The growing incidence of financial and cross-border crimes such as human and drug trafficking, cyber crimes, fraud and terrorism have become a major security threat to West African countries with millions of lives and properties being destroyed. It’s a worrying times for developing countries over the spate of transnational crimes that are fast gaining root in the sub-region.
The Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Gifty Twum Ampofo has called on reps of ECOWAS countries to forge strong collaboration within the West African to effectively fight the aforementioned crimes which is threatens our security and stability.
She noted that perpetrators of these crimes take advantage of globalization, trade liberalization and exploring new technologies.
According to her, women and children suffer the greater part of the generally increasing reports of financial and cross border crimes in the sub-region.
She said this at a 3day regional forum of 15 ECOWAS reps on Gender and Youth Dimensions of Financial and Cross-border Criminality in West Africa organized by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC) in Accra.
In addressing the issue, the sector minister indicated that this requires an all-inclusive approach towards the gender disparities and high rate youth unemployment.
“We need to further invest in quality education in order produce the right set of people for development. We also have to strengthen the cross-border law enforcement agencies so as to enable them effectively check the frequent crimes that impedes its internal relations and development,” Hon. GiftyTwumAmpofo stated.
She emphasized that Ghana has empowered institutions and legal frameworks to address the menace such as Narcotic Control Board, Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the Human Trafficking Unity under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
Deputy Director General of Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Mr. Brian AnkuSapati, said ECOWAS has envisioned to create a borderless, peaceful, prosperous and cohesive region built on good governance and where people have the capacity to access and harness its enormous resources through the creation of opportunities for sustainable development and environmental preservation by the year 2020.
He indicated that members of organized criminal group and terrorists organisations are mobile and often seek to evade detection, arrest and punishment by operating across international borders.
Mr. Sapati posited that they take advantage of the porosity of our borders and play on the frequent reluctance of law enforcement authorities to engage in complicated and expensive transnational investigations and prosecution.
“Therefore the inability of any one state to effectively address these threats translates itself into an overall weakness in the international regime of criminal justice administration. For states with relatively weak criminal justice capacities, these challenges can often time appear insurmountable,” he stated.
The Deputy Director General of GIABA added that international initiatives require countries to adopt and effectively adopt standards to fight money laundering and terrorist financing with then view to taking the profit out of crime and applying appropriate sanctions to deter criminal elements from perpetrating their nefarious activities.
He intimated that the mission of GIABA, a specialized institution to promote concerted action in the design and diligent Implementation of harmonized anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes in West Africa, consistent with international standards and thereby enhance the safety and stability of the economies of member states.
According to him, the forum is also a response to the call by the Authority on member states to intensify ongoing efforts against drug trafficking and other organized crimes, by strengthening enforcement mechanisms, including expanding the scope of predicate offences for money laundering to cover all acquisitive offences and prosecute those responsible for drug trafficking and economic and financial crime within member states by ensuring there is no impunity.
The Director of ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC), Mrs. Sandra OulateFattoh E stressed that one very important emerging dimension of the dynamics if organized crime in West Africa that needs critical attention is the growing involvement of women and the youth, both as active participants and as victims.
She indicated that this phenomenon which is largely fueled by poverty and to an extent by greed is done in the form of forced recruitment of children or young girls and women for the purposes of economic and sexual exploitation.
According to her, every year, between 3,800 and 5,000 girls and women are reported as victims of human trafficking in the sub-region.
Mrs. Sandra OulateFattoh E emphasized that mainstreaming gender and youth issues into the relevant policies and mechanisms will not only bring about equitable participation in decision making on issues bordering on the prevention of economic and financial crimes and violence extremism, it will also ensure a more committed appropriation of the process, transparency, accountability and a strong sense of purpose.
The forumaimed at bringing together key stakeholders in ECOWAS member states to share knowledge, experiences and best practices with a view of defining a comprehensive framework to mainstream gender and youth into the fight against financial crimes and related issues in the ECOWAS region.