On 7 December 2012, ECOWAS adopted the General Convention on Social Security during the Conference of Ministers of Labour and Social Welfare in Dakar, Senegal, thereby reaching a new milestone in the implementation of regional free movement protocols.
In addition to the General Convention, two action plans - one promoting youth employment and the other against child labour - as well as a draft supplementary act to create a three-party, regional ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum were adopted at the conclusion of this event.
The conference, which gathered ministers of labour, employment and social welfare, was preceded by a preparatory meeting for experts from 3-6 December 2012, which was chaired by the Ivory Coast Ministry of Employment, Social Welfare and Vocational Training.
The General Convention on Social Security is largely based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on equal treatment and the preservation of social security rights, the African Union's policies on labour migration and regional migration policy, as well as the treaty governing cooperation in the areas of employment, labour law harmonisation and ECOWAS Member States' social security schemes. The General Convention will enable retired migrants who had worked in one of the ECOWAS Member States to exercise their right to social security in their country of origin.
This Convention is envisioned to enhance the effective implementation of protocols on the free movement of persons within ECOWAS, by aiding the removal of regional restrictions on the provision of benefits. Furthermore, it meets the need to coordinate the social security systems of the regional organisation's Member States.
The ECOWAS Youth Employment Action Plan (2013-2018), which was also adopted during the conference, seeks to increase job opportunities for young people in the region through the creation of national action plans focusing on education, technical and vocational training, the development of the private sector, labour market information systems, and intra-regional mobility.
The ECOWAS Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour and Its Worst Forms, which was also adopted during the conference, is based on three ECOWAS policies on children, employment and the fight against human trafficking. This document calls for concrete strategies to eliminate child labour and the creation of a regional framework for the protection of children. The goal is to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in West Africa by 2015 while working towards the complete eradication over the long term.
With regard to the draft Supplementary Act of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the creation of a regional, three-party ECOWAS Regional Dialogue Forum, the aim is to promote social dialogue and strengthen the democratic process by providing a cooperative framework for the labour and employment sectors' various players.
Lastly, the adoption of these measures will encourage intra-regional labour mobility by making it easier for migrant workers to access their social security benefits, by creating job opportunities for young people and by improving regional cooperation on labour and employment issues.