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With UN's help, West African nations agree on steps against human trafficking

With UN's help, West African nations agree on steps against human trafficking

West African experts at a United Nations-sponsored conference have agreed to an action plan committing their countries to take steps in the next two years towards eliminating human trafficking.

The plan adopted at the just-concluded Meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings in Accra, Ghana, calls for the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ratify and fully implement international instruments of ECOWAS and the UN that strengthen laws against human trafficking and protect victims of trafficking, especially women and children.

The two-day meeting, which ended on Wednesday, was held in cooperation with the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP). The 15 ECOWAS member States are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

According to ODCCP, trafficking in human beings is pervasive and growing in West Africa today, with the involvement of organized crime driving this growth and increasing the number of the sub-region's citizens who suffer its depredations.

Two main types of trafficking exist in the sub-region: trafficking in children mainly for domestic work and for farm labour across and within national borders; and trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation mainly outside of the sub-region. Poverty is a major driving force in the rise of trafficking in human beings, and women and children are easily lured into trafficking networks by recruiters who promise lucrative jobs abroad.

The action plan will be submitted for adoption by the annual Summit of ECOWAS Heads of States in December. It will commit countries to adopt laws criminalizing trafficking in human beings and to build the necessary administrative structures. Working in co-operation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other representatives of civil society, ECOWAS countries will take responsibility for protecting trafficking victims. They will also develop public awareness campaigns aimed at potential victims of trafficking, using both traditional channels of information as well as the mass media.