Freetown – 8 December 2017. Defence for Children International (DCI) – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and their partners just concluded their 4th convening and adopted a joint resolution to accelerate efforts on the issues of children on the move and child trafficking within the Mano River Union (MRU) region.
The convening gathered thirty (30) participants: members from three DCI National Sections in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, CSOs working in the Great Lakes (East Africa), representatives from the security sectors including the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police Force and the Office of National Security in Sierra Leone, leaders of national child trafficking taskforces, members of community-based organizations, and children’s networks in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Liberia.
As part of their joint programme to end internal and cross-border child trafficking in the Mano River Union (MRU) region, Defence for Children International (DCI) National Sections in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in collaboration with SABOU Guinea, have concluded their 4th Convening of Child Rights CSOs, government officials, and other key stakeholders from the MRU region and the Great Lakes region (DR Congo and Uganda) with the objective to accelerate efforts on the issues of children on the move and child trafficking. In particular it was done to develop sustainability strategies, increase states’ accountability measures in complying with international and regional laws, increase efforts to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of child trafficking, protect and reintegrate victims, in accordance with the ECOWAS standards and procedures for the protection and reintegration of children on the move and migrant youths.
Participants were able to identify common practical approaches and measures for CSOs to engage individual MRU States and sub-regional bodies on issues of children on the move and child trafficking. They also increased their knowledge on benchmarks and accountability measures to support future advocacy initiatives.
Building upon ongoing initiatives to tackle internal and cross-border child trafficking in the sub region, Abdul Manaff Kemokai, Executive Director of DCI – Sierra Leone said that the three National Sections of DCI and SABOU Guinea had concluded the drafting of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This document details the legal framework and practical methods of cooperation between frontline security officials, community leaders and civil society actors of MRU States sharing borders to end cross-border child trafficking particularly at the Jendema – Bo Waterside border between Sierra Leone and Liberia, and Pamelap – Gbalamuya border between Guinea and Sierra Leone. He also added that the three National Sections of DCI and SABOU Guinea had provided direct socio-legal services including legal aid, psychosocial counselling and family tracing and reunification to 24 victims of both internal and cross-border child trafficking in the MRU region between 2016 and 2017.
Abdul Manaff Kemokai and Alpha M. Diallo, Executive Directors of the National Sections of DCI Sierra Leone and Guinea/SABOU respectively said that “The workshop has improved understanding among participants on the roles and obligations of each actor, thereby increasing opportunities for meaningful partnerships and effective collaboration and accountability particularly in the area of data collection and its importance in alarming states to take more robust action in dealing with the issue.”
Describing the significance of the convening, Bwite Lydia, from PLA Uganda, said that she would use the knowledge and experiences gained to not only to “take practical steps in mobilizing community based actors to tackle child trafficking and children on the move in Uganda, but to also engage with CSOs to strengthen coordination and accountability measures for the state of Uganda to step up on children rights issues.
The convening concluded with the adoption of a common declaration that calls on all stakeholders (the Mano River Union, the governments of MRU Member States, [I]NGOs, CSOs and CBOs – including youth-led organisations, Community Leaders, Religious Leaders and Parents, the Media, and Financial Partners), to accelerate efforts in addressing the problem of children on the move and child trafficking.
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 The Mano River Union is composed of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.