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ECOWAS, IOM Host Migration Dialogue for West Africa Conference

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, May 9, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and IOM this week hosted a three-day Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA) Conference in Accra, Ghana, consisting of an Experts Meeting, followed by a Ministerial Meeting.

The Conference brought together high-level government officials and policy-makers from all fifteen ECOWAS Member States, as well as national and international experts and civil society representatives to discuss free movement of persons, regional integration and economic cooperation in West Africa.

MIDWA was founded in 2000 by ECOWAS, in coordination with IOM, to provide a regional platform for Member States to discuss and seek joint solutions to common migration issues. It is one of sixteen regional consultative processes worldwide dedicated to migration issues.

The Experts Meeting focused on the status and revisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the Right of Residence and Establishment (the Protocol); the economic benefits of free movement for intra-regional trade; and the dynamics of the Protocol implementation.

The Ministerial Meeting – the first of its kind for many years – sought to validate the recommendations of the Experts Meeting and more importantly, to approve MIDWA operational modalities, which provide for its structure, mandate and administration.

With these meetings, organized as part of the five-year European Union (EU)-funded programme to support free movement of people and migration in West Africa, ECOWAS and IOM hope to increase awareness among the Member States and other stakeholders of on-going revisions of the Protocol, of economic benefits stemming from its implementation, and the contribution of the free movement of people and goods to enhancing investment and trade in West Africa.

“I am delighted to see the high level of attendance by ECOWAS Member States, which testifies not only to their commitment to this regional migration dialogue, but also to their willingness to incorporate migration discussions firmly into their regional integration and development agenda,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM's Regional Director for West and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ultimately, the re-invigoration of the MIDWA process through this year's meetings will allow for the institutionalization of this important regional migration process as an inherent part of the ECOWAS free movement architecture.

“The West African sub-region enjoys one of the most vibrant cross-border movement dynamics on the whole continent and is increasingly seen by Member States as an opportunity for their common aspiration towards regional integration and socio-economic cooperation for development,” said Charles Kwenin, IOM's Senior Regional Advisor for Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Our success in regional integration hinges on our collective commitment, which has a lot to do with the will of our political leadership to ensure effective and efficient implementation of relevant policies and recommendations, that will enhance the living standards of our citizens,” said ECOWAS Trade, Customs, Industry and Free Movement Commissioner Ahmed Hamid.

The MIDWA meetings are part of the EU-funded “Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa” project and are implemented jointly by the ECOWAS Commission and a consortium of partners – IOM, ICMPD and ILO.

The project is unique in its make-up and resources. It brings together four international counterparts who work jointly at regional, national and local levels to deliver capacity-building and policy support in key areas of migration management, including, but not limited to, labour migration, counter-trafficking, migration data management and policy development, immigration and border management.