Border Management and Law Enforcement relating to Counter-Terrorism

This Working Group aims to provide guidance to Member States on implementation of the legal, institutional and practical counter-terrorism-related border control measures required. It focuses in particular on the following areas: terrorist mobility; integrity and security of travel documents; illicit movement of cash and bearer negotiable instruments; movement and processing of goods; illicit movement of small arms, light weapons, ammunition, explosives and weapons of mass destruction; aviation and maritime security; early-warning and alert systems; and control of open borders.


The Working Group was established to help Member States strengthen their border-management and border-control systems as set out in Pillar II, paragraphs 4, 5, 7, 8, 13 to 16 and Pillar III, paragraphs 2, 4 and 11 to 13 of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288).

Terms of Reference for the Working Group on Border Management Related to Counter-Terrorism have been developed.


The Working Group is currently implementing a project on coordinated border management, compiling all relevant international conventions, standards and best practices in an implementable and user-friendly format to help interested States build the institutional and procedural mechanisms for an effective border management system. A working template on coordinated border management has been finalized by the Working Group. This template will continue to be enhanced through ongoing dialogue and consultations with Member States and international organizations.



Core Entities:

Other Member Entities:


Key Document

Compendium of Border Control Instruments, Standards and Recommended Practices Related to Counter-Terrorism


The Working Group directs its activities across a number of key themes:

Mobility and processing of people

One significant consequence of the terrorist attacks carried out across the world over recent years is the increased linkage between the movement of people across borders and measures taken to safeguard national security. Because the very processes that facilitate travel and economic and cultural exchanges are also exploited by terrorists, measures aimed at preventing terrorism have become explicitly linked to the management and regulation of cross-border movements. These measures include implementing passenger integrated border-management systems, issuing secure travel documents, promoting exchange of information among stakeholders, training, and capacity-building. Improvements in these areas can help enhance security and immigration systems while also facilitating the cross-border movement of people. Some of these measures are technologically complex and highly innovative, but a number of simpler measures can be implemented in traditional areas of migration-management with a view to enhancing overall capacity. Such measures should always be justified by the level of threat faced, particularly as increased security can lead to increased obstruction and to potential intrusion into privacy and civil rights.

Integrity and security of document issuing process

Travel-document security and identity management are important tools in preventing terrorist mobility and in combating trans-border crime. In the hands of terrorists, a fraudulent travel document can be as dangerous as a weapon. As modern passports have become more secure and more difficult to forge, criminals and terrorists have increasingly attempted to falsify supporting documents (birth certificates, national ID cards, etc.) or to apply for “officially issued” passports. It is therefore essential that States develop and implement universal specifications for identity management and travel-document security (including in the issuance process) in order to address these vulnerabilities.

Movement of cash and other bearer negotiable instruments

The smuggling of cash and/or bearer negotiable instruments (BNI) across borders is among the preferred methods employed by terrorists to move funds across international borders, whether for the purposes of terrorist financing or in order to launder the proceeds of illicit activities. Governments entrust their customs services with the implementation of border control measures that comply with international norms, as a means to detect and prevent the illicit movement of cash and BNI. Rigorous compliance with these norms would improve border control effectiveness in this area. The fight against terrorist financing is an integral part of the United Nations counter-terrorism approach, as reflected in many of its resolutions and conventions.

Movement and processing of goods

Global trade and the international supply chain are particularly vulnerable to manipulation by terrorists. In order to minimize this vulnerability, a range of measures should be taken, including ensuring receipt of advance electronic cargo information about inbound, outbound and transit shipments; employing a consistent risk-management approach to address threats to cargo security; using non-intrusive detection equipment; promoting cooperation among customs administrations (e.g. by performing outbound inspection of high-risk containers and cargo); and establishing partnerships with the private sector for the implementation of secure practices at every stage of the supply chain, through Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes. Implementation of these and related measures is essential in order to increase the security of international trade and facilitate the flow of goods across international borders.

