally modernize socie-        In terms of protecting cultural heritage, the WCO
ties by bringing about benefits related to administra-    Cultural Heritage Programme is encouraging effec-
tive efficiency.                                          tive cooperation and partnership with other interna-
                                                          tional organizations and law enforcement agencies,
One of the tools often used to assist the promotion       such as the International Council of Museums
of trade from least developed countries is origin-spe-    (ICOM), the United Nations Educational, Scientific
cific trade measures. The ability of MSMEs to access      and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and INTERPOL.
these measures appropriately is affected by the ease      Efforts are aimed at exchanging information and pre-
of compliance with and clarity of origin require-         venting illegal trade in cultural heritage. To accom-
ments. The WCO provides technical support and de-         plish this mission, the WCO relies on the competen-
velops and updates various tools, such as the update      cies and day-to-day efforts of Member Customs ad-
of the Comparative Study on Certification of Origin       ministrations, as well as on its RILO network.
in 2020, to increase the uptake of available measures
and help countries continue to improve their              An example of these cooperative efforts is the Cus-
measures.                                                 toms Enforcement Network Communication Plat-
                                                          form (CENcomm) application for electronic infor-
Countries with greater institutional capacity, higher     mation exchange, codenamed ARCHEO, managed by
trade volumes and greater financial resources are in      the WCO. In addition, the WCO Prevention of Illicit
a better position to invest in reforms that make trade    Trafficking of Cultural Heritage (PITCH) training and
faster, easier and more transparent, while develop-       operations ensure preparedness of Customs officers
ing countries that invest in programmes to modern-        in the cultural heritage field, often requiring long pe-
ize Customs administrations and trade procedures          riods of investigation and the restitution of stolen
may reap the benefits of increased trade, revenue         objects, as well as continuously focusing a spotlight
collection and institutional development. Accord-         on trafficking from countries affected by war and in-
ingly, there are a number of potential virtuous cir-      stability. As proof of their commitment to protect
cles.                                                     cultural heritage, the WCO and INTERPOL led the
Prudent policy strategies are needed to ensure even       global Customs-Police Operation ATHENA II, in syn-
distribution of the costs and benefits between and        chronization with the Europe-focused Operation
within the different players, also taking into account    PANDORA IV. The Operation spanned 103 countries
the need to ensure inclusive growth.                      and resulted in more than 19,000 archaeological ar-
                                                          tefacts and other artworks being recovered.
The EU-WCO Programme for HS in Africa has been
working to support various stakeholders in Africa to-     A thorough and robust risk management strategy
wards coordinated implementation and uniform ap-          that also focuses on integrating electronic pre-arrival
plication of one of the fundamental trade facilitation    information on passengers and goods is essential for
instruments, namely the HS Convention. This Pro-          effective trade facilitation and enforcement of pro-
gramme promotes more efficient, transparent and           hibitions and restrictions in cross-border trade,
simplified trade within and to/from continental Af-       where required. Several documents in the WCO Risk
rica. The Programme exceeded expectations in its          Management Compendium also serve this purpose.
first year and offered extensive technical assistance
and support to countries seeking to improve their HS
implementation, including implementation of HS Ad-        Protecting the Planet and ensuring
vance Rulings.
                                                          its sustainability for future genera-
A specific point to note is that the HS 2022 specifi-
cally targets SDG 11.4 with respect to the world’s cul-
tural and natural heritage. The first significant
changes to Chapter 97 of the HS were made to refine
the classification of cultural and natural heritage       The SDGs related to the “Planet” (SDGs 12, 13, 14,
goods, including the addition of age specifications.      15, 16 and 17) address the overarching objective of
These changes were made to enable better targeting
of compliance efforts to ensure that shipments of
such goods have valid documentation, with a view to
enhancing the safeguarding of the world’s heritage.


