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The Authority of Heads of States and Governments of Member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been urged to instruct their finance ministers to make adequate provisions in their annual budgets funds to tackle the lingering crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in the sub-region.
This was one of the recommendations made by the ECOWAS Parliamentarians at the closing ceremony of the ECOWAS Parliament Third Delocalized Meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Social Services, Agriculture, Environment, Water Resources and Sustainable Development, Infrastructure, Energy, Mines &and Industry, Human Rights, Child Protection and other Vulnerable Groups, which ended in Lome Togo at the weekend.
The theme of the meeting was “ Contribution of the International Organisations and Non- Governmental Organisations towards the provision of Health Care, Housing and Food for Displaced Persons and Refugees in West Africa: Parliamentary Approach to the Adoption of Community Standards.”
2nd Deputy Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament and Member of Parliament from Cote d’ Ivoire, Kamara Aminata Toungara, while closing the session, noted that this would enable the region to provide food, shelter, education and to protect the human rights of the victims, saying “we have important role to play as Parliamentarians in consolidating democracy and provide assistance to internally displaced persons and reintegrate them into our society”.
Contributing, a Member of Parliament from Ghana, Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, told reporters in an interview that budgetary provisions have become necessary so that West African countries will not always rely on international agencies for assistance. He stressed that the budgetary provisions will become helpful during periods of emergencies.
“We are looking at the health, the security of IDPs and refugees but some of the support that goes to the IDPs and refugees normally come from the international agencies such as the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the rest. But what we are saying is that our respective countries in West Africa can do better.
“They must make provisions in their country’s budgets to take care of especially Internally Displaced Persons. You cannot sit in your country and think that you may not have displaced persons. It can arise out of natural disaster. If houses are destroyed by let’s say a weather storm, people are displaced. So it is not only out of conflicts that you have displaced persons. So we must prepare for it. We don’t have to wait until we are locked down and then we start calling on international organizations to come to our aid,” he said.
Although the lawmaker did not give the budget figures expected from member countries he noted that adequate consultation must be made to work out the modalities to raise enough funds within the region to address the needs of the displaced persons.
“We must also try as a community to create a fund for refugees because most of our countries are affected by conflicts, wars whether tribal or religious wars. So is a way of anticipating some of the troubles we have in our sub-region and then prepare adequately to meet the situation. So, on our parts as a parliament in the sub-region, we are going to make proposals to the authority of heads of states so that they also talk with the finance ministers that annually when they make budgets they must make provisions for it,” he said.
He also called for more inclusive governance in West Africa and to put mechanisms in place to avoid wars and conflicts in order to minimize the refugee and the IDPs crisis. “This is because the budget that goes to refugees and IDPs can build our roads, can build the water systems, and build the infrastructure. But some of these wars are senseless but we perpetrate them and after that we have to look for money to take care of those that have been affected,” he said.
Another Member of Parliament from The Gambia Kebba Barrow, noted that the key action plan of the Delocalized meeting is to move the agenda forward to the level of the ECOWAS Parliament and one of the key recommendations and action plan is to do more consultation with the ECOWAS commission.
He said further that “with the experts that have given deliberations on the displaced persons and refugees, these things can only be done through capacity building, popularization of the text and also legal instruments with civil society organization and the wider society to enable people to better understand the legal framework on displaced persons in West Africa and the world at large.”