The Members of Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have called on member states to have special funds for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in the sub-region.
These recommendations were made by the lawmakers at the closing ceremony of the Third Delocalized Meeting of the Joint Committee held in Lome, Togo.
A statement by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on Sunday, 23 June 2019, said Aminata Toungara, the second Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament noted that if member countries have such funds at their disposal, it would enable the region to provide food, shelter, education as well as protect the human rights of the victims.
She noted that the Parliamentarians have important roles to play in consolidating democracy and provide assistance to the internally displaced persons and reintegrate them into the society.
However, another member of Parliament from Ghana, Kwasi Cheremeh, said that budgetary provisions had become necessary, so that West African countries would reduce reliance on international agencies.
According to him, if there are budgetary provisions for the IDPs and refugees, it will become helpful during the periods of emergencies.
“We are looking at the health, security of IDPs and Refugees. But some of the support that goes to the IDPs and refugees normally come from the international agencies.
“Such as the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the rest. But what we are saying is that our respective countries in West Africa can do better.
“They must make provisions in their country’s budgets to take care of Internally Displaced Persons. You cannot sit in your country and think that you may not have displaced persons. It can arise out of natural disaster.
“If houses are destroyed by, let’s say a weather storm, people are displaced, so it is not only out of conflicts that you have displaced persons which we must prepare for. We don’t have to wait until we are locked down and then we start calling on international organisations to come to our aid,” he said.
According to him, adequate consultation must be made to raise enough funds within the region to address the needs of the displaced persons.
“We must also try as a community to create a fund for refugees because most of our countries are affected by conflicts, wars; whether tribal or religious wars. So, it’s a way of anticipating some of the troubles we have in our sub-region and then prepare adequately to tackle it.
“So, on our part as a parliament in the sub-region, we are going to make proposals to the authorities of Heads of States so that they also talk with the finance ministers that they must make provisions in their annual budgets,” he said.
He also called for more inclusive governance in West Africa, stating that they should put mechanisms in place to avoid wars and conflicts in order to minimize the refugee and the IDPs crisis.
“This is because the budget that goes to refugees and IDPs can build our roads, can build the water systems, and build the infrastructure, but some of these wars are senseless, but we perpetrate them and after that, we have to look for money to take care of those that have been affected,” he said.
In his speech, Chernor Bah, from Sierra Leone, admonished African leaders on the need to address the root causes of refugees and internal displacement caused mainly by political instability, ethnic clashes and corruption.
“As a sub-region, we are under obligation to ensure that real and genuine democracy is obtained within our sub-region, those things leading to instability must be addressed,” he said.
According to him, West African leaders must address the problems of hunger and create jobs for the teeming population.
The joint committee meeting, however, recommended that national parliaments should assist states to ratify and implement the Kampala Convention in a holistic manner.