What is ECOWAS?
The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of 15 countries, founded in 1975. Its mission is to promote economic integration in "all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters ....." ECOWAS is one of the pillars of the African Economic Community.
The ECOWAS Member States are: Benin, Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
ECOWAS was an attempt to overcome the isolation of most West African countries following the colonial period and the period of post-independence nationalism.
See the Treaty of ECOWAS.
What does it have to do with child rights?
Article 4(g) of the ECOWAS Treaty guarantees its peoples: "The recognition, promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and People Rights."
The Office of the Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, part of the Commission, created the Gender, Youth and Child Division in 2003. Projects of the Division include the Youth Programme and the Child Development Programme. The First ECOWAS Youth Forum was held from 10th to 16th August 2003 in Abuja, Nigeria. The forum provided a space where young people from across West Africa could interact, share experiences and learn lessons. The ECOWAS Child Development Programme is "devoted to the improvement of the quality of children’s lives, enhancing their dignity, protecting their inalienable rights, giving attention to their physical, mental, moral and spiritual development and welfare." Early childhood development activities include low-cost family and community-based intervention.
The objectives of the Child Programme are to:
- Facilitate the development, welfare and rights of children in the region.
- Ensure Member States adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Strengthen the capacities of social service providers and other child care agencies for the greater development, protection and care of children.
The Community Court of Justice
Considerable optimism surrounds the potential of the Community Court of Justice, especially the African Court of Human and People's Rights.
The Court first justices were sworn in on 2 July 2006, and has been receiving cases since 2008. The Court has jurisdiction to hear human rights cases provided that applications are not anonymous and not made while the same matter is pending before another international court for adjudication. Established under Article 15(1) of the Revised Treaty as the principal legal organ of the Community, its mandate is defined by Article 76(2) of the Treaty and by the Protocol on the Community Court of Justice.
The Court can rule on allegations of human rights breaches, and also issue "advisory opinions", when someone asks for clarification of a legal matter.
The ECOWAS peer review of the situation of children
The peer review proposal was discussed by ECOWAS Experts and Ministers, as well as heads of state and government, in November 2002. There is little information as to how the review has progressed in subsequent years.
The ECOWAS initiative was created in the larger context of the NEPAD peer review, the follow-up to the Special Session on Children and the ECOWAS Declaration on the Decade of a Culture of the Rights of the Child in West Africa (2001-2010). It outlines the objectives of the mechanism, principles for its conception and implementation, and elements of the mechanism (participation, process, secretariat and periodicity).
The review provides for the examination and assessment of the performance of a State by other States, with the ultimate goal of helping the reviewed State to improve its policy making, adopt best practices, and comply with established standards and principles. The examination is conducted on a non-adversarial basis, and relies heavily on mutual trust among the States involved in the review, as well as their shared confidence in the process. Peer reviews tend to create a system of mutual accountability.
As part of the follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children, many regions put in place inter-governmental mechanisms at the ministerial and/or heads of state and government level to monitor the implementation of the World Declaration and Plan of Action. Lessons learned from these experiences in Latin America and East Asia were used for the proposal of an ECOWAS peer review mechanism.
How does it work?
ECOWAS is made up of:
- The Commission: Makes recommendations and gives advice. This is in turn composed of: Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Finance, Office of the Commissioner for Agriculture, the Environment and Water Resources, Office of the Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Office of the Commissioner for Infrastructure, Office of the Commissioner for Macro-Economic Policy, Office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Office of the Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement
- The Community Parliament: This is comprised of the Assembly of the peoples of the Community, members deemed to represent all citizens of West Africa. It is comprised of a political and an administrative wing.
- The Community Court Of Justice:
- The ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID): This is in turn made up of a Council of Ministers, the Office of the Commissioner for Infrastructure, the Office of the Commissioner for Macro-Economic Policy, the Office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security and the Office of the Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement
The ECOWAS Commission and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, more often called The Fund, are its two main institutions designed to implement policies, pursue programmes and carry out development projects in Member States. Such projects include intra-community road construction and telecommunications; and agricultural, energy and water resources development.
- The legal protection of human rights within the framework of ECOWAS
- The law, practice and procedure of the Community Court of Justice
- Court procedure and the application of protocols