Abuja - Nigeria — A 16-member Council to coordinate the activities of the ECOWAS Volunteer Programme (EVP) has been inaugurated by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo who charged the members to transform the scheme into a model in volunteering that will inspire others.
The President who was represented by the Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Dr Adrienne Diop described the inauguration of the Regional Coordination Council and its subsequent inaugural meeting as 'confirmation that the programme has indeed found its footing in the scheme of ECOWAS programmes aimed at taking the community closer to the people.
' The inauguration comes about six months to the end of the pilot phase of the programme which covers Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone with each country expected to ultimately host 40 volunteers. The programme was launched in March 2010 with the support of the African Development Bank (ADB) with the volunteers expected to strengthen the capacities of local organizations, promote a culture of peace and gender equality, establish and support partnerships and link up communities with technical and financial services.
The president expressed the hope that the experiences of the pilot phase would ultimately help shape the structure and destiny of the programme to mirror the successful and institutionalized UN Volunteer Programme (UNV) which is also providing support for its ECOWAS equivalent.
Over the last 18 months of the programme and following the effective opening of its regional office located at the ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre (EYSDC) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the President said the programme has made a 'shaky but steady entry into the world of international volunteering.' He said this learning period has provided the community with an insight into the 'strengths and weaknesses of our home-grown volunteers programme.'
'It is now time to review these insights and chart a definite course for a region-wide ECOWAS Volunteers Programme (EVP),' he told the Council, the policy-making organ of the programme under the ECOWAS Commission. He urged the members to ensure that their decisions contributed to the overall interest of the growth of West African international volunteering based on global best practices and reflect and draw on the overall policy orientations of ECOWAS Vision 2020 and the ideals behind the integration agenda of the community's founding fathers.
The President expressed the hope that the community would continue to count on the support of our partners on this programme, particularly the United Nations Volunteers Programme and other United Nations agencies, the African Development Bank and the European Commission, for their technical and financial support for the pilot phase of the programme. The inter-departmental Council, which also includes the Coordinator of the EVP, who is the secretary to the Council, the manager of the ECOWAS Peace Fund, Director of the EYSDC, is chaired by the Commissioner for Human Development and Gender.