Opening remarks by Minister Hautala: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Ms. Heidi Hautala
Minister for International Development
of Finland

Opening remarks
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ministerial breakfast meeting, 20 September 2011, Consulate General of Finland, New York


ECOWAS countries have carried a heavy burden in different types of West African crises. We commend their collective efforts to solve conflicts and maintain peace in the region, including their mediation and preventive work.

ECOWAS and its Member States are well known for their long tradition of hospitality towards refugees and internally displaced persons. This year we have witnessed the political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, and its impact on the civilian population. We appreciate the generosity of Liberia and other neighboring countries in receiving and hosting Ivorian refugees. Displacement is one of the most demanding contemporary challenges affecting the African continent. It leads to increased poverty, human suffering and inequalities. The effects of climate change, flooding or drought for instance, will most likely exacerbate this trend.

The Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa is a milestone achievement. It is a unique instrument that serves as an example to other regions. Finland is committed to promoting the rights of internally displaced people. We strongly support the Kampala Convention and the Plan of Action for implementing it. I would be very interested in learning more about West African experiences and challenges in signing, ratifying and implementing the Kampala Convention.

Finland has increased its regional and thematic cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa, with special emphasis on West Africa. This cooperation complements Finland’s contributions through the European Development Fund, EU’s humanitarian assistance, and international multilateral organizations. Finland also provides financial support to NGOs in West Africa, for instance for environmental, human rights, women’s entrepreneurship, and trade union projects. We also provide support to international NGOs in Western Africa, in the field of conflict prevention, crisis management and peace building.

Finland promotes sustainable development, and emphasizes the importance of climate and environment. In Western Africa, new cooperation has been initiated in the field of ecologically sustainable development. These initiatives include sustainable management of forests and related natural resources, climate change mitigation and adaptation, food security, and water and sanitation.

I would be very interested in hearing your views on how to promote sustainable development in Western Africa.

Thank you.