24 December 2001


ECOWAS Heads of State and Government Take Action on Trafficking in Human Beings, Corruption and Money Laundering at Dakar Summit

VIENNA, 24 December (UN Information Service) -- Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) made strong steps ahead in the fight against organized crime at their 25th Summit in Dakar on 20-21 December. The meeting adopted a Political Declaration against Trafficking in Human Beings, a sub-regional Plan of Action, a Protocol on Fight against Corruption, and declarations of support to the ECOWAS structure combating money laundering, the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering (IAMGL).

The United Nations Vienna-based Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) has been working with ECOWAS in fighting trafficking in human beings, corruption and money-laundering. The Political Declaration and the Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as the Protocol against Corruption were prepared by the ECOWAS-ODCCP Expert Group which met in October 2001 in Ghana. They were adopted and proposed to the Heads of State Conference by the Ministerial Meeting held on 17 December.

The Plan of Action commits ECOWAS countries to urgent action against trafficking in persons in 2002-2003, setting achievable goals and objectives. In his welcome address, President Wade from Senegal called for countries to ratify and fully implement crucial international instruments of UN and ECOWAS that strengthen laws against organized crime, notably human trafficking, and protect victims of trafficking, especially women and children, as stated in the Action Plan.

In a closing speech as the new Chairman of the West African Community, President Wade also reaffirmed West African political will to combat terrorism, in particular through the fight against money laundering. In that context, he called for assistance of the international community in view of strengthening the IAGML, established by the West African Heads of State’s decision in 1998. This initiative has been strongly supported by ODCCP. He also urged Member States to ratify the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime.

In the presentation of his activities report, Mr. Kouyaté, the ECOWAS Executive Secretary welcomed the future establishment in Senegal of a UN West Africa Office, aiming at bringing an integrated approach to sub-regional problems. Mr. Ibrahim Fall, Under- Secretary General for Political Affairs, Representative of the UN Secretary General, confirmed how important this decision was for the United Nations.

Apart from President Wade, the Heads of State present in Dakar were Mathieu Kerekou (Benin), Blaise Compaore (Burkina Faso), Yahya Jammeh (Gambia), John Kuofor (Ghana), Kumba Yala (Guinea-Bissau), Alpha Oumar Konare (Mali), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Tejan Kabbah (Sierra Leone) and Gnassingbe Eyadema (Togo). The other ECOWAS Member States (Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Liberia, Cape Verde) were represented by their Prime Minister or a Minister.

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