Various civil society organizations (CSOs) in West Africa have been equipped to help deal with corrupt elements in the region to guarantee a better society where all forms of economic and financial crimes like money laundering and terrorism financing will be reduced to its barest minimum.
The two-day regional sensitization workshop for CSOs on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) organised by the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) was held in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on 6 and 7 August 2012.
The CSOs were capacitised and empowered to take ownership of the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.
Speaking on the occasion, the director general of GIABA, Dr Abdulahi Shehu, said the civil society, as a catalyst for change and promotion of good governance, has a big role to play in building viable legal and legislative frameworks to fight crimes and promote accountability.
“It is imperative for CSOs to know the specific contribution they can and should make in order to surmount the threat of money laundering as well as the emergence of financing of terrorism and enhance public understanding, attitudes and references,” he said.
At the end of the workshop, Dr Shehu said the CSOs will have a better understanding of the harmful effects of money laundering and terrorist financing on the society, especailly with regard to the rule of law, political stability, democracy, economic development, prosperity and the well being of the citizens.
In an environment where political leaders and decision-makers need to be sensitised and involved in the fight against ML/FT, the civil society would serve as the backbone for such advocacy and change, the GIABA DG said.
He pointed out that the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a collective responsibility for all stakeholders geared towards the protection of the economies and financial systems of West African states. Therefore, the partnership of the CSOs in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing is crucial in the endeavour.
One of GIABA’s strategic objectives for the period spanning 2011-2014 is to promote strategic partnership with the private sector, the civil society and other key stakeholders in raising the awareness of the community as a means of empowering the citizenry and enabling them to take corrective measures.
Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and activists, noted that progressive non-state actors can play a vital role in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing in West Africa, particularly now with the increased terrorist attacks in the northern parts of Nigeria and Mali and the growing menace of corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking and human trafficking in the sub-region.
He said CSOs serve as outlets for fighting and combating corruption by acting as watchdogs over the affairs of government and ensure the powers are not abused by those in authority for personal, sectional or concealed benefits to the detriment of the masses.
Professor Amsatou Sow Sidebe, Senegalese minister in-charge of human rights, peace, refugees and humanitarian issues, said CSOs are core to the operation of a democratic society.
She said in Senegal the civil society has grown very strong, and influences positively the government policy in a coordinated manner for the benefit of the overall society.
The objectives of the workshop were to sensitize civil society organizations on AML/CFT issues and related implications in the West African sub-region; to get members of the civil society actively committed to their role as champions against these twin scourges by spreading the message at grassroots level; to establish links and a solid network of CSOs engaged in the fight as a means of sharing experiences and knowledge within the sub-region; and to build the capacity of CSOs and empower them to take ownership of the fight against ML/FT.