Programme Global Shield: a look into new activities planned for the next three years
Following the signature of two new grant agreements with the European Union and the US Department of State, new activities have been scheduled under Programme Global Shield (PGS) for the next three years (mid-2022 to mid-2025) for the benefit of all WCO Members.
Launched in 2010, PGS is an initiative aimed at building Customs capacity to monitor the licit movement and counter the illicit trafficking and diversion of explosive precursor chemicals and other components of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The threat posed by IEDs is a global problem. Although not a recent phenomenon, the use of IEDs in modern warfare and by terrorist groups has grown exponentially in the 21st century. Part of the reason that IEDs are so prevalent is that they are cheap and relatively easy to manufacture. They can be made from a range of materials, including commercially available chemicals such as ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate – two chemicals used in the production of fertilizers. PGS ultimate objective is therefore to eliminate the threat of IEDs and save lives.
The team in charge of the Programme at the WCO Secretariat supports Customs administrations by undertaking an assessment of their enforcement capacities, promotes cooperation among Customs and Police, engages with private industry, trains Customs officers in detecting and handling precursor chemicals, and facilitate investigations and organizes enforcement operations. They do so while partnering with INTERPOL and the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), as well as many experts from Customs and other enforcement agencies.
Depending on funds available, certain countries are provided with presumptive test kits for frontline officers, as well as electronic chemical detection devices. Experts have been accredited and Customs officers have been trained to conduct training in their home administration. In addition, PGS training curricula have been integrated into the programmes of some Customs academies. PGS is also aimed at increasing information exchange between Customs administrations and the WCO secretariat to enable comprehensive analysis of illicit trade. To reach this objective, Customs administrations have been called upon to appoint PGS National Contact Points (NCP).
Finally, Customs administrations are encouraged to reach out to private stakeholders in the chemical industry in order to increase awareness of the dual-use capability of the precursor chemicals they manufacture, distribute or retail.
Whereas, in the past, support used to be provided to specific countries and regions based on grant agreements, the activities to be rolled out up to mid-2025 are now open to all WCO Members. They include:
- workshops on safety and security in handling, transporting and storage of dangerous goods;
- workshops on detection methods for precursor chemicals, and the use of detection devices;
- a global conference;
- regional and global enforcement operations;
- the procurement and provision of detection devices (Raman Spectrometers, PGS detection kits);
- the delivery of quarterly analysis reports compiled by the PGS Team and shared with the Programme partners, key stakeholders and Customs administrations participating in the programme in order to support their national risk assessment.
Currently (October 2022), around 100 Customs administrations are participating in the Programme and exchanging information, through their respective National Contact Points (NCPs), on the licit and illicit movement of precursor chemicals and IED components. Customs administrations who have not yet advised the WCO Secretariat of their interest in participating in the Programme are invited to do so. All WCO Members will be invited to participate in the workshops and planned PGS Global Conference, and to join the global enforcement operation.
The Conference will be held from 2 to 4 November 2022 at WCO Headquarters in a hybrid mode. It will bring together Customs officials, PGS NCPs and experts to discuss recent IED attacks, trends in the illicit trade of chemicals, data collection and information exchange, the analysis to be undertaken by the PGS team as well as cooperation mechanisms. The WCO Secretariat has already sent out invitations to its Members, partners and key stakeholders. If you have received an invitation, kindly confirm your participation as soon as possible. If you are interested in the Conference but have not received an invitation, please contact the PGS Team using the email address below.