Leaders of churches in West Africa, have cautioned the political authorities in the sub-region against the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) by African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in its present form.
The leaders noted that the EPA is not beneficial and will not give member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) enough political and economic leeway to improve production of staple foods.
This was contained in a communiqué issued by the churches and organisations of the Christian faith under the canopy of Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA), after a recent meeting in Monrovia, Liberia.
The communiqué obtained by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra on Tuesday was signed by the Reverend Dr Fred Deegbe, Secretary-General of the Christian Council of Ghana and President of FECCIWA and the Reverend Tolbert Thomas Jallah Jnr, Secretary-General of FECCIWA.
The church leaders called for the harmonisation of regional customs among ECOWAS members in order to ease the flow of regional trade.
They also called on member states to implement the decision of the African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2001 to invest at least 10 per cent of their national budgets into rural development.
It asked ECOWAS to improve access of smallholder and women farmers to sustainable water supply, agricultural inputs, safety nets and market information systems and safeguard and strengthen land use rights by public intervention measures at national and regional levels.
They appealed to the World Trade Organisation to introduce international trade rules, regulations and agreements that support the creation of attractive domestic markets that allows appropriate small-farmer participation, as well as discourage the dumping of poor quality products on the markets.
On small arms proliferation, the church leaders urged ECOWAS to ratify and domesticate international and regional instruments on small arms management and security.
They urged national governments/authorities to create fully functional National Commissions on Small Arms Control consistent with the ECOWAS Convention and put in place functional national peace policies.
They also urged the international community to address issues related to international arms trade that were often at the disadvantage of West Africa.
On climate change, the church leaders urged ECOWAS to urgently establish and implement national climate change strategies in a consultative, multi-stakeholder manner, ensuring that marginalised groups such as women and the disabled were fully involved.
They asked governments to ensure that the adaptation of policies to address the adverse effects of climate change foster the realisation of fundamental human rights and the building of economic and environmental resilience.
The church leaders called on all peoples, organisations and institutions that share their vision and focus to help mobilise their collective political, social, spiritual and economic resources in the process of transformation towards addressing the emerging issues of water and food security, climate change, peace and security, including child trafficking.