ECOWAS Urges Support for Its Efforts to Strengthen Regional Peace and Security

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Lagos - Nigeria — The ECOWAS Commission has called for total support for its latest initiative to strengthen regional peace and security through the establishment of a Mediation Facilitation Division (MFD) within its Political Affairs Directorate. In a keynote address to the opening session of a three-day needs assessment workshop for the proposed MFD, in Lagos on Tuesday 30th October 2012, the ECOWAS Director of Political Affairs, Dr. Abdel-Fatau Musah, stressed the need for a dedicated structure within the Commission to promote coherence and coordination for mediation initiatives in the region.

Speaking on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the director explained that this initiative will enable Member States and civil society organizations to better structure and coordinate their mediation architectures and to link them with the regional processes as part of contributions to "give real meaning to the new ECOWAS vision that seeks to transform the region 'from an ECOWAS of States into an ECOWAS of Peoples.'" He traced the new initiative to the Preventive Diplomacy component of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) which calls for the development of "a mediation facilitation capacity within the ECOWAS Commission to promote preventive diplomacy interventions in the region through competence and skills enhancement for mediators, information sharing and logistical support."

The MFD idea, Dr. Musah explained is not intended to reinvent the wheel but inspired by similar structures that exist in the UN which has its UN Mediation Support Unit while there is an ongoing effort to create the African Union Mediation Support unit. Moreover, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) also have similar structures as part of their conflict mediation tool. He expressed the Commission's gratitude to development partners for their support, including the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) for contributing to the preparation of the workshop and co-funding it, and the Danish Government through its International Development Agency (DANIDA), for being instrumental to the development of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, and pledging an initial US$3 million towards the establishment and activities of the MFD.

The director also said that the Commission has been in constant exchanges with the United Nations and the Africa Union in the process, while other partners including the Governments of Germany, UK, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada among others have also shown keen interest in the MFD project. "Given the array of knowledgeable institutions and experts assemble here, I have no doubt that we shall accomplish the task before us with great success," he added. In his remarks, a representative of the United Nations Office in West Africa (UNOWA), Mr. Peter Sampson, acknowledged the "enormous mediation knowledge" within ECOWAS, ranging from negotiation of cease-fires and brokering peace agreements, to setting up national dialogue processes, and addressing unconstitutional challenges to power. He affirmed the support of the UN and other partners to the creation of the MFD, adding: "we are not here to give lessons or look at how we can transplant our experience onto ECOWAS," but rather, to share experiences.

Other speakers, including Dr. Katia Papagianni, HD director, Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), and Mrs. Nana Asantwea Afadzinu, Executive Director of the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI), all commended the idea of the MFD within the ECOWAS Commission and pledged their organizations' support. On behalf of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, Honourable Leopold Ouedraogo commended the Commission for the MFD project and other initiatives in promoting regional peace and security. The establishment of the MFD is part of ECOWAS' determined efforts to strengthen its mediation architecture for the sustenance of peace and security in the region. The workshop is to assist in elaborating the human capacity, technical and financial requirements for the Division in the short to medium term, and propose a resource mobilization strategy.

The Division is expected to establish a Mediation Resource Centre and ensure capacity building in mediation including by facilitating the creation of a database of resource persons and issues in mediation, developing modules for mediation training, organizing workshops/seminars/conferences for mediations resources and facilitating exchange programmes for mediation resources. The Office of the ECOWAS Commissioner in charge of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, draws its mandate from the provisions of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty (1993) and its derivative Protocols, in particular, the Protocol on Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security also known as the Mechanism (1999).

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