Fact Sheet: World Customs Organization


Date of establishment 1952
Legal basis
  • Convention establishing a Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) signed in Brussels on 15 December 1950, entered into force on 4 November 1952
  • In 1994 the Council agreed to adopt the working name ‘World Customs Organization’ to better reflect the growth in its worldwide membership
Objective To enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations, to enhance the protection of society and the national territory, and to secure and facilitate international trade
Nature Intergovernmental organization
  • Members are Contracting Parties to the CCC Convention and governments of any separate Customs territory proposed by a Contracting Party having responsibility for the formal conduct of its diplomatic relations, which is autonomous in the conduct of its external commercial relations and whose admission as a separate Member is approved by the Council [Article II (a)]
  • 177 Members at 30 June 2012
Observers Representatives of non-Member governments or of international organizations may be admitted by the Council as observers [Article II (d)]
Geographical scope Global
Substantive scope All Customs matters, including the development of global instruments, standards and tools, the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures, the promotion of economic competitiveness, the security and facilitation of the global supply chain, the enhancement of Customs enforcement and compliance activities, the protection of public health and safety, the maintenance of the international Harmonized System goods nomenclature, revenue assurance, sustainable Customs capacity building and technical assistance, and the management of the WTO Agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin, as well as the United Nations (UN) Convention on Containers, 1972
Governance structure The Council is the supreme governing body, assisted by a Policy Commission, a Finance Committee and an Audit Committee, as well as a range of technical and advisory committees and working bodies, including an Enforcement Committee
Sources of funding Annual contributions from Members in accordance with a scale determined by the Council, as well as voluntary contributions and donations, including funds generated through various other means
Enforcement cooperation
  • The UN and its specialized agencies, such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, and the CITES Secretariat, as well as other intergovernmental organizations having competence or interest in environment-related matters and crimes, such as INTERPOL
  • NGOs and other partners, such as the Asian Network, the Basel Convention Regional and Coordinating Centres (BCRCs), the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law: Transfrontier Shipment of Waste (IMPEL TFS cluster), and the International Conference for Environmental Compliance (INECE) [See separate fact sheets]
Enforcement tools
  • Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs): As information and intelligence exchange is one of the pillars of the WCO Enforcement Strategy, the Organization set up a global network of RILOs.
    The RILO is a regional centre for collecting, analysing and supplementing data, as well as disseminating information on trends, modus operandi, routes and significant cases of fraud.
    The network currently comprises 11 offices situated around the world.
  • Customs Enforcement Network (CEN): To enable WCO Members to combat transnational organized crime more effectively, the Organization developed a global system for gathering data and information for intelligence purposes, known as CEN.
    It is not only a database; it is also a dedicated website and an encrypted communication tool, providing the possibility to share and disseminate information and intelligence on Customs offences in a timely, reliable and secure manner with direct access 24/7, and offering:
    • A Database of (non-nominal) Customs seizures and offences, comprising data required for the analysis of illicit traffic in the various areas of Customs competence
    • Alerts, as well as information of use to Customs services
    • A Concealment Picture Database to illustrate exceptional concealment methods and to exchange x-ray pictures
    • A communication network facilitating cooperation and communication between Customs services and CEN users at the international level
    The CEN uses modern technologies to perform reliable, secure and inexpensive operations. It is internet-based and has effective database protection, only permitting access to authorized users
  • ENVIRONET: As WCO Members recognize that environment protection is a global priority, the Organization launched ENVIRONET, a real-time communication tool for information exchange and cooperation in the area of environmental border protection among Customs services, competent national agencies, international organizations and their regional networks, as well as other enforcement authorities with similar responsibilities.
    As one of the Customs Enforcement Network Communication (CENcomm) applications, ENVIRONET is internet-based and accessible only to a closed user group (CUG), with information transmitted via the tool encrypted and secured.
Enforcement operations The WCO has organized and coordinated two global enforcement operations focusing on the illegal trafficking of hazardous waste: Operation Demeter in 2009; and Operation Demeter II in 2012
Contact information World Customs Organization
Compliance and Facilitation Directorate
Rue du Marché 30, B-1210 Brussels, Belgium
Email: enforcement@wcoomd.org
Website: www.wcoomd.org