Capacity building

13 October 2017

Strategic advisory support and delivery

Strategic advisory support and delivery entail needs-assessments through diagnostic missions, the development of comprehensive strategic plans, the implementation of WCO standards, and the regular monitoring of performance indicators. During the 2016/2017 period, the WCO conducted 45 strategic advisory support missions.

Key WCO capacity building tools to support these missions and actions include the Diagnostic Framework, a Risk Management Diagnostic, a Human Resource Management Diagnostic, an Institutional Assessment (enforcement capability), Trade Facilitation Agreement Scoping, and other specific organizational analysis tools.

Mercator implementation plans

Since its launch in June 2014, the WCO has been promoting the Mercator Programme as a strategic initiative aimed at assisting governments worldwide in implementing the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA) in a uniform manner by applying WCO instruments and tools, as the TFA provisions relate, to a large extent, to Customs procedures.

During the 2016/2017 period, Mercator Implementation Plans have been developed and endorsed in the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Under these plans that represent multi-year engagements across various technical and organizational development matters, more than 40 individual missions were conducted. Multi-year, results-oriented planning is playing an increasingly larger role in the WCO’s delivery planning versus ad hoc requests. Both developing and developed WCO Members’ experts play a central role in the delivery of these missions, with dedicated contact points in place in all “Mercator countries.”

To manage the implementation of these plans as well as further requests from WCO Members for TFA-related capacity building support, the WCO created a new pool of strategic advisors – Mercator Programme Advisors (MPAs). The first Global MPA Workshop was held at WCO Headquarters with the participation of 19 MPAs. The objective was to listen to live experiences from the MPAs, enabling an exchange views on the Mercator Programme and discussions on how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Programme, from an integral perspective:

  • Accreditation process;
  • Pre-mission (preparation, communication, logistics);
  • In-country dynamics (types of missions, techniques, successes, collapses);
  • Post-mission (evaluation, administration, follow-up, continuing commitment).

In order to assist MPA’s and related WCO Experts further, the WCO has developed a Handbook for Mercator Programme Advisors, which is available on the Members’ section of the WCO website. The WCO also intends holding regular forums where MPA’s and related WCO experts can exchange ideas, experiences and best practices.

Human resource development (HRD)

WCO e-learning platform: CLiKC!

CLiKC! (Customs Learning and Knowledge Community) continues to develop the support offered to capacity building activities, with specific areas devoted to enhancing preparation and communication between participants during specific events such as training workshops or accreditations.

The platform itself underwent a major upgrade at the end of 2016. The new version of its website not only benefits from a state-of-the-art platform, it has also enhanced the possibilities offered to National Coordinators. Users now benefit from simplified and user-friendly navigation, and more robust video conferencing and video hosting functions used in the framework of online courses.

The existing courses on Risk Management, Post-Clearance Audit, Coordinated Border Management and the Revised Kyoto Convention have additionally been translated into Arabic and Amharic. A course on the WTO TFA is now available for WCO Members in English, French and Spanish. To ensure that the platform remains a vital tool for its Members, the WCO is continuing to develop other courses that will be added in due course.

Virtual Customs Orientation Academy (VCOA)

The 4th and 5th sessions of the VCOA – a WCO initiative comprising four highly interactive modules supplemented by online tutoring and two optional modules on the CLiKC! platform – took place in July 2016 and March 2017 respectively, with the participation of 63 Customs officials from 50 WCO Member administrations.

The VCOA’s main objective is to provide newly recruited Customs officials with a 14-week unique development opportunity. The learning journey addresses core Customs competencies, the concepts of clearance procedures and practices, international standards and conventions, and how to apply them in the workplace. Upon completion of the activities, and after being evaluated, 51 successful Customs officers were awarded certificates, seven of them with honours.

Fellowship Programme

Three sessions held during the 2016/2017 period, for English, French and Spanish speakers respectively, brought together 43 officers over a six week period. The Fellowship Programme is associated with WCO leadership and management development programmes.

It aims to invest in middle managers with high potential, and to develop their abilities, skills and knowledge to ensure that they can actively participate in the reform and modernization processes of their administrations. The calendar for the upcoming sessions, as well as details on the selection procedure, is available on the WCO website.

Scholarship Programme

Ten 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 Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU), which is also located in Tokyo.

Career Development Programme (CDP)

The CDP is an initiative supported by Japan Customs that provides an opportunity for selected candidates from developing Member administrations to undertake work at the WCO Secretariat for 10 months as Professional Associates. Within the framework of the 2016/2017 Programme, which commenced in September 2016 and ended in July 2017, 10 Customs officials – from Angola, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Cambodia, Guinea, Mexico, Mongolia, Senegal and Ukraine – worked at the Secretariat on a number of projects and activities.

The involvement of Professional Associates enables WCO Members to enhance their communication with the Secretariat (especially in those countries where neither of the WCO’s official languages are spoken), serves to add to the diversity of the Secretariat’s staff, and, more importantly, provides participants with the opportunity to gain international work experience and professional expertise in various Customs matters.

Leadership and Management Development Programme (LMDP)

Eight LMD workshops were conducted during the reporting period. An additional four have been delivered as part of the WCO Fellowship and Career Development Programmes, and a regional training event was delivered as part of the “Executive Programme in Customs & Business Administration” – a seven-week non-degree programme aimed at delivering theoretical approaches and practical information on Customs and international trade, which is funded by the Korea Customs Service.

In addition, four Customs administrations benefited from a “Top Executive Retreat,” which is aimed at strengthening the capacity of senior management to lead and drive reform and modernization agendas. At these retreats, a wide range of topics, such as visioning, strategic management, negotiations, people management, change management, and strategic and personal communication, are discussed in great detail.

