WEST AFRICAN STATES AND UN JOIN HANDS
ECOWAS and ODCCP/CICP Expert Group to Discuss Trafficking
VIENNA, 18 October (UN Information Service) - A political declaration and an action plan against trafficking in human beings in the West Africa region will be the two documents discussed at the joint ECOWAS and UN ODCCP Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Trafficking in Human Beings. The EGM will be held in Accra, Ghana at the International Conference Center from 23 to 24 October 2001.
Experts from each of the 15 ECOWAS member states2, covering the areas of justice, interior (law enforcement, immigration, border control), and social affairs will attend the EGM. Relevant intergovernmental organizations such as UNICEF, ILO and IOM, NGOs and other interested countries are expected to attend. The responsible entity within ODCCP is the Centre for International Crime Prevention (CICP), carrying out this initiative within the framework of its Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings.
The meeting will formulate a political declaration against trafficking in human beings and a strategy and an initial plan of action to eradicate trafficking in persons in all member countries. The strategy and initial action plan will provide concrete orientation and guidance on the most urgent issues, and define selected and achievable goals and objectives within clear time limits. It should serve to guide subsequent practical measures, including the formulation of technical assistance projects in this area. It will also contribute to strengthening international co-operation among ECOWAS countries and the capacity of government law enforcement, prosecution and other criminal justice institutions, the situation of victims of trafficking, as well as civil society stakeholders to better fight against trafficking in human beings in accordance with the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
The results of the meeting will be submitted through the ECOWAS Ministerial Meeting for adoption by the annual Summit of ECOWAS Heads of States to be held in December 2001.
Trafficking in human beings and the involvement of organised crime in it, while a problem of global dimensions, is of particular concern to the West Africa region. The flows of traffic are complex and driven by traditional practices as well as the exploitation of victims on the international scale. Two main types of trafficking have been identified: trafficking in children mainly for domestic work and farm labour across and within national borders, and trafficking in women and young girls for sexual exploitation abroad.
A number of ECOWAS countries have participated in bi- and multilateral initiatives addressing certain aspects of trafficking and there is a growing awareness of the urgency to develop well-coordinated joint initiatives at the regional level. So far, however, the crime prevention and criminal justice aspects of the issue have not been adequately addressed. There is a lack of legislation, institutional structures are weak, and with a few exceptions at the bilateral level, there is as yet no comprehensive, agreed-upon policy to address trafficking in persons, either nationally or regionally.
ECOWAS and a number of key member countries are now aiming at the development of joint policies and action among its member countries. During its 25th session, the ECOWAS authority directed the Executive Secretariat to prepare proposals on ways to combat trafficking, and particularly of trafficking in children. Complementing the efforts of the international community towards speedy signature and ratification of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols, particularly the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons, ECOWAS aims at generating support at the highest political level for an action plan to eradicate trafficking in human beings, reflecting both regional concerns and international standards.
In this context, ECOWAS is appreciative of the initiative taken by the Togolese Republic to address the issue of trafficking in human beings and advocate counter-measures at the highest political level, expressed by its President on the occasion of the visit of the Executive Director of ODCCP, Mr. Pino Arlacchi, in June 2001.
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