Press Releases

    UNIS/CP/422
    6 December 2002

    WEST AFRICAN STATES AND UNITED NATIONS IDENTIFY GAPS IN
    THE JOINT FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    ECOWAS and ODC Expert Group Call for Rapid Implementation of the
    Sub-regional Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings,
    Lomé, 2 - 3 December 2002


    VIENNA, 6 December (UN Information Service) -- The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African experts called for immediate action by States to implement the sub-regional Plan of Action against trafficking in human beings. The ECOWAS/UN Office on Drugs and Crime Joint Expert Group Meeting, which was held in Lomé, Togo, at the ECOWAS Fund Conference Center from 2 - 3 December 2002, adopted a series of recommendations which underline the need for urgent legislative and institutional measures, such as the ratification of international conventions, the criminalization of trafficking in human beings, the establishment of National Task Forces and special law enforcement units or the adoption of bilateral cooperation agreements to facilitate repatriation of victims. Collaboration with Central African States on trafficking in human beings issues was also discussed within the framework established by the Libreville Common Platform of Action (03/2002).

    The ECOWAS Declaration and Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was prepared in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (ODC) and adopted by ECOWAS Heads of States during their annual Summit held in Dakar in December 2001. The Conference was organised by the ECOWAS Secretariat and ODC, with the financial support of the Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons of the U.S. State Department. Within ODC the entity responsible for carrying out this initiative is the Centre for International Crime Prevention (CICP) within the framework of its Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings.

    Efficient implementation of the ECOWAS Plan of Action requires consistent and periodic consultations between the focal points within ECOWAS Member States to assess levels of implementation and share experiences with a view to improving collaboration and evolving common prevention techniques as well as protection policies. Mauritania also participated in the Expert Group Meeting confirming the urgent need for wider cooperation in the sub-region.

    Participants included experts and national focal points of ten countries from the region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo), intergovernmental organisations including UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) regional experts, Non-Governmental Organizations including Save the Children-Sweden, France and the U.S.A. as observers, and officials of ECOWAS and ODC. Trafficking in human beings and the involvement of organized 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.

    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 to generate support at the highest political level to eradicate trafficking in human beings, reflecting both regional concerns and international standards.

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