The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have validated the ECOWAS Plan of Action on the implementation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (2019-2023) during a four-day consultative meeting that ended November 2, in Abuja, Nigeria.
A statement issued at the weekend by the communication section of the ECOWAS Commission notes the Plan of Action seeks to ensure that International Humanitarian Laws are observed during armed conflict in the region thereby protecting the fundamental human rights of community citizen.
A key way to achieve this as stipulated by the validated Plan of Action is to disseminate information to security agencies and armed forces of Member States about the IHL, sensitize Civil Society Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and the judiciary as well as include IHL to school curriculums in the region, the statement said.
The participants also recommended that Member States implement the ECOWAS IHL Plan of Action at the national level by integrating it in their national IHL strategies, which will enable the Commission to attain its goal of implementing IHL in the region.
While addressing participants of the meeting, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender of the ECOWAS Commission, Siga Fatima Jagne stated that IHL being an extension of the rule of law in situations of armed conflict ought to be observed in West Africa due to the catastrophic effect such conflicts have had in the region.
The Commissioner stated that the validation of the Plan of Action and its concerted implementation will contribute in no small part to achieving the human security vision of the Commission as reflected in the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework.
She further informed participants of the meeting that the Plan of Action will be presented to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for adoption and subsequently to the Authority of Heads of States and Government for approval.
“The Plan of Action will serve as a basis for political and legal accountability for all of West Africa,” she said.
Also speaking during the meeting, Babatunde Nurudeen, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to ECOWAS, highlighted the protection of children, the eradication of sexual violence, issues related to migration and the welfare of Internally Displace People (IDPs), the protection of health care and the Red Cross emblem, counter-terrorism and arms control as key components of the Plan of Action, which was reviewed.
The Head of the ICRC delegation to ECOWAS, Eloi Fillion reaffirmed the commitment of the ICRC to provide technical assistance to Member states where required in the implementation of the Plan of Action.
Similarly, the representative of the Nigerian minister for foreign affairs, Joseph Udo Oyi, assured Member States of Nigeria’s support in the implementation of the Plan of Action.
Oyi stressed that, even though Nigeria is facing a lot of cases of terrorism, it is still committed to respecting IHL and human rights while addressing those challenges, the statement added.