Ministers and Senior Government Officials have told the Social Affairs and Gender Commissioner of ECOWAS that President Julius Maada Bio and the New Direction Government are committed to addressing Human Security issues and are very much committed to solving them.

This assurance happened at a High-Level Advocacy Session with Ministers and Senior Government Officials on the implementation of ECOWAS International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Trafficking In Person (TIP), Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Child Rights Texts in the context of COVID-19 Pandemic.

In his opening remarks, as chair of the occasion and also responsible for ECOWAS Affairs, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai said the advocacy meeting was happening at the right time when government seriously prioritizes issues of GBV, IHL, TIP and Child Rights.

He said as a government, they have tried to identify some of the challenges connected with Human Security issues and that they are firmly committed to addressing them, citing President Julius Maada Bio’s declaration of a State of Emergency to prevent Child Sexual Abuse, enactment of strong laws backed by severe punishments for defaulters of GBV and Child Sexual Offences and the recent cabinet approval of the Women’s Empowerment Bill, and government’s continued compliance with all ECOWAS legal instruments. He also informed the High-Level gathering that the government has made a 100 percent payment of ECOWAS Community levy, totaling 4.2 million dollars.

In her statement, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, expressed her excitement at the presence of the high level representation from government, noting that it was a clear demonstration of their personal and country’s commitment and strong belief in the vision of ECOWAS.

She said that at the Advocacy Session with the Vice President yesterday, she did not only agree with the need to ensure effective mainstreaming of protection and human security rationale into Sierra Leone COVID-19 Response and Recovery plan, as well as in the Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023), but also committed to the establishment and coordination of an ECOWAS facilitated Sierra Leone Protection and Human Security Integrated Coordination Mechanism from her office.

Dr. Jagne applauded the efforts of President Julius Maada Bio and the progress his government has made in addressing human security issues, adding that it was geared towards realising the vision of strengthening the ECOWAS community as a whole. She also made nine recommendations that Government could consider to strengthen Human Security and the Protection Web in Sierra Leone.

The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, in his brief statement, noted the importance of the occasion, adding that issues related to women, trafficking, international humanitarian law among others are at the center of the ECOWAS Parliament’s work. He said that he would continue to collaborate with the ECOWAS Commission to ensure conversations around Human Security are ongoing.

Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawalli together with Minister of Social Welfare, BainduDassama-Kamara both outlined the services and interventions their ministries were undertaking in ensuring the ECOWAS text on Human Security are achieved. They both referred to the toll-free line set up to report sexual and gender based violence cases, the one-stop centre established to provide services on gender based violence, and the State reforms among other currently undertaken to address of issues of SGBV.

Deputy Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament, Hon. Segepoh affirmed Parliament’s role in enacting progressive laws that have contributed to human security and protection. He said Parliament has shown considerable commitment in making sure the cardinal principles of IHL and other forms of Human Security are adhered to.

Responses and comments from other Senior Government Officials including Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Prof. David Francis; Minister of Defence, Retired Brig. Kellie Conteh; Deputy Minister of Finance, Patricia Lavalie; Deputy Minister of Justice, Umaru Napoleon Koroma; Chief Immigration Officer, Andrew Jaiah Kai-Kai and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Elizabeth Turay all commented on the role their respective ministries and institutions play in addressing Human Security issues.

The Ministers and Government officials underscored the critical importance of budget support to implement their programs on Human Security issues, coordination and capacity building of relevant stakeholders in the protection of all vulnerable persons, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.