25 October 2001


ECOWAS and United Nations Meeting Agrees Action Plan in Ghana,
23-24 October

VIENNA, 25 October (UN Information Service) -- Experts from West African countries have agreed a political declaration and an action plan against trafficking in human beings in the region. The Meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings was held in Accra, Ghana by ECOWAS* in cooperation with UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP)**.

The plan of action commits ECOWAS countries to urgent action against trafficking in human beings in 2002 – 2003, setting achievable goals and objectives. The action plan calls for countries to ratify and fully implement crucial international instruments of ECOWAS and the United Nations that strengthen laws against human trafficking and protect victims of trafficking, especially women and children.

In West Africa today, trafficking in human beings is a crime that is pervasive and growing. The involvement of organised crime has driven this growth and increased the number of the sub-region’s citizens who suffer its depredations. The crime preys primarily on the most vulnerable, that is to say women, children, the poorest and the least educated. Two main types of trafficking exist in the sub-region: trafficking in children mainly for domestic work and for farm labour across and within national borders; and, secondly, trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation mainly outside of the sub-region. Poverty is a major driving force in the rise of trafficking in human beings and women and children are easily lured into trafficking networks by recruiters who promise lucrative jobs abroad.

The action plan 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. It will commit countries to adopt laws criminalizing trafficking in human beings and to build the necessary administrative structures. Working in co-operation with NGOs and other representatives of civil society, ECOWAS countries will take responsibility for protection of trafficking victims. They will also develop public awareness campaigns aimed at potential victims of trafficking, using both traditional channels of information as well as the mass media.

The action plan calls for new special police units to combat trafficking of human beings. Training for police, customs and immigration officials, prosecutors and judges, is also an important aim of the plan. This training will focus on the methods used in preventing such trafficking, prosecuting the traffickers, and protecting the rights of victims, including protecting the victims from the traffickers. It

will take into account human rights and child- and gender-sensitive issues, and encourage co-operation with non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society.

Under the plan, ECOWAS States will set up direct communication between their border control agencies and expand efforts to gather data on human trafficking. New research will study the means and methods used, as well as the situation, magnitude, nature, and economics of trafficking in human beings, particularly of women and children. The information gathered will be shared between all ECOWAS countries and the United Nations.

New procedures are planned that will help victims of trafficking to be returned to their country of origin and will help provide travel documents as may be necessary to enable a victim of trafficking to return to their home country.

States, through their Task Force or Agency on Trafficking in Persons, intend to coordinate and monitor the ongoing implementation of this plan of action at the national level and report, on a bi-annual basis, to the ECOWAS Secretariat. Under the plan ECOWAS will organize another meeting for 2003 to evaluate the implementation of this action plan, and make recommendations for further actions to be taken against trafficking in human beings.

Experts from the ECOWAS member states, covering the areas of justice, interior (law enforcement, immigration, border control), and social affairs worked together to develop the action plan, as did relevant intergovernmental organizations such as UNICEF, ILO, IOM, NGOs and other interested countries. 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.

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* ECOWAS - Economic Community of West African States. The 15 ECOWAS member states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.













** ODCCP - Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.