Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Ministers in charge of Humanitarian Affairs in ECOWAS member states have adopted the humanitarian policy and the ECOWAS action plan during their meeting on Friday, in Cotonou, Benin.
A press statement from the sub-regional organization said that ministers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo validated the draft report from the Experts Meeting which preceded their meeting.
The need for member states to create unique national agencies for the management of emergencies and to place them at a high level of the state apparatus was one of the recommendations made by the experts, who insisted that states must also enforce the provisions of humanitarian policy and action plan diligently and efficiently.
Member States and the ECOWAS Commission must jointly ensure the integration of cross-cutting issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and gender, people with disabilities and other related issues in strategies and humanitarian action plans.
ECOWAS will also facilitate harmonization and standardization of approaches to building an effective disaster management. It will also undertake missions in the Member States to promote the implementation of humanitarian policy and its action plan.
In their recommendations, the ministers stressed the need that States should ensure the priority the provision of funds necessary for the functioning of national agencies for managing emergencies.
They will also, in conjunction with ECOWAS, develop and implement plans for monitoring and evaluating Humanitarian Policy and Action Plan.
Both parties are encouraged to fully explore the benefits of South-South cooperation in the implementation of humanitarian policy and action plan as much as they will promote the sharing of experiences for capacity building in management of emergencies.
Other recommendations are intended exclusively for ECOWAS, which should strive to strengthen the capacities of Member States, particularly in reducing disaster risk and response to emergencies for the effective implementation of Humanitarian policy and action plan.
ECOWAS must respond promptly to assist Member States in emergency situations and is encouraged to assist in identifying victims in mass disasters while member states will ensure wide dissemination of policy and action plan for their effective implementation.
The meeting was chaired by the Benin Minister of Interior, Public Security and Religious Affairs, Mr. Benedict Degla.
At the opening ceremony, ECOWAS Commissioner of Human Development and Gender, Dr. Adrienne Diop, emphasized the importance and relevance of the ECOWAS humanitarian policy, which aims to standardize the practice of action in humanitarian affairs by the Member States by promoting a balanced link between humanitarian action, human security and human development across the sub-region.
The approach, based on the principle of solidarity, will focus on priority areas of conflict, natural disasters and man-made disasters, mixed migration and the protection of refugees.
After the opening ceremony, the delegation of ministers, accompanied by experts and Dr. Diop, paid a courtesy visit to the Head of State of the Republic of Benin, Dr. Thomas BoniYayi.
President Yayi, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, has engaged in a genuine plea for greater unity among African countries in general and the sub-region of West Africa in particular.
"Indeed, our sub region is faced with numerous challenges individually and collectively, especially in the field of disaster management and issues of peace and security. We have to unit and work together to combat these challenges because no state should tackle it in isolation," he said.
Yayi listed the various ills facing ECOWAS member States as natural disasters and anthropogenic climate change, conflict, famine, malnutrition, many phenomena that only a united effort can fight.
-0- PANA PR/VAO 20March2012