ECOWAS-UNHCR Memorandum of Understanding
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), represented by Executive Secretary Amb. Lansana Kouyate, on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding in New York on refugee issues. The MOU is aimed at consolidating refugee protection and addressing the needs of vulnerable groups such as women and children in West African countries. The agreement solidifies a long-standing relationship that has seen numerous examples of cooperation on the ground, including during the conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The signing of this agreement comes at a time when international efforts are focusing on solving the instability in some countries in West Africa, particularly in the Mano River Basin. Both ECOWAS and UNHCR share a common vision and belief that political solutions are needed to bring peace and stability in the sub-region which, until the early eighties, enjoyed general stability unlike other regions in Africa. The agreement also covers other issues such as mitigating the negative impact of large refugee populations on the environment of hosting countries and promoting refugee law among governments and civil society. Both parties pledged to tackle these issues more vigorously by undertaking joint activities. Addressing African ambassadors in New York on Monday, High Commissioner Lubbers praised the exemplary cooperation UNHCR has so far enjoyed with regional institutions in Africa. "The MOU with ECOWAS is another stone which adds to the partnership bridge UNHCR is building regarding the global governance of refugee problems in the world in general and in Africa in particular," Lubbers told the ambassadors.