Given the emerging socio-economic scenario vis-à-vis the current international and domestic security threats, the World Customs Organisation has very aptly dedicated 2015 to promoting Co-ordinated Border Management (CBM) under the befitting slogan "Co-ordinated Border Management- An inclusive approach for connecting stakeholders". This theme encapsulates the vision of incorporating the enhanced co-ordination practices and mechanisms that the WCO members have introduced nationally with economic stakeholders involved in cross-border trade as well as with other international Customs administrations.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2015
Essentially, CBM denotes a co-ordinated strategy by border control agencies, national and international, with the pretext of enabling greater efficiencies over trade management and trade volume while simultaneously balancing the prerequisite compliance.
Being a silent tribute to its sovereignty, borders have played a pivotal role in maintaining the sanctity of the state in multidimensional aspects including economic sanctity. They have acquired different facets depending on geo-politics and peace in the regions. Borders have inherently enjoyed diversified roles emerging as "barriers" in areas of international conflict or "bridges" where good relations and peace thrives. Similarly, in response to 9/11, borders have transformed from their traditional bounds and have "pushed out" where they do not correspond to geographical limits as is the case of the United States of America. This has contributed to the somewhat melting of the orthodox borders into "virtual" ones starting at the point of exit of the exporting countries.
In the light of the fast changing world economic scenario, the WCO has endeavoured to introduce a mechanism which has a holistic approach of co-operation and facilitation. Through the CBM, it aims to facilitate trade and the clearance of travellers at the same time ensuring secure borders. This strategy can in general be argued to consist of two different dimensions. The first is a domestic border management system which involves domestic co-ordination within and between agencies of one state whereas the second envisages an international border management system including neighbouring countries and trading partners.
On a national level, whether inter or intra service co-operation between units within a government, the prerequisite for efficient corporation is political will. In the absence of this will, there may not be sufficient direction to carry out collaborative tasks reviews and comparisons within agencies. The missions of agencies within a country should ideally be compatible and not competitive and must aim to carry out articulate joint exercises which thus remove redundancy of areas where features overlap and that contain little value addition.
On an international front, cross border agency control is the other key pillar of CBM. It depends on a vigorous legal framework between two or more countries, launched through a policy declaration, or a bilateral/multilateral agreement. This can concentrate on diversified aspects like border posts, harmonisation of requested documentation, the development of an enabling legal framework covering mutual recognition of controls and exchange of data, joint maintenance of infrastructure and non-intrusive inspection techniques. Joint patrols and frequent meetings between member states can promote harmony while understanding the shared risks to each country's sovereignty, security and economy. Consequently, this shared experience can promote adaptation of best international practices and the gradual introduction of the same into the national system of Co-ordinated Border Management.
The introduction of the CBM approach by the WCO, not only requires strong political will in its favour but also the full involvement of all its stakeholders particularly the private sector. It is the private sector who will be the beneficiary of the CBM system and ultimately be the judge of its success. It will also be the supplier of many of the services ie construction and infrastructure needed for its implementation. An efficiently managed border will benefit all government clients ie the traders and travellers. This will result in fewer interventions concerning goods imports and people movement as the interventions will be targeted against high-risk shipments and passengers as a result of global co-ordinated border management. Fewer interventions equal less time spent at the border which results in lesser dwell time and cheaper transport costs.
The aim, therefore, of the WCO through the pragmatic introduction of CBM and the inclusive approach regarding all stakeholders, is thus a progressive one auguring a collaborative and efficacious method of strengthening global economic ties while safeguarding national sovereignty and security.