By John Okeke
The ECOWAS Commission has begun a two-Day in-country engagement meeting with stakeholders to promote the domestication and implementation of the African Union (AU) Kampala Convention for the protection and assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)s in West Africa.
The engagement, which is being piloted in the three West African States of Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria, was flagged of virtually on the 11th of November, 2020 with sensitization and advocacy on the domestication and implementation of the Convention in Nigeria.
The Convention addresses internal displacement caused by armed conflict, natural disasters and large-scale development projects and provides, among others, protection for IDPs.
In her welcome address at the meeting, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne restated the uniqueness of the convention given its legally binding status.
She noted that whilst the West African region may not have made significant progress in the area of domestication and implementation of the Convention, landmark strides have been recorded by Member States in signing and ratification of the Convention leading to its coming into force in 2012.
Pledging the continuous support by the ECOWAS Commission for the convention process, she reminded that the West African region has seen much more internal displacements than most parts of Africa in the last decade with over 3 million IDPs, and stressed that Nigeria is once again expected to take the lead in the domestication and implementation of the Convention.
She reiterated the ECOWAS Commission’s call on “all stakeholders in Nigeria to bring forth their experience, expertise and political will to enable this process to thrive and succeed”
In the same vein, Commissioner Jagne charged participants to come up with enduring conclusions that will lead to the speedy domestication of Convention in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, noting that its implementation in the region’s most populous country, will alleviate the suffering of the internally displaced population, while enhancing their social and economic empowerment and in the long run, create an enabling environment to close up the humanitarian-development nexus.
The Nigerian Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq who spoke through a ministry official Mr. Charles Nwanelo, pledged Nigeria’s commitment to the process and efforts at domestication of the convention which she disclosed, are at various stages of completion. She also stated that the country was now focusing on “transition and nexus”.
Nigeria’s Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI) Senator Basheer Mohammed commended ECOWAS for bringing together the various stakeholders. While looking forward to the technical session’s recommendations, he expressed deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by “humanitarian actors and frontline workers” who constantly put their lives at risk for a safer and stable society.
Maintaining that the collaboration between her organization and ECOWAS has endured for about two decades, the UNHCR Representative Ms Chansa Kapaya held that going forward, progress and consolidation of the existing partnership depend on the ability to adapt to new trends and challenges. Speaking in similar vein, the UN special rapporteur for rights of the IDP Cecilia Jimenez-Damary affirmed that the global body will continue to remain available to support Nigeria’s efforts at promoting the domestication of the Kampala Convention.
The various presentations and interventions during the technical sessions of the meeting are expected yield an outcome that would be in aid of the domestication and implementation of the Kampala convention in Nigeria.
Africa is host to a third of the world’s IDP; four million of which are in West Africa while only Niger has completed the processes of signing, ratification and domestication of the Kampala Convention. Eleven Member States have signed and ratified but yet to domesticate. Two others have signed but have not ratified, while another two have yet to either sign or ratify the Convention.