The impact of the workshops is assessed with the help of a new monitoring tool – a 360 degree performance review of participants and of their environment (superior, colleague of the same level, and two staff members), conducted by the WCO six months after the workshop/retreat has taken place.

The tool was developed in order to enable measurement of lasting impact. Results of the impact assessment show that more than 80% of participants profit permanently from the workshop/retreat, with a tangible and visible improvement of their leadership and management skills, as well as their attitude and behaviour, noted after six months. After adjustments, this modern and automated monitoring tool will also be implemented for several other capacity building programmes.

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 HR standards and best practices. 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.

Five Customs administrations benefited from such missions under the West Africa Customs Administration Modernization (WACAM) Project. These Members have since developed and approved their respective roadmaps for the modernization of their HR management (HRM), and four of the five Members have already set up an HRM Modernization Committee.

New tools and instruments

Project Management Workshop Package

As the driving force for Customs reform and modernization continues to be the WTO TFA, its entry into force is expected to induce an increase in the presence of projects as countries strive to comply with the provisions of the TFA. To support its Members, the WCO has developed a five-day workshop package in English and French on project management, which is based on the principles laid out in the WCO Capacity Building Compendium. Support has been available to requesting WCO Members since July 2017, and the Package will be piloted in the Gambia and Burkina Faso in the autumn of 2017.

The workshop package was developed under the framework of the Swedish-funded WCO-WACAM Project. The Package focuses on the organizational framework needed for the effective application of project management to Customs and reform initiatives, and introduces participants to all phases of the project management life cycle, namely initiation, planning, implementation (execute, monitor, control) and closing. This interactive workshop is aimed at officers involved in designing, executing and evaluating Customs reform and modernization initiatives.

Training of Trainers Package

In order to ensure the continuous development of competencies within Customs administrations, it is important that WCO Members can rely on a critical mass of experts that can act as trainers to share their knowledge and help the professional development of their peers. In the framework of the WCO-WACAM Project funded by Sweden, the WCO has been able to extensively revise its Training of Trainers Package to reflect the competency-based approach and modern training techniques.

This five-day training package focuses on the following areas: the importance of competency development for organizations, the adult learning cycle, how to develop training modules, how to plan and deliver training sessions, and how to evaluate a training activity. The workshop package will be piloted in Gabon and the Gambia in the autumn of 2017.

EAC Regional AEO Validation Package

Under the WCO-EAC CREATe project that is funded by Sweden, the WCO has supported the Members of the East African Community with the development of a regional AEO Validation Package, which was developed in line with the recommendations of the WCO SAFE Working Group.

The Package covers the areas of supply chain security, AEO programmes and its linkages to the SAFE Framework of Standards and the WTO TFA, AEO pre-validation techniques, AEO validation techniques, and AEO post-validation management. Its first modules were piloted in June 2017 under the CREATe project, and the remaining modules will be piloted in early 2018.


The WCO is continuously reviewing its approach in the area of integrity, in order to take new experiences into account. Different types of missions are organized to respond to specific requests made by its Members. The WCO held the 16th Session of its Integrity-Sub-Committee from 9 to 10 March 2017 that included a joint session with the Capacity Building Committee. A Compilation of Integrity Practices from WCO Members was issued for the session.

From July 2016 to June 2017, the WCO sent integrity assessment missions to El Salvador in September 2017, and to Angola and Guatemala in February 2017. It co-organized and participated in a sub-regional Integrity Workshop in Fiji that took place during July 2016, and organized a Train-the-Trainer Integrity Workshop for the Mauritius Revenue Authority in January 2017.

In the context of the NORAD project, a WCO mission went to Rwanda in December 2016 to assist the Rwanda Revenue Authority with the implementation of its integrity strategy. In addition, a WCO mission went to Liberia in January 2017, following the decision by the Liberia Revenue Authority to resume the implementation of its performance measurement policy under the project.

The WCO conducted a Corruption Risk Mapping Workshop that was organized by the African Union in December 2016, and was invited, given its expertise, to participate in a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Corruption Risk Mapping Workshop. It also attended the OECD Integrity Forum 2017, and made a presentation at the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) members’ meeting that was held in Dubai in April 2017.

Gender Equality and Diversity

Given the interest demonstrated by Members during the 7th Session of the WCO Capacity Building Committee, and in order to continue the Organization’s commitment to support gender equality and diversity, the WCO Secretariat engaged in a number of initiatives.

In September 2016, the WCO hosted a meeting of the Women in Trade Network that focuses, inter alia, on promoting the proactive engagement of women on topics related to global trade. The event gathered more than 100 women, with European Union Commissioner Cecilia Malmström attending as a guest speaker.

The WCO also participated in a meeting entitled “How does trade policy impact gender equality?” in January 2017, and attended a UNDP Seminar on the role of women in leadership in administrations in the context of trade facilitation and revenue collection that was held in Cairo, Egypt.

The WCO Secretariat reviewed its LMDP to better incorporate a gender perspective, and in October 2016, it sent a survey to its Members aimed at collecting information on gender and diversity policies within Customs administrations or at a national level, as well as statistics on the overall gender balance within administrations and at senior and middle management level.

Concerning the survey, the WCO has received very good feedback from its Members, with a total of 57 responses. The results will be used to further develop the WCO’s gender equality and diversity agenda – for instance, by establishing an informal working group.

Donor Engagement

Two donor-related events were held during the 2016/2017 period: one for the WCO West and Central Africa region in May 2017, and another for the WCO Americas and the Caribbean region in March 2017.

WCO capacity building 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 development banks, national development agencies, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and international organizations.


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