Capacity Building

26 July 2018

Four areas of activity

The WCO continues to provide capacity building (CB) assistance to WCO Members around the world. Highlighted below is a sample of the initiatives taken for each of the specific areas of activity outlined in the WCO Organizational Development Package: Strategic Advisory Support and Delivery; Human Resource Development; Integrity; and Stakeholder Engagement.

Strategic Advisory Support and Delivery

This activity derives from the WCO’s 2003 Capacity Building Strategy. It is also reflected in the WCO Mercator Programme, a strategic initiative aimed at assisting WCO Members in implementing trade facilitation measures, including the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The strategy entails needs-assessments through diagnostic missions, the development of comprehensive strategic plans, the implementation of WCO standards, and the regular monitoring of performance indicators. Key WCO CB tools to support these actions include the Diagnostic Framework and the Capacity Building Development Compendium.

During the reporting period, five strategic planning missions were delivered, including one in Namibia as the country moves towards the establishment of a revenue authority, and one in the Bahamas to prepare a national training strategy that includes executive, operational and technical topics, as well as modern delivery methods, including blended learning. Moreover, one evaluation monitoring mission, under the auspices of Phase 3 of the WCO Columbus Programme, was undertaken.

CB delivery during such missions is based on a two-pronged approach, namely “ownership” and “results-based management” (RBM). RBM ensures that strategic planning and implementation management are guided by focusing on the desired results. This requires effective performance measurement (PM) in order to effectively demonstrate the impact that activities have on organizational performance. In this regard, two PM missions were conducted during the 2015/2016 period in Colombia and in Oman.

Human Resource Development

WCO activities focusing on human resource development include the enhancement of the e-learning catalogue, organizing the 2nd and 3rd sessions of the Virtual Customs Orientation Academy (VCOA) and the 67th, 68th and 69th sessions of the WCO Fellowship Programme, as well as the delivery of support relating to the Leadership and Management Development Programme (LMDP), the Framework of Principles and Practices on Customs Professionalism (FPPCP) and the People Development Diagnostic Tool (PDDT).

E-learning catalogue

The WCO CLiKC! Platform now has 23 e-learning courses available. A new e-learning course covers transit procedures, and is available in English and in French. An e-learning course on the implementation of the WTO TFA will be available shortly, in English and in French.

The existing courses on Risk Management, Post-Clearance Audit, Coordinated Border Management and the Revised Kyoto Convention will soon be translated into Arabic and Amharic. The course on Customs Controls has been revised in terms of content and design, and is now available in English, French and Spanish. The course on the TIR system has been updated and translated into the Farsi language.

Virtual Customs Orientation Academy (VCOA)

The 2nd and 3rd sessions of the VCOA – a WCO initiative aimed at providing newly recruited Customs officials, having less than four years’ service, with basic knowledge and skills in international Customs standards – took place in July 2015 and April 2016 respectively, with the participation of 72 Customs officials from 42 WCO Member administrations. Upon completion of the activities, and after being evaluated, 59 successful Customs officers were awarded certificates, six of them with honours. The WCO Secretariat is currently seeking funding, in order to translate the curriculum of the VCOA and to pilot a French Session in 2017.

Fellowship programme

The Fellowship Programme aims to assist Customs administrations with their organizational development by endowing certain managers, selected on the basis of their potential for development within their administrative structure, with the technical knowledge and capacities required for their administration’s reform and modernization activities.

Three sessions were held during the 2015/2106 period for English, French and Spanish speakers respectively. In total, they brought together 46 officers over a six week period: the first four weeks are spent at WCO Headquarters in Brussels; and the last two weeks entail a study trip to a Customs administration in a developed WCO Member country. The calendar of the upcoming sessions, as well as details on the selection procedure, is available on the WCO website.



The Scholarship Programme provides Customs officials from developing countries with an opportunity to pursue Master’s level studies and training in Customs-related fields. This year, nine officers participated in the Public Finance Programme at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, Japan, and 10 officers participated in the Strategic Management and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Programme at the Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) in Tokyo, Japan.

Career Development


The Career Development Programme provides an opportunity for selected candidates, known as Professional Associates (PA), to undertake work at the WCO Secretariat for 10 months. Ten officers took part in the programme during the 2015/2016 period.

Leadership and Management Development Programme (LMDP)

The LMDP, which is intended to improve the capability of Customs’ leaders and managers in order to drive reform and modernization, has been reviewed. The review took into account the experience gained by the “facilitators” during the 60 workshops that have been conducted over the last four and a half years, together with new insights and modern leadership and management theories, as well as the evaluations provided by over 1000 LMD workshop participants. Some LMD workshop facilitators tested the new version during a workshop, enabling them to lead future workshops using the new material.

Nine LMD workshops were conducted during the reporting period, and an additional four have been delivered as part of the WCO fellowship and career development programmes. Two new facilitators have been accredited.

To enable the WCO to measure the impact of LMD workshops on Customs administrations and individual participants, a “monitoring and evaluation” concept has been developed. Four to six months after the LMD workshop is conducted, participants, their superior and a colleague of the same management level, as well as two subordinates, evaluate the progress a participant has made in all areas of leadership and management with the help of a questionnaire consisting of 62 questions. On a scale from “no improvement at all” to “improvement beyond expectations,” the results of the 10 LMD workshops held in 2015 show that the overall impact is 80% (a very high improvement in leadership and management skills, attitude and behaviour, including an increased impact at the organizational level).

After being successfully piloted, the concept of a “Top Executive Retreat” event has been finalized. Participation in the retreat will be offered to the Director General and his/her executive team, as a means to further strengthening their capacity in implementing strategic objectives, building a high-performing executive team and an effective management culture based on trust and openness, and reinforcing the leadership qualities of individual members of the executive team. Every Top Executive Retreat is tailor-made, and designed to take into account an administration’s prevailing situation as well as its future direction.