protecting the Planet “so it can support the needs of                   controlling and, at the same time, facilitating green
the present and future generations”.8                                   supply chains would go beyond its enforcement
                                                                        function at the border.
Customs administrations contribute to the fight
against climate change and to ensuring greater envi-                    In particular, plastic and e-waste have recently at-
ronmental sustainability by supporting effective im-                    tracted a great deal of attention in international fo-
plementation of various Multilateral Environmental                      rums, especially with reference to the environmental
Agreements (MEAs)9, whose objectives include ad-                        crisis brought about by importations of illegal waste.
dressing the illicit trade in hazardous waste and                       Customs administrations are experiencing increasing
ozone-depleting substances, combating the illicit                       pressure to shape feasible solutions that ensure
trade in endangered species, and preventing the                         compliant waste importation, while promoting ex-
spread of plant and animal diseases, as well as of in-                  port controls on waste. In this context, the sharing
vasive alien species.                                                   of information on licences and relevant documents
                                                                        for waste shipments by Customs and environmental
This work is supported by extensive additions to the                    authorities, via a SWE, could be one solution for en-
HS 2022 for substances regulated under the Kigali                       hancing collaborative efforts to control the trans-
Amendments to the Montreal Protocol. The changes                        boundary movement of waste.
to the HS 2022 go further by also including specific
provisions for mixtures that contain substances reg-                    In relation to e-waste, the HS 2022 makes provision
ulated under the Montreal Protocol. This approach                       for the separate classification of e-waste at the
is designed to support governments with meeting                         global HS level for the very first time. This will create
their obligations by simplifying the identification of                  an unprecedented level of transparency with regard
legally-traded goods at the border. In addition, haz-                   to legal global trade in e-waste as countries imple-
ardous chemicals recently added to the substances                       ment the HS 2022 and start reporting on trade in e-
controlled under the Rotterdam Convention are                           waste via international classification codes. Further-
named specifically in the HS 2022 to assist with their                  more, the WCO, through its Tariff and Trade Affairs
identification at borders.                                              Directorate, will be working with Members on devel-
                                                                        oping specific HS codes in support of plastic waste
Within the framework of CBM, application of the                         management for the 2027 Edition of the HS.
Guidelines included in the WCO Customs Risk Man-
agement Compendium as well as other related Rec-                        Motivated by the need to investigate waste control
ommendations10 may enable Customs administra-                           at borders from a Customs perspective, in December
tions to play a key role in addressing the risks that                   2020 the WCO published a research paper titled
cross-border trade could pose to the environment.                       “Current situation, analysis and observations on
                                                                        waste control at borders by Customs” in order to
Fast Customs clearance times and efficient border                       shed light on aspects related to the facilitation of le-
management contribute to increasing the efficiency                      gitimate trade, while placing greater emphasis on
of green supply chains. Green supply chain manage-                      combating the illicit waste trade. 12
ment is considered an environmental innovation in-
tegrating environmental thinking into supply chain                      Additionally, the WCO Secretariat, through its Envi-
management. It is aimed at minimizing or eliminat-                      ronment Programme (EP) in the Enforcement and
ing waste, including hazardous waste, along the sup-                    Compliance Sub-Directorate, is a member of the re-
ply chain.11 In this domain, the role of Customs in

9 The main MEAs comprising international trade-related provisions are the following: “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary
Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal”, “Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity”, “Con-
vention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)”, “Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the
Ozone Layer”, “Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in Interna-
tional Trade”, and “Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants”.
10 For example, Recommendation concerning Actions Against Cross-Border Environmental Offences.
11 Green supply chain management, environmental collaboration and sustainability performance. In Procedia CIRP (Vol. 26, pp. 695–699).

