WACSOF, deepening regional integration and fostering stability and development in West Africa


UNHCR Partners ECCJ to Ameliorate Human Sufferings in West Africa

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (ECCJ) have signed a partnership agreement to address legal issues affecting refugees,  asylum seekers, returnees, IDPs, statelessness in the ECOWAS sub-region.

The Partnership Agreement will enable UNHCR and ECCJ to establish a framework for cooperation in order to better protect the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, IDPs, stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness in West Africa.

It will also provide a platform for both parties to work together in ensuring the proper interpretation and application of relevant international, regional and national laws.

In an opening remark at the occasion, the UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Angele Dikongue-Atangana said though UNHCR and the ECOWAS Commission have made effective progress in the areas of durable solutions; refugee protection; free movement and rights of residence for asylum seekers and refugees; peace and security; early warning; the asylum-migration nexus; and capacity building for humanitarian emergency preparedness and response, people in the sub-region are still faced with challenges with regard to refugee, forced displacement and statelessness.

Ms. Angele Dikongue-Atangana explained that further partnership with the ECCJ will avail them the opportunity to improve the legal protection environment for persons of concern and ensure the full respect of their rights.

She stated that the main areas of cooperation through this partnership will be training and capacity building; UNHCR’s input to specific cases of issues of mutual concern; and information sharing.

To strengthen their partnership, the parties have agreed upon activities to span from 2015 through 2017 in a Joint Plan Action, of which she was optimistic will contribute to the development of the sub-region, thereby paving way for lasting peace with triangular relationship between Human Rights, Development and sustainable peace.

Speaking at the event, the President of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Honourable Justice Maria Do Ceu Silva Monteiro stated that if the issue of concern is left unresolved, it will remain an obstacle to the achievement of ECOWAS Vision 2020.

While emphasising that the ECCJ’s priority is to protect, save and empower lives, the President said the partnership will alleviate human sufferings in the sub-region and assured the court’s full support in this pursuit.

Also speaking, the representative of the ECOWAS Commission, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow commended the partnership and called for urgent attention for the protection of the concerned persons.

Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow noted that the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with UNHCR organized a Ministerial Conference on Statelessness in West Africa in February, 2015, with the aim of generating a common vision for addressing statelessness in West Africa and to identify and protect stateless persons as well as prevent and reduce statelessness within the region.

She further called for the provision of legislative backing through the creation of enabling laws that seek to protect the concerns of these individuals, proper interpretation and effective application of relevant international, regional and national laws.

Emphasising the important of the partnership agreement between UNHCR and the Community Court of Justice, the Acting General Secretary of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Mr Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani) said it will result in a well-protected community in light of the process of regional integration that will transition the community to ECOWAS of people.

Clearly stating the importance of the civil society participation through WACSOF, Mr Auwal Musa noted that it is pertinent that an average person of concern understands his/her rights as a refugee, IDP, asylum seeker, or stateless person.

He called for continuous information sharing between the two organizations and the civil society so as to keep the West African community properly informed of the activities of the two organizations relating to the people of concern.

Mr Auwal Musa stressed the need to equip Civil Society Organisations that support refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and stateless persons with sufficient resources, capacity and expertise to ensure delivery of accessible and effective services with unhindered humanitarian access in order to provide assistance and protection to populations of concern.

Also present at the occasion were the Ambassador of Liberia to Nigeria, Chairman of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in West Africa (NNHRI-WA) amongst others.


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