The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money laundering in West Africa (GIABA) has concluded a 3-day “Regional Stakeholders Forum on Emerging Global AML/CFT Issues and Implications for GIABA Member States” in Saly, Senegal. The Forum held from Tuesday 16 August to Thursday 18 August 2016.
The Forum was attended by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Marcel Alain De Souza; President of ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Hon. Justice Jerome Traore; Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, H.E. Moustapha Cisse Lo; Vice President of ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Hon. Justice Jude Micah Wright; Financial Controller of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Mohammed Sani; Ambassadors of ECOWAS Member States designated to Republic of Senegal; National Coordinators of the ECOWAS National Units in all member States; GIABA National Correspondents and Heads of Financial Intelligence Units of GIABA Member State; and Technical and Financial Partners.
The specific objectives of the Forum were to provide general overview of emerging AML/CFT risks in the GIABA region; to develop a shared understanding of the requirements for the implementation of the FATF Revised Standards to enhance compliance; to provide a platform for appreciation of the GIABA 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and resource implications; and to strengthen community cooperation in the fight against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
In his speech at the opening ceremony, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Marcel Alain De Souza, reiterated the commitment of the ECOWAS Community to peace and security in the region through a holistic approach. The President said it was important for ECOWAS to improve the multifaceted and strategic approaches and processes required to ensure the desired results in this specialised areas. He identified key areas of attention to include: adequate resourcing of the Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) of member States; reinforcement of the judiciary to adjudicate relevant cases before them in a more timely and proactive manner; involvement of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the media, Youths and Women Groups, among others, in advocating peace and security in the region.
In his opening address, the Director General of GIABA, Mr. Adama Coulibaly highlighted the importance of comprehensive stakeholder engagement in AML/CFT issues in West Africa, with specific attention on Terrorist Financing to address the concerns of growing terrorism in the region. The DG emphasized the need for peace in the region and underscored the importance of the high-level advocacy missions embarked upon by GIABA leadership to mobilize authorities at the highest level in member States.
He noted that such high-level advocacy missions were meant to ensure adequate compliance with global AML/CFT standards and avoid heavy international sanctions that could result from non-compliance. He also highlighted the need to carry every stakeholder along in the preparation for the 2nd round of Mutual Evaluation exercises of GIABA member States. He concluded by calling on all stakeholders to expand support and commitment to GIABA and its work to build a peaceful and prosperous region.
In their goodwill messages, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, H.E. Moustapha Cisse Lo, and the President of ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Hon. Justice Jerome Traore, both expressed their solidarity to GIABA and promised support for GIABA in their individual capacities. Particularly, the Speaker highlighted the specific role of the Parliament in legislation in member States and pledged commitment to work with GIABA to rid the region of these deleterious crimes. The Dean of the ECOWAS ambassadors accredited to Senegal also expressed the commitment of the Diplomatic Corps to the activities of GIABA and the fight against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
At the end of the 3-day event, the Forum acknowledged that GIABA and member States have made significant efforts towards ensuring compliance with international AML/CFT standards, particularly the FATF Recommendations, and therefore agreed on the need for ECOWAS member States to do more, including putting in place effective AML/CFT systems to combat money laundering and terrorist financing in order to comply fully with the standards.
In a declaration at the end of the programme, the Forum recommended that governments of GIABA member States, international organizations, the private sector, civil society organizations, the media and the public, join in the common effort to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The participants further called for the enactment of comprehensive AML/CFT legislations with appropriate sanctions against contravention, in line with the FATF Recommendations; ensuring that member States have the capacity to assess the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing on a continuous basis and implement appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate the risks; ensuring that Member states have the capacity to coordinate national AML/CFT policies and implement legislation and building the capacity of personnel within all AML/CFT stakeholder institutions.
The participants also recommended the promotion of national and international cooperation by establishing a sound legal and operational framework to facilitate mutual legal assistance and information exchange; intensifying education, advocacy and sensitization aimed at combating ML/TF at the grassroots through the media, Civil Society Organisations and the ECOWAS National Units to counteract the radicalization of the youth; strengthening engagement with development partners to mobilize more funds for GIABA programmes and establishing incentives for the confiscation and recovery of assets.
The Forum also recommended to the ECOWAS Authority that a certain percentage of the community levy should be given to GIABA in addition to its regular budget to pursue its programmes, given the importance of these programmes to the peace and security of the region.
In concluding, the Stakeholders declared that “to achieve the objective of implementing AML/CFT measures of acceptable international standards in the ECOWAS region, we agree to work together and intensify efforts to foster our goal through mutual support, cooperation and collaboration and by effectively advocating for those particular demands that will enable us to achieve this goal.”