Elsevier B.V.
12 Kenji Omi (December 2020) Research Paper No. 50 “Current situation, analysis and observations on waste control at borders by Cus-


cently formed Plastic Waste Partnership (PWP) un-         commodities (ESCs), and ensure compliance with
der the auspices of the Basel Convention. The WCO         trade-related provisions stipulated by MEAs. These
EP played an instrumental role during the establish-      MEAs include the Basel Convention on the Control of
ment of the PWP and is now leading the efforts of a       Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes
sub-group in preparing an enforcement practice            and their Disposal, and the Montreal Protocol on
guide for the PWP. The role of the Customs commu-         Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
nity is central to the discussions on this matter. The
EP continues to work with PWP members on the de-          Various partners rallied in support of Operation DE-
velopment of a plastic waste enforcement guide.           METER VI, with 73 Customs administrations joining
Any WCO Member wishing to contribute to this work         forces. The WCO Secretariat, the RILOs for Asia/Pa-
is invited to contact the EP.                             cific and Western Europe, and China Customs all
                                                          played leading roles in the Operation, establishing
The Asia Pacific Plastic Waste Border Management          the Operational Coordination Unit in the Asia/Pacific
Project, implemented under the auspices of the            RILO based in Seoul, Republic of Korea. OLAF also
Green Customs Initiative, is aimed at strengthening       supported the Operation by assisting WCO Members
the capacity of Customs administrations to mitigate       with enhanced information on risks.
and appropriately respond to environmental threats
in the Asia/Pacific region. Particular focus is placed    Almost 99,000 tonnes of waste and an additional
on the implementation of the Basel Convention, and        78,000 pieces of waste materials (not weighed), as
specifically on matters related to plastic waste and      well as approximately 42 tonnes of substances con-
the illegal shipment thereof. The Project is anchored     trolled by the Montreal Protocol were seized during
within the EP, with three Asia/Pacific countries iden-    the Operation. Five countries reported most of the
tified as beneficiaries.                                  seizures of waste products, namely Belgium, Canada,
                                                          China, Poland and Denmark, while most of the sei-
Through its EP, the WCO has joined the Basel Con-         zures of substances controlled by the Montreal Pro-
vention’s Environmental Network for Optimizing            tocol were performed in Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark
Regulatory Compliance on Illegal Traffic (ENFORCE).       and Poland.
The mission of ENFORCE is, by means of a network of
relevant experts, to promote Parties’ compliance          The WCO, through its EP, is a member of the Inter-
with the provisions of the Basel Convention on the        national Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime
Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous           (ICCWC). The ICCWC is a collaborative effort by five
Wastes and their Disposal pertaining to preventing        intergovernmental organizations working to offer
and combating illegal traffic in hazardous wastes and     coordinated support to national wildlife law enforce-
other wastes through better implementation and en-        ment agencies and to sub-regional and regional net-
forcement of national law. The Network aims to            works that, on a daily basis, act in defence of natural
bring together existing resources and enhance coop-       resources. Under the auspices of the ICCWC, various
eration and coordination between relevant entities,       training and enforcement activities in support of
with a specific mandate to deliver capacity-building      Customs administrations have been undertaken to
activities and tools on preventing and combating il-      address enforcement-related risks along the entire
legal trafficking.                                        supply chain.

By becoming a member of ENFORCE in 2020, the EP           Under the EP’s INAMA Project, a risk management
has consolidated WCO efforts to combat illegal traf-      project was instituted regarding illegal wildlife trade
fic in hazardous wastes. As a member of ENFORCE,          in three key countries in Africa and Asia. Further-
various initiatives will be implemented in coopera-       more, enforcement activities in 13 countries have
tion with other ENFORCE partners, subject to fund-        been linked together, thus considerably strengthen-
ing. These will include technical and enforcement         ing Customs’ capacity to contribute to sustainability.
capacity building and training, as well as the planning   The WCO, in collaboration with INTERPOL, jointly or-
and execution of small-scale enforcement opera-           ganized Operation THUNDER 2020: a global enforce-
tions.                                                    ment operation targeting the illegal trade in wildlife
Operation DEMETER VI, which focused on thwarting          and timber, conducted from 14 September to 11 Oc-
transboundary shipments of illegal waste and ozone-       tober 2020. The Operation aimed to disrupt and dis-
depleting substances, was also set in motion through      mantle the criminal networks behind illegal wildlife
the EP. In their capacity as the principal regulatory     trade (IWT). This includes trade in protected species
border agency, Customs administrations around the         of fauna and flora regulated under the CITES Conven-
world are mandated to monitor and control cross-          tion. The focus of this intelligence-led Operation tar-
border movements of environmentally sensitive


