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ECOWAS Member States Experts Agree on The Need To Enhance Respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Its Integrity in the Region

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The ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) organised virtually the 18th/2021 Annual Review Meeting of the ECOWAS Regional Network of National Focal Institutions on Implementation of International Humanitarian Laws (RNNI-IHL) from 30 to 31 March, 2022 with the theme: Enhancing respect for IHL and its Integrity. Member States were charged to respect International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) during armed conflicts; and were also encouraged to establish or operationalise National Institutions for the implementation of IHL in their various countries; as well as ratify and implement all necessary Treaties. IHL is one of the most powerful tools the International Community has at its disposal to ensure the safety and dignity of people in times of war and armed conflicts. It seeks to preserve a measure of humanity amidst conflict, with the guiding principle that even in war there are limits.

The Director, Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, in her Welcome Address delivered by Hajiya Raheemat Momodu, Head of Human Security and Civil Society Division expressed ECOWAS’ delight at the commitment of the Member States to implementing IHL even amidst the rising cases of armed conflicts and terrorism in the region. She acknowledged the collaboration between the ECOWAS Commission and the ICRC and appreciated the support of the later in the organisation of the Annual Review Meeting for the past years. She updated the meeting on the progress with the implementation of the new Integrated Human Security programming approach of the Human Security and Civil Society Division. She said the Integrated Protection and Human Security In Country interventions with the main outcome of establishment of the ECOWAS Protection and Human Security Integrated Coordination Mechanism (ECO-PHSICM) has been completed in five Member States- The Gambia, Sierra Leone Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo under the Division’s 2021 workplan. And that eight Member States are planned for in 2022- Niger, Benin, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, Cote d Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Cabo Verde.

Other speakers at the Opening Ceremony include the ICRC accredited Representative to ECOWAS, Mr. Yann Bonzon represented by the ICRC Deputy Head of Delegation, Mr. Leonard Blazeby. He reiterated the importance of respect to IHL in the region and solicited for the continued commitment of the participants in the implementation of IHL in the region. The Meeting featured reporting by Member States on the implementation of ECOWAS IHL Plan of Action (2019-2023) and 2021 National IHL Priorities; and Outlook on 2022 IHL Priorities. There were also Presentations by Experts on thematic areas geared towards enhancing respect for IHL and its integrity. Some of the thematic sessions include: States’ obligations in relation to the criminalization of IHL violations; Preserving the integrity of IHL in the context of the repression of terrorism; Competent jurisdictions for the repression of war crimes and acts of terrorism; and ICRC Guidelines on Investigating violations of IHL.

At the end, the meeting agreed on the need for the establishment and operationalisation of National Institutions to monitor the implementation of IHL in Member States. It also made critical recommendations to facilitate the work of all stakeholders in driving the implementation of IHL in the region.

In closing, the ECOWAS Commission reiterated its commitment in supporting all Member States in the implementation of IHL and in improving the protection and human security fortunes for all ECOWAS citizens and for all persons within the ECOWAS space. The Representative of the ICRC, Mr. Leonard Blazeby congratulated ECOWAS and the Member States for very engaging discussions and excellent outcomes and recommendations and pledged the continued support of ICRC to ECOWAS and the Member States to the outcomes to bear.

Participants at the Meeting included ECOWAS Staff, ICRC Staff, and Member States Focal Institutions for the implementation of IHL. Representatives of Chad and South Africa participated as observers in the spirit of inter regional cooperation through experience sharing.