WCO – World Customs Organization

Secure the harmonization and standardization of Customs procedures and the development of Customs techniques.


The main mission of the WCO is to secure the harmonization and standardization of Customs procedures and the development of Customs techniques in order to facilitate and secure international trade. Being the only organization uniquely focused on Customs issues, the WCO is particularly noted for its work in areas covering the development of global standards covering topics, such as commodity classification, valuation and rules of origin, compliance, cross-border enforcement to combat illicit trade, trade facilitation, the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures, the security of the trade supply chain, and the promotion of integrity. To support its activities, the WCO undertakes extensive Customs capacity building initiatives and empirically-based research into topical Customs and trade issues.

The Organisation has gained a reputation as a positive force, enabling governments to attain their policy objectives through strengthening cooperation between Customs administrations and between Customs and other international trade stakeholders, by promoting Customs-business partnerships and inter-agency cooperation, including coordinated border management, both at the national and international level. The WCO’s partnership approach also extends to many international and regional organizations, global business bodies and the donor community, including international and regional development banks and development agencies.


The WCO is an international intergovernmental organization, first established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC). The inaugural session of the Council took place on 26 January 1953, which is now celebrated annually as International Customs Day. With the 1990s seeing a huge surge in membership, in 1994 the CCC agreed to adopt the working name “World Customs Organization or WCO” in order to better reflect its new orientation as a truly global institution. Today the WCO has 179 Members drawn from all continents and representing all levels of socio-economic development, responsible for processing more than 98% of international trade. It is governed by a Council representing all Members, which meets once a year. The Council is supported by a Policy Commission, a Finance Committee and an Audit Committee. Throughout the year, the WCO’s many committees and working groups meet to develop global standards, exchange best practices, and seek solutions to Customs-related problems. Global and regional forums covering various topical issues are also held when necessary.

Staff Numbers

Some 150 staff members, representing over 40 nationalities, work at the headquarters of the WCO located in downtown Brussels. The building was custom-designed for the WCO and the Organization took occupation in 1998.

Interpretation Service

The Interpretation Service falls within the Division of Administration.

There are at present (2012) 2 full-time staff interpreters, one of which is an AIIC member. When they are not in the booth, interpreters also undertake translation duties in their respective languages. Around 25 to 30 freelance interpreters familiar with Customs issues and the “Customs language” are hired in the course of a year to assist at meetings when necessary. On average, 250 contract days are awarded to freelances a year. The AIIC-WCO Agreement sets out the conditions of employment of freelance conference interpreters.

Nature of work

The official working languages are English and French, so all staff interpreters must work into and from both of these languages. At present, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish are used on occasion. The WCO is obliged to provide Spanish interpreting services for meetings relating to the practical administration of the WTO Valuation Agreement and the WTO Agreement on Rules of Origin. Meetings at the WCO tend largely to be of a technical nature, but on occasion can deal with issues relating to policy, strategy and global standards. International conferences and capacity building/training sessions are also held throughout the year, including occasional media events. Some 90% of interpreted sessions take place at WCO headquarters in Brussels. Staff interpreters may at times be required to service meetings abroad. Work is almost exclusively simultaneous.

Recruitment conditions and benefits

The WCO does not as a rule organize competitive exams for new staff interpreters. Most candidates have already established their reputation as freelancers in Brussels or elsewhere. When a position becomes vacant, it is advertised and eligible candidates are interviewed by a panel of interpreters and non-interpreters from within the Organisation. As international civil servants, all WCO staff members benefit from tax-free income, medical coverage, education allowances for their children, and for qualifying staff members, expatriation allowances and home leave once every two years.


The WCO is located in downtown Brussels. The building was custom-designed for the WCO and the Organization took occupation in 1998.

Rue du Marché 30
B-1210 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: 32 (0)2 209 92 11
Web site: www.wcoomd.org
General contact: communication@u1tphu.wcoomd.org

Recommended citation format:
Staff Interpreters. "WCO – World Customs Organization". aiic.net October 12, 2012. Accessed June 3, 2020. <http://aiic.net/p/6294>.

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