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- Published on Sunday, 23 September 2012 16:16
- Written by Admin
ECOWAS should strengthen its role in Conflict Resolution with the active involvement of Member States in order to achieve more successes, said participants of a just-ended Sensitization Campaign on the Protocols, Conventions and Activities of ECOWAS integration processes. This was one of the 23 recommendations of a three-day
meeting which ended in Lagos on 20th September 2012, with participants drawn from various spectrum of Nigerian society, including political leaders, public and private sectors, Non-state actors, civil society organizations, Customs and Immigration Services, NGOs, the media among others.
The participants also recommended that ECOWAS should ensure the ratification and domestication of all its Protocols by Member States, with sanctions imposed on defaulting nations to ensure strict compliance. ECOWAS should also ensure greater involvement of relevant private sector stakeholders (OPS, CSOs, NGOs, etc) in Member States in the conceptualization, crafting and implementation processes of all its integration policies and protocols.
The jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, the meeting said, should cover matters not only on human rights violation but also trade and commercial disputes within Member States, with a mechanism for alternative dispute resolution put in place. The Court should also increase its accessibility by developing electronic platforms and enable national judicial systems of Member State to create sub-registries.
It was equally recommended that the Community Parliament should be re-structured to make it more functional and efficient in addressing the needs of Member States while its powers should be enhanced to enable it play a legislative role, in addition to its present consultative mandate.
The participants also urged that the implementation of the ECOWAS flagship Protocols on Free Movement of Persons, Goods and services should be strengthened through the removal of all illegal check points along the border corridors, curbing of incessant harassment of persons by border operatives, and the establishment of a “Special Task Force” to handle issues of extortion and corruption and other impediments along the border.
ECOWAS should also put in place a mechanism to protect transporters operating along the border corridors from incessant harassment and extortions by operatives, while documentation relating to transportation should be harmonized. ECOWAS should also revive the moribund ECOMARINE project to remove the impediments in shipping of goods across the region.
The meeting called for adequate sensitization of Community citizens on the use of the harmonized ECOWAS Passport to ensure effective monitoring and to build a database on migration of persons within the region for proper planning purposes, while adequate security should be put in place to halt the illegal movement of arms and ammunitions across the borders.
The participants recommended that the Protocol on the ECOWAS Trade Liberation Scheme (ETLS) should be reviewed to ensure that issues arising from false documentation (based on Rules of Origin) activities are curbed, with Focal Points on ETLS set up to facilitate the processes, and inceptives put in place to motivate the citizens for greater participation.
They also called for more enlightenment campaigns to be carried out by Member States on the ETLS Process, wile ECOWAS should ensure that multiple charges (e.g. transit cost, etc) by Member States are abolished to ease free regional trade.
The meeting equally called for the harmonization of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) with the World Customs Organization 2012 HS Code and efforts intensified to ensure compliance by Member States.
On the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) being negotiated between ECOWAS and the EU, the meeting recommended that the negotiations should be conducted with the welfare of Community citizens as priority consideration while taking into account the peculiar characteristics of the economies of Member countries. The negotiations have stalled over disagreements on some issues including those of market access, the EPA development fund to enable ECOWAS Member States cope with the adjustment costs of the EPA as well as the Most Favoured Nations Status.
The participants also called on ECOWAS to facilitate the creation of unified economic specification through harmonization of its customs, trade and commercial documents and operational procedures within the region.
The ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) should also identify and collaborate with local banks with regional networks within Member States and sensitize the business community on the accessibility to the bank’s funds. A Desk should also be created and maintained at designated local banks to give information on the EBID applications, while the bank should promote private sector growth.
The participants also recommended that ECOWAS Agriculture and Agribusiness Development Strategies should address issues related to the development of Regional Agricultural Master Plan to accommodate peasantry agricultural activities and the development of harmonized agricultural curriculum for agricultural faculties in regional institutions to facilitate effectiveness and uniformity in the implementation processes.
The strategies should consider the inclusion of three principal and peculiar cash crops from each Member State (e.g. oil palm, cocoa, kolanut, cashew, rubber, etc) to broaden the scope of product representation for regional export trade, and to ensure the processing and packaging of both food and cash crops to add value to the chain.
The participants also called on ECOWAS to ensure the review of regional policies and documentation processes to check the menace of money laundering through capital flights in Member States, and also ensure that all National Standards Bodies in the region should work together towards ensuring products standards harmonization, certification, compliance and enforcements to effectively remove all technical barriers to trade.
ECOWAS should also put in place, laws against terrorism and terrorism financing, while Member States already with such laws should review them to adequately face current and emerging challenges.
The meeting urged ECOWAS to vigorously pursue the regional electricity programme and ensure that the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA) work in partnership with National Electricity Agencies of Member States to ensure stable power supply in the region.
The participants recommended that ECOWAS should work in partnership with the media and journalists in the region to ensure effective sensitization of the business community and the public on its regional integration programmes and processes.
They also called on all stakeholders including the political leadership, public and private sectors, non-state actors, academia, BMOs, CSOs, NGOs, the media etc, should play their part to complement ECOWAS’ efforts to facilitate sustainable development and regional integration.
The meeting organized by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ECOWAS Commission, was declared open by the Honourable Minister of State II, Dr. Nurudeen Muhammed, represented by Ambassador Kabir Garba, Under-Secretary in charge of Economic and Consular affairs in the Ministry
The President of the ECOWAS Commission His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo was represented at the opening by the Vice-President Dr. Toga McIntosh.