By Abujah Racheal
The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) is unhappy over the slow pace in the implementation of policies to tackle human trafficking.
The sub-regional body said unless member-states took steps to implement the policies, human trafficking in the sub-region would continue to increase.
Mrs Chioma Nwana of Social Affairs and Gender Department, ECOWAS, expressed the disgust at the First Africa Regional Conference of the Santa Marta Group in collaboration with the Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (CCFN), on Wednesday in Abuja.
The theme of the two days conference is “Church and State Working Together to Restore Dignity to Trafficked Persons”.
Nwana said that in spite of regional and global progress, the challenge of human security and combating human trafficking, especially to protect children, had made it imperative to outline ECOWAS legal and policy framework on it.
She said that the adoption and implementation of the ECOWAS plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in persons in 2001 was a milestone.
She added that a new plan of Action 2018 to 2022 adopted by Ministers and approved by the ECOWAS Heads of States in 2017 gave impetus to the enforcement of measures on the menace.
“Unfortunately, very few member-states are hitherto, slow in taking bold actions in implementing effective policy measures to combat and stem human trafficking.”
Nwana stated that the development objectives of the 2018 to 2022 ECOWAS Plan of Action against trafficking in person was for all persons, especially women and children within the region to benefit from.
According to her, the vision of ECOWAS commission is to see that the ECOWAS community has effective protection measures against trafficking in persons, which is assessable by all persons within the region, especially women and children.
She stated that ECOWAS vision had been carved out in the Action Plan as its development objectives, adding that in subsequent years, the objectives were supplemented by the policy on Protection and Assistance to human trafficking victims.
“This policy provides a framework for victims to be identified and assisted with a view to rehabilitating them by restoring their dignity and reintegrating them socially and economically.
“Furthermore, ECOWAS adopted the Guidelines on Witness Protection, Support and Assistance which provides framework that will ensure that witnesses are unimpressed in their giving testimony before courts of law,” she said.
Nwana said other actions by the commission to combat trafficking in persons included assessment of compliance by member-states with Palermo protocol, assistance to member-states in developing National Plans of Action and establishing National Task Forces (NTF).
“Various capacity building initiatives and annual compliance checks with member-states through the annual review and reporting system have been useful in ensuring a focused implementation of international obligations in combating human trafficking,” she said.
She, therefore, called on participants to deliberate on the critical questions of how member-states could work together to domesticate the ECOWAS Plan of Action to win the war against human trafficking. (NAN)