Former Director of ISS-CH and currently President of the Swiss Foundation of International Social Service, Rolf Widmer has worked in West Africa for several years. Thanks to him and other actors, the initiatives that culminated in the creation of the West Africa Network for the Protection of Children had started in 2002.
Q: You were at the beginning of WAN, why did you choose West Africa?
Rolf: At ISS we received many cases of requests for repatriation to this area of Africa and since we were not in the interests of repatriation but of reintegration, we had to find local partners for those who had to be reintagrated. That is how it started with the PAO (Projet Afrique de l’Ouest) between three countries: Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal. Then the demand spread to the whole zone and now we have the RAO that covers the 16 countries of the West African zone
Q: How do you feel when you look back to the 15 last years of WAN?
Rolf: I am satisfied with the collaboration that this mechanism has created between the various actors in the child protection chain. I am also satisfied that WAN mechanism has enabled states and institutions such as ECOWAS to put the issue of children on the move on their agenda. On the other hand, I would like all partners to put more emphasis on the implementation and follow-up of the life projects of reintegrated children and young people and on the development of parental capacities through IGAs.
It is also due to this project that ISS has been able to set up in West Africa with the ISS-WA, thus increasing the quality of services for children and families in a transnational context
Q: Today many organizations are working on migration, how do you think WAN can stand out from others in order not to be just one organization among others working on migration?
Rolf: We need to focus on the added value of WAN, which is a holistic approach that encompasses the 8 steps of the ECOWAS manual, which is oriented towards an individual approach to the social and professional reintegration of each child. The life project ensures the sustainability of activities for children. It is necessary that the national coordinations ensure more of the relevance of the life projects of the reintegrated children and young people as well as the support to the parents. Each region must put in place monitoring procedures with the support of civil society. The added value of ISS-WA is in the coordination and training of the actors of the intervention chains in each ECOWAS country as well as a good cooperation of the civil society and the valorization of the important role of Peer groups which are Member of AMWCY.
Q: What are your expectations today towards the various collaborators in the WAN mechanism?
Rolf: Let the partners be closer to the children and put their interests at the center of their actions. That there will be more life projects with better follow-upThat the different partners, especially the decision-makers, do not content themselves with good words and resolutions but that they pose more concrete actions for the protection of children in mobilityParents’ capacity building projects should also be developed
Q: What is your best memory, or moment with WAN?
Rolf: It is the human and professional commitment within WAN mechanism. The common understanding of the best interests of children, the energy and hope of children and young people to create a safe future and prospects with the support of ISS-WA.
Thank you Rolf