ECOWAS Ministers responsible for Social Protection convened in Banjul and online on the 24th of November 2023 to validate and adopt the ECOWAS Framework on Social Protection and its Operational Plan. The meeting was Chaired by H.E Dr. Betta C. Edu, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The meeting is a significant milestone in the regional quest to achieve comprehensive and inclusive social protection.
In her opening remarks, H.E Dr. Edu stated that the theme of the Ministers’ meeting is of crucial importance as “Social Protection is a fundamental human right and should not be regarded as a privilege. It is a social and economic necessity that has proved to be a stabilizer in times of crises and shocks”. In this regard, the ECOWAS Framework on Social Protection and its Operational Plan would guide the Member States in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of inclusive national social protection floors.
H.E Dr. Edu while acknowledging the region's vulnerability to various shocks and related cross-border challenges, stressed that the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operational Plan would foster regional collaboration to enhance existing social protection systems. Furthermore, the Framework would enhance a more coherent and effective approach to poverty reduction (SDG 1) and the eradication of food and nutrition insecurity (SDG 2).
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr reiterated the significance of the meeting and urged for increased regional investment in social protection, re-echoing its dual role as a fundamental human right and an economic necessity capable of elevating the standard of living for ECOWAS citizens. Prof. Sow Sarr linked the effort to develop the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework to the ECOWAS Vision 2050 which is to build a peaceful and prosperous region with strong institutions, fundamental freedoms, and inclusive and sustainable development.
The UNICEF Representative in The Gambia, Ms. Mariavittoria Ballotta, stated that the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operational Plan is landmark achievement for the ECOWAS Commission and the Member States. While emphasizing the transformative potential of Social Protection to change the narratives of poor and rural households. The UNICEF would accompany the ECOWAS Commission and the Members in the implementation of the Framework, and she called on all development partners to use the ECOWAS Social Plan Framework as the basis to foster collaboration and coordination of social security schemes across the region.
The FAO Coordinator for West Africa - Dr. Robert Guei in his statement reaffirmed the commitment of the FAO to support the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operational Plan. He emphasized the importance of building solid and sustainable social protection systems linked to the broader development plans for the benefit of West African communities. Dr. Guei then underscored the role of Social Protection in transforming agri-food systems to become efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.
The Vice President of The Republic of The Gambia, H.E. Muhammed B.S. Jallow, expressed gratitude to all participating Ministers for the trust and confidence vested on The Gambia as the host of the Ministers meeting. The Vice President, H.E Jallow also emphasized the importance of the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operational Plan as a harmonized and coherent framework aligned with the ECOWAS mandates. H.E. Jallow highlighted The Gambia's commitment to the international declarations on human rights and social security and gave examples of the concrete initiatives undertaken by the Government in this respect.
The outcome of the deliberations of the Experts’ meeting was presented to the Hon. Ministers which was followed by the sharing of national experiences and best practices in implementing social protection schemes. The Ministers unanimously committed to support the implementation of the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operational.
In their closing remarks, H.E Dr. Betu while congratulating the Ministers for the adoption of the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operational Plan, urged the Members to re-double their efforts to increase Social Protection coverage in West Africa from 17% percent to 50% within the next two (2) years. She congratulated the ECOWAS Commission and the development partners for the quality of document validated and adopted.
In turn, the Vice President, H.E Jallow who is also the Minister responsible for Social Protection in the Republic of The Gambia commended the Ministers for unanimously adopting the finalized ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and its Operation Plan. H.E Jallow stated that it was a demonstration of the collective resolve to improve the lives of the ECOWAS citizens and to "Leave no one behind". He then declared the meeting closed.