Let’s forge a strong alliance...Dep. Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection
...to fight financial and cross-border criminality in West Africa
The Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Gifty Twum Ampofo has stated that a strong alliance must be formed within the West African sub-region to effectively fight financial and cross-border crimes which threaten security and stability.
Some of these crimes, according to her, are money laundering, bribery, corruption, cyber-crime and fraud. Others are terrorism financing, drug trafficking, and human trafficking.
She explained that government has enacted the Human Trafficking Act (ACT694) which proscribes, punishes perpetrators of human trafficking and provides for the rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of human trafficking. This she stated is to help reduce the aforementioned crimes in the country.
“However to address the issue in an all-inclusive manner, we need to critically address the disparities in gender and high rate of youth unemployment. We need to further invest in quality education in order to produce the right set of people for development”, she said. “We also need to strengthen the cross-border law enforcement agencies so as to enable them effectively check the frequent crimes that impede its external relations and development”.
The Deputy Minister made these remarks at the ongoing Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC) Regional Forum on Gender and youth dimensions of financial and Cross-border criminality in West Africa.
The forum is to bring together the main stakeholders in ECOWAS Member States to share knowledge, experiences and best practices. This will enable the mapping out of a global framework for the incorporation of the gender and youth dimension in the fight against financial crime; particularly money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes in the ECOWAS region.
The forum also seeks to facilitate the development of policies, strategies and programmes designed to combat financial and other related crimes; to develop a consensual approach on how strategic and operational issues relating to gender and youth can be addressed as well as the relevant mechanisms to be mapped out in order to combat these scourges. Finally, this meeting will provide an opportunity to establish the framework for sustainable regional partnership on gender, youth and anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism in West Africa.
In West Africa, the key manifestations of organised crimes have been in the form of economic and financial crimes, such as money laundering, bribery, corruption, cyber crime and fraud, terrorism financing, drug trafficking, and human trafficking propelled by unbridled financial impropriety. These manifestations have encouraged extreme forms of criminality, including terrorism, violent extremism and radicalism.
The Director of ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC), Mrs. Sandra Oulate Fattoh stated that the dynamics of organised crime in West Africa which needs critical attention is the growing involvement of women and the youth, both as active participants and as victims.
She explained that out of the 349 million people in West Africa, women constitute 52 percent which indicates the majority of the West African population.
“It has also been estimated that 66 percent of the African population is less than 25 years, of which a significant proportion of these women and young people are out of school and unemployed; and are therefore being targeted by terrorists and other criminals for recruitment into their networks”.
Mrs. Oulate Fattoh said women and young people continue to suffer various indignities, including death, gross human right abuses, abductions, sex slavery, rape, sexual exploitations and abuse, giving an example of the abduction of over 250 in Chibok Nigeria by the Boko Haram in April 2014.
She affirmed that “This forum will add value to the already existing initiatives and that this will lay the foundations for a wider partnership and a stronger convergence of actors who are committed to a peaceful and stable West Africa and who are willing to contribute to the elimination of all forms of criminality in West Africa.”
During the three-day event, presentations will be made during plenary sessions and group discussions on topical issues of financial crimes and related challenges, while laying special emphasis on money laundering and terrorism financing, as well as the gender and youth dimension of these phenomena.
The expected outcomes of this Accra meeting include: the development of a regional action plan on the gender and youth component of the fight against transnational financial crimes in West Africa; the establishment of a framework for sustainable regional partnership on gender, youth and the fight against transnational financial crime in West Africa; and finally, the establishment of a network of practitioners in the fight against financial crimes, money laundering and terrorist financing with a gender perspective.