Movement of small arms, light weapons, ammunition, explosives & CBRN

The illicit trafficking and movement of small arms, light weapons, conventional ammunition and explosives, as well as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials and dual-use goods, compounded by changing patterns in the arms trade and the involvement of non-trade actors, presents significant problems that must be addressed by global counter-terrorism efforts. In the hands of terrorists, these munitions and materials become the ingredients for terrorist attacks. Effective regulation, export controls and border management, including legislative and enforcement measures, can minimize the risk that such items will be either diverted to, or illicitly acquired by non-State actors. These measures should respect the need to maintain a proper balance between export controls and the facilitation of legitimate trade.

Maritime security

Over 90 per cent of the total goods traded internationally is transported from source to destination along the world’s main global sea-trading routes. The security of the maritime domain is therefore an issue of global importance. The aims of maritime security are to detect and deter security threats; to take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities; and to safeguard passengers, crews, ships and their cargoes, port facilities and the people who work and live in port areas, while still allowing for the safe and efficient movement of maritime trade. Effective implementation of the relevant legislative and practical security measures is necessary in order to prevent unlawful acts against the passengers and crew of ships engaged in international voyages and against the port facilities that serve them.

Aviation security

Acts of terrorism remain serious and consistent threats to international civil aviation. Addressing these threats requires the establishment of comprehensive and responsible policies and security measures aimed at ensuring the physical security of aircraft and airports. The adoption of legislative provisions to criminalize acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation, and the effective implementation and enforcement of relevant aviation security standards and practices, would significantly enhance the capacity of States to defend against these threats.

Early warning and alert systems

Border security is a dynamic and evolving process. Because the illegal cross-border movement of people adversely affects not only the security, but also the political, economic and social welfare of States, Governments now focus on cooperative security efforts, in the understanding that unilateral actions are no longer effective. Comprehensive early-warning and alert systems are therefore key components of effective border management systems. They strengthen the collective capacity of States to detect, prevent and combat terrorism, by facilitating inter-agency cooperation and the timely sharing and exchange of pertinent, reliable information, thereby enabling critical decisions to be taken in a responsible manner.

Many international organizations with a border-control mandate utilize or promote early-warning and alert systems, whether with tools developed by the individual organization or with tools developed for use by the international community. Those tools include the WCO CEN and RILO networks; IMO SOLAS, LRIT and AIS; the Consolidated Lists of the Security Council “sanctions” committees, and the “I-24/7” secure global communications system, SLTD database and Notices regime of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

Control of the open border

The open border (the frontier between official land-border and seaport check points) continues to facilitate the illegal cross-border movement of people, including terrorists and criminals, and of goods (including small arms, light weapons, ammunition and explosives, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material). Governments recognize the importance of securing the open border and attempt to do so through a variety of measures, including surveillance, patrols, physical barriers, joint control operations and patrols, information exchange, intelligence assessments, and engagement with border communities on control and policing issues. Concerted control efforts by the relevant authorities are required in order to effectively address the risks presented by the open border.

The overarching need for respect for human rights

The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy reflects a clear affirmation, on the part of Member States, that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting, but rather complimentary and mutually reinforcing goals, and that human rights and the rule of law constitute the fundamental basis of the global counter-terrorism effort. In adopting the Global Strategy and its Plan of Action, Member States resolved “to recognize that international cooperation and any measures that we undertake to prevent and combat terrorism must comply with our obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and relevant international conventions and protocols, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law” (A/RES/60/288, Annex, preambular paragraph 3, reaffirmed in A/RES/64/297). The General Assembly has also emphasized the overarching need to ensure respect for human rights in counter-terrorism efforts in over 60 resolutions on international terrorism. With specific regard to border control, the Assembly called upon States "to ensure that guidelines and practices in all border control operations and other pre-entry mechanisms are clear and fully respect their obligations under international human law, particularly refugee law and human rights law, towards persons seeking international protection" (A/RES/62/159, paragraph 8, reaffirmed by A/RES/64/221).