The ECOWAS Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs held a consultation with the Regional Child Protection Working Group in Dakar Senegal from the 30th of November to the 1st of December 2023. The meeting was the first physical meeting between ECOWAS and the Regional Working Group on Child Protection since the advent of the COVID -19 Pandemic. During the Pandemic, the coordination meetings were held virtually, ensuring the continuation of implementation of the Joint Operational Plan between ECOWAS and the Regional Working Group on Child Protection.
In the welcoming address by Madam Adelise Baha from the S.O.S Children’s village on behalf of the Regional Working Group on Child Protection, she emphasized the critical importance of the collaboration especially in view of the evolving child protection situation in the region. She mentioned as being especially concerning, the situation of children affected by armed conflicts within the context of the crisis in the Sahel, in addition to other developments in the region. In the Opening Address by the Director Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki T. Ugbe, represented by Mr. Olatunde Olayemi Program Officer Social Dimension of Trafficking in Persons, he thanked all members of the regional working group and the three Member States Directors present at the meeting for their participation in the meeting and the commitment of all child protection advocates in the region for their work.
He provided a summary of the history of the collaboration between ECOWAS and the Regional Working Group on Child Protection, with the implementation of a First Joint Operation Plan from 2014 to 2016, the second Operational Plan focused exclusively on the execution of the Experts and Ministerial meetings leading to the adoption of the ECOWAS Child Protection Strategic Framework and the 3rd Operational Plan from 2018 to 2022. The stated that implementation of the latest plan was challenged by the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic, however, even during the Pandemic the collaboration between ECOWAS and the Working Group was still effective as evidenced by the issuance of the Joint Advisory to Member States on Minimizing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children with critical advocacy to ensure an absolute limitation of impacts of COVID 19 response measures on child protection requirements.
He also pointed out the substantial progress recorded in implementing the agreement on establishment of a Child Rights Observatory (the ECOWAS Child Rights Information System – ECRIMS).
The meeting featured presentations on the protection and human security focus areas of ECOWAS including on child protection and the ECOWAS Child Rights Information Management System (ECRIMS), the United Nations Children’s Fund presented its select database established at the request of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and proposed that this could be replicated for the ECOWAS region, while also supporting the full ECRIMS. Furthermore, the meeting participants assessed the levels of implementation of the Joint ECOWAS RWGCP Operational Plan 2018 -2022 and proposed a revised Joint Plan for the period 2024 to 2026.
A number of the key outcomes from the meeting were an agreement to ensure an additional focus on children’s participation as a critical component of ensuring protection with implication for all child rights issues (operationalization of the ECOWAS Child Policy provisions on child participation); adopted two additional areas to the 5 priority areas in the Child Protection Strategic Framework, namely: children in emergencies and affected by armed conflicts and children with disabilities, emphasized the importance of social protection and the promotion of positive parenting as measures to enhance child protection and to fully support inception plans and beyond of the ECRIMS.
In this wise, the requirement for an effective interface between the Child Protection lead functions at member state level and at the ECOWAS Commission, with National Statistical Offices and the ECOWAS Directorate of Statistics was emphasized as was the proposal for ECOWAS Child Protection Ambassadors in Member States; amongst other outcomes and recommendations.
Member Organizations of the Regional Working Group on Child Protection, including United Nations Agencies, INGOs such as the SOS Children’s Village International, International Social Service, MAEJT, ENDA, Alianza por la solidaridad, Terre des Hommes, amongst other organizations and the National Directors responsible for Child Protection in Cote d Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Togo attended the meeting.