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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has validated the report of the evaluation of the Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the elimination of child labour, especially the worst forms in West Africa.
In a two-day virtual meeting, the experts adopted the report of the findings of the evaluation of the implementation of the Regional Action Plan with amendments, and made key recommendations on concrete actions that can accelerate and scale-up interventions, with additional resources at country and regional levels.
Those, the body said is to meet SDG 8.7 to end all forms of child labour by 2025 forced labour, trafficking and modern slavery by 2030.
In her welcome address, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, underscored the importance of the meeting by highlighting that nearly 73 million children are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.
In addition, she noted that about 48 million children aged 5-14 depend on labour for survival in West Africa alone.
Jagne stated that child labour is one of the protection priorities of the 2017 ECOWAS Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation against children in West Africa.
She cited the ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention 138 on the minimum age for work and the ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour by all ECOWAS Member states as indication of the progress being made to implement RAP, and called for more urgent action by social partners and the Member states of ECOWAS to combat child labour.
Meanwhile ECOWAS has commenced efforts to strengthen Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) in West Africa.
At the meeting, the Ministers brainstormed on CBC developments at regional, zonal and national levels, on the heels of the adoption of the new ECOWAS CBC regional planning programme (2017-2021) with a need to harmonize operational structures.
Apart from reviewing the programme updates and validating its operational tools, the Ministers also looked at the CBC priority zones and projects including identified COVID-19 response initiatives including how to build synergies, agree on a regional plan of action as well as modalities of support and ultimately map out a way forward for programme implementation at regional level.
The Commissioner for trade, customs and free movement. ECOWAS Mr. Tei Konzi noted that it is incumbent on delegates to plan for a new programme phase of the CBC building on the concrete gains already achieved while starting the full implementation of the programme in all 15 ECOWAS Member States with the requisite operational tools and funding mechanism in place.
The Commissioner noted that stakeholders desire the presentation and adoption of three important instruments that will guide the successful operationalisation and development of CBC in West Africa in the coming years.
The instruments are the New Revised ECOWAS CBC Regional Support Programme (ECBCSP) 2021-2025 and its Funding Mechanism being the ECOWAS CBC-FMM Fund and Operational Tools as well as the Draft Regulation of the Regional Fund.
Konzi further disclosed that the ECOWAS Commission had worked with all stakeholders in Member States and with technical and Development Partners, through a very participatory approach to ensure ownership and a people oriented Programme.
He stressed that a successful implementation of the laudable integration programme will facilitate trade and free fluid movement of persons, goods and services across-borders as well as bring about development to border regions, ensuring sustainable livelihoods for grass-roots communities.