Framework of Principles and Practices on Customs Professionalism (FPPCP)

To assist WCO Members in understanding and implementing policies relating to professional qualifications and career paths in Customs administrations, the FPPCP was developed and linked to an online repository of practices – the CLiKC! People Development Interactive Map – which provide guidance on five topics:

  • Strategic human resources management;
  • Strategic organizational design/job profiling;
  • Recruitment processes;
  • National training centre guidelines;
  • Customs career paths.

The Map provides a live overview of the Customs community’s initiatives and solutions that have been implemented worldwide, in order to efficiently manage competency-based human resource (HR) processes.

The WCO continues to deliver assistance to a number of WCO Members in implementing elements of the FPPCP, which was used as a basis for WCO HR management workshops in Jordan and in Lebanon.

People Development Diagnostic Tool (PDDT)

The PDDT is intended to serve as a practical guide for administrations, enabling them to gauge where they stand in the context of Customs international standards and best practices. The tool comprises:

  • a form for entering the reference documents for an HR strategy, aimed at identifying the fundamental components of an HR strategy and, by default, elementary failures;
  • a diagnostic questionnaire focusing on the existence and efficiency of the main HR practices and processes, and the legal and ethical framework of an HR strategy;
  • a value creation matrix setting out the perceptions of key HR players regarding shortcomings in implementing best practices in their experience of HR management in their administration.

Although the tool can be used autonomously in its simplified form by teams in charge of HR modernization within their administrations, WCO Members may benefit from a series of accompanying measures to support their HR capabilities, including a WCO mission. These missions are facilitated by HR experts, either from the WCO Secretariat or from a Customs administration with HR expertise recognized by the Secretariat. These arrangements aim to ensure coherence and consistency in using the tool.

The HR diagnostic tool has already been the subject of pilot schemes during HR management diagnostic missions. It has been piloted in Namibia, Peru and Tunisia, with the assistance of Swiss Customs in the case of the latter. In addition, the tool has been tested in the context of the support provided under the West African Customs Administrations Modernization (WACAM) Project.

WACAM Project

The WACAM Project, funded by the Swedish Government, aims to assist West African Customs administrations in the fields of strategic management, HR management, and stakeholder engagement. The following developments and/or activities have taken place:

  • Strategic management component – new WCO material on strategic management and business process mapping (BMP) has been developed;
  • HR management component – four countries have benefitted from national support in the development of competency-based HR management tools, and the project continues to build a regional pool of HR management experts;
  • Stakeholder engagement component – the Cape Verde Customs Administration has established a National Committee for Trade Facilitation (NCTF), and initiated efforts to conduct a WCO Time Release Study (TRS) in 2016.


Capacity building and integrity are closely related, because a lack of integrity is an impediment to Customs reform. During the reporting period, 15 integrity-related missions were conducted, and work was carried out on the following projects, among others:

  • assistance to Kyrgyzstan Customs in developing integrity training modules;
  • a workshop organized by Cameroon Customs with a view to taking stock of the implementation of PM and contracting in Cameroon and elsewhere;
  • a mission to assist the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) in the development of a corruption risk map;
  • assistance to the Malawi Revenue Authority to follow-up on the implementation of its Integrity Action Plan;
  • a mission to Armenia to assist the administration in developing integrity training material;
  • the delivery of an integrity diagnostic in Moldova and in Paraguay;
  • providing guidance to assess related corruption risks, as well as specific training material to foster Customs reform in the area of integrity, in the WCO Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP);
  • two missions to assist the Swaziland Revenue Authority and the Uganda Revenue Authority with the implementation of PM to fight corruption.

In addition to the above listed support activities, assistance has been provided virtually to WCO Members in five cases, comprising support in areas such as providing comments on integrity-related documents, checking codes of conduct, and obtaining information from other administrations.

With regards to the WCO Integrity Newsletter, the 12th and 13th editions were published, containing articles on Members’ best practices. Included were articles on reforms undertaken in Afghanistan, as well as articles on the policies and strategies applied in Bolivia, Iceland, Mauritius, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The WCO was represented at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Integrity Forum which was held in April in Paris, France. This event provided the WCO with an opportunity to share its work on integrity, including the brochure entitled the “Why and How of Performance Measurement Contracts,” as well as promote the use of data and corruption risk-mapping.

The WCO also took part in the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) which met in London, United Kingdom (UK) during June 2016. The ACWG discussed the G20 Strategic document on preventing and countering corruption by promoting integrity in Customs, as well as a compilation of the replies provided by Customs administrations to the G20 integrity questionnaire.

Last but not least, the WCO delivered a communication on anti-corruption at the border, based on research conducted on PM, at a research workshop organized jointly by the Kosciuszko Institute in Poland and the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy. The workshop was supported by the Science for Peace and Security Programme of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Stakeholder Engagement

Three donor-related events were held during the 2015/2016 period: a donor conference for the West and Central Africa region in July 2015; a donor meeting for the East and Southern Africa region in September 2015; a meeting between donors and entities from the Americas and the Caribbean region in February 2016, focused on learning how to work and define regional priorities.

WCO CB efforts continue to enjoy support from established donors contributing to the Customs Cooperation Fund, such as the Governments of Germany, Japan and Korea, as well as China Customs and Eurocustoms. Other donors include:

  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK;
  • the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB);
  • the Asian Development Bank (ADB);
  • the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA);
  • the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA);
  • the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs;
  • the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ);
  • the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
  • the United States Department of State;
  • the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD);
  • the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • the UK Department for International Development (DFID).


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