geting specific criminal groups was to integrate en-         ing crucial, along with the harmonization and simpli-
forcement activities across various international or-        fication of Customs procedures for trade facilitation
ganizations and their members, by conducting sei-            purposes.
zures and making arrests, followed through by inves-
tigations and subsequent prosecutions.                       A third field is related to the urgent need to move
                                                             towards Digital Customs, as the COVID-19 crisis has
In preparation for Operation THUNDER 2020, aimed             highlighted some of the positive outcomes of paper-
at combating illegal trade in wildlife and forestry          less trade and teleworking not only as a business
products, a total of 36 webinars were delivered and          continuity solution but also in terms of a temporary
97 frontline Customs officers in 26 beneficiary coun-        reduction in daily global CO2 emissions. Leveraging
tries received training.                                     digitalization as a response to the COVID-19 crisis has
                                                             also proven that the use of available technologies is
Some 103 countries participated in Operation Thun-           a crucial factor for ensuring efficient CBM mecha-
der 2020, including 65 Customs administrations.              nisms and maximizing social distancing to protect
Preliminary results show that 2,082 seizures of wild-        People during a pandemic.
life and forestry products were made and 699 of-
fenders apprehended.                                         A fourth field concerns attitudes towards uncer-
                                                             tainty, as well as the perception of vulnerability to-
Furthermore, to simplify and modernize procedures,           wards threats and the need to tackle risks in a sys-
improvements to the CEN Fauna- and Flora-related             tematic manner throughout organizations.
commodities were made, and include an update of
the list of species protected under CITES and the ad-        In this framework, enhanced risk management as
dition of more fields to the seizure reporting form to       well as collaboration and data-sharing with public
facilitate data input. In addition, the mapping of           and private stakeholders at borders are key factors
Fauna and Flora historical data is under way.                not only for consistent responses and sustainable
                                                             policies but also in the interests of business continu-
Additionally, Customs, together with other border            ity and appropriate risk management in the post-
agencies, has a mandate to facilitate “perishable            pandemic world.
shipments” (Article 7.9 of the TFA) to prevent avoid-
able loss or deterioration of perishable goods, and to       In this respect, the WCO CBM approach as well as the
ensure that all regulatory requirements have been            three-pillar strategy of the WCO SAFE FoS are in-
met.                                                         creasingly relevant, paving the way for Customs-to-
                                                             Customs network arrangements, Customs-to-Busi-
                                                             ness partnerships and Customs-to-Other Govern-
                                                             ment Agencies cooperation.
                                                             The WCO Customs Environmental Scan 2019 high-
                                                             lighted the fact that the spread of COVID-19 and the
                                                             much-needed internationally coordinated responses
The COVID-19 crisis is likely to have long-lasting ef-       clearly demonstrate that global crises require global
fects on People, Prosperity and the Planet.                  answers.

The pandemic’s long shadows may fall on several              To this end, the WCO will pursue and strengthen its
fields requiring an appropriate regulatory response          partnerships with other international organizations
before longer-term effects take root.                        on very tangible aspects of operational coordination
                                                             following the positive developments already noted
One of these fields is E-Commerce, in which the ex-          with, for instance, the UNODC in the context of the
periences emerging from the COVID-19 crisis could            CCP.
provide a further incentive to promote certainty,
predictability, transparency, safety, security and effi-     In a scenario marked by global Interconnections and
ciency in the E-Commerce supply chain.                       unpredictable patterns of risk transmission, coupling
                                                             sustainability and resilience could prove to be an en-
Another field is regional integration, which is emerg-       abling factor for an appropriate systemic response to
ing as a growth determinant and critical factor for          and recovery from crises. Against this background,
ensuring economic recovery in the post-COVID era.            the WCO remains strongly committed to tackling
In this context, connectivity, interoperability,             sustainability-related challenges, selecting as its
strengthened Customs-to-Customs cooperation and              theme for 2021: “Customs Bolstering Recovery, Re-
international cooperation mechanisms are becom-              newal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.

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