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7th Annual Meeting of Steering the Committe of WAN

Annual meeting in Accra of the Steering Committee of the West Africa Network

A Rapidly Growing Network

Accra, Nov. 27 - The seventh annual meeting of the Steering Committee of WAN took place from 22 to 27 November 2011 in Accra, Ghana's capital. 12 participating countries including 4 new countries and, for the first time, the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were represented and have noted the strong growth of the network. To date, some 1,800 children have been reintegrated into their countries and within their families. Witness to this positive momentum: a regional coordination office of the Network will open in spring 2012 in Burkina Faso.

The meeting was organized by the partner of WAN in Ghana, the association RECFAM.
The official opening ceremony of the Steering Committee was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Women and Children affairs, Ms. Hawawu Boya Gariba. In her opening speech, she reiterated the need to develop a framework of cooperation and set up real migration policies for children and young people, who are particularly vulnerable groups among the migrants.

The 12 countries currently members of the Network WAN responded to the call. They were represented by both personalities of the Ministries in charge of child protection as NGOs coordinating WAN in member countries. The Steering Committee officially welcomed Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo in WAN. The NGOs ESAM (Benin), RECFAM (Ghana), Save the Child Initiative (Nigeria) and ‘Espace Fraternit√©’ (Togo) are the coordinators of the Network for their country. In addition, preparatory missions will take place in 2012 in Cape Verde, Liberia and Sierra Leone for their integration into the network that will then cover the 15 countries of ECOWAS.

Debate on "Migration and Development"
Ahead of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, held in Geneva the following week, a debate was attended by the participants in the Steering Committee, representatives of NGOs and the Ghanaian authorities and international organizations. The debate’s proposed topic was “Children on the move and young migrants, factors of positive change and development". The discussions underlined that when migration is done on a voluntary, safe and regular way it’s a source of wealth for children, families and the countries themselves.

In addition to the multicultural aspects, migration can include a transfer of skills, experience, human resources and financial help to countries. Advocacy should also be made to ensure that the positive aspects of migration are more emphasized in the future and away from the negative label that adjoins systematically to migration today.

Future regional office
On the occasion of the meeting, the Swiss Foundation of ISS (International Social Service) has announced the opening of a regional office in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, during the first half of 2012. It will host the Network Coordinating Office. A call for applications for the appointment of a representative and regional coordinator will be launched in the coming weeks.

As for the Swiss partners, attended the Swiss Foundation of ISS - represented by its director, Rolf Widmer, and the head of WAN, Olivier Geissler - and the Institute for Rights of the Child (IDE), represented by its director, Jean Zermatten. The latter, who currently chairs the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, chaired also the meeting of the Steering Committee.

Two observers were invited for the first time to attend, Mr. Olatunde Olayemi for the ECOWAS Commission, and Mr. Djibril Fall from Terre des Hommes Lausanne, on behalf of the regional project "Mobility". These two representatives were invited in response to a recommendation of Bamako, which called for better coordination of actors at the regional level.

Involvement of many actors
During the week, WAN regional standards of care for children have been validated by the various countries. In addition, the program was varied, allowing professional exchanges both in plenary and in workshops and during field visits.

Participants were kindly invited to a reception by the Swiss Ambassador to Ghana, Togo and Benin. The latter noted the involvement of Switzerland in migration issues, including support for the WAN by DDC. It should also be noted that since this year the European Union, ECOWAS, as well as numerous private and public sponsors, support the movement begun by the WAN. The multiplicity of funding partners is welcome and shows awareness and collective responsibility of the partners in West Africa and Europe on issues related to the development, migration and child protection.

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