The second – and final – phase of the WCO Asia/Pacific Security Project (APSP) concluded on 31 August 2020 after 17 months of successful implementation. The Government of Japan provided funding to the tune of USD 500,000 for this second phase, which commenced in April 2019. The aim of the project was to ensure sustainability of the activities, training and equipment provided under the Programme Global Shield (PGS) and Passenger Controls initiatives during Phase 1 of the Asia/Pacific Security Project, which concluded on 30 June 2019.
During the initial phase of the project, the WCO provided Customs administrations of the region with 65 Raman spectrometers and 19 backscatter x-ray machines. In addition, passenger targeting systems were implemented in two countries, and a wide range of training and operational activities were conducted in nine partner countries across the Asia/Pacific region. The second phase of the project focused primarily on sustaining the operational activities in the nine Southeast Asian countries, but also on expanding and integrating PGS activities into South Asia.
Over the past few months, the project has been addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel restrictions. During this time, the project team has adapted the training materials to an online learning environment and developed innovative training methods that combine online training with real-time remote demonstrations. Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, described the APSP as a “Great success, highlighting how well the Asia/Pacific Security Project managed to support the WCO Members in the region and effectively contributed to enhancing the national and international security capabilities to combat the movements across borders of foreign terrorist fighters and components used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.”
Six national PGS training events were delivered to 147 Customs officers from seven countries under the project. A landmark event was the PGS training course organized for the first time in the Maldives, with Afghan Customs officers attending the training sessions together with Maldives Customs officers and other law enforcement officials. The techniques learned during the training course were put into practice during two multilateral PGS operations jointly coordinated by the project and INTERPOL. The involvement of both the WCO and INTERPOL in the operations’ planning phase resulted in strengthened law enforcement collaboration during the execution of the operations, which in turn led to the success of the operations.
Furthermore, 99 participants also benefited from four national Passenger Controls training courses, with three of them delivered virtually after the COVID-19-related travel restrictions entered into force in most targeted countries. The project also assisted with the implementation of the WCO Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS) in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Cambodia.