Civil Society and the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework

 

IMG_7237 (1)On the 24th of January FOSDA participated in a multinational discussion in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. This discussion was on the ECOWAS conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) – a set of policies and mandates adopted with the objective of preventing further conflict in West Africa.

These policies draw influence from both international and continental agreements. Internationally the ECPF utilizes United Nations Charter Article 52, Resolution 1325 – Women, Peace and Security. Continentally, the ECPF is informed by 2000 Constitute Act of the African union, Protocol Relating to Establishment of Peace, Security Council. By adhering to these internationally recognized policies, the ECPF has established itself as a legitimate peacekeeping framework. Through these structures, ECPF entities are able to mitigate conflict through two kinds of preventative measures. Structural prevention, and operational prevention. Structural prevention refers to policy, and ‘long-term’ measures to ensure that conflict does not arise. In the event of structural failure, the ECPF makes use of operational prevention – measures which are applicable in the face of imminent crisis.  These measures are defined by the ECPF as ‘activities designed to reduce tensions and prevent further outbreak, escalation, spread or recurrence of violence.’[1]

There are currently 15 recognized components of the ECPF. They include, but are not limited to; preventive diplomacy, democracy and political governance, human rights and rule of law, media, cross-border initiatives, youth empowerment, humanitarian assistance, peace education, and peace and security. In addition, ECOWAS maintains a militarized standby force, which can be deployed in dire circumstances. By recognizing these components effectively, ECOWAS can mainstream conflict into standardized policy, and enhance anticipation capabilities in relation to new conflicts.[2]

 While government is a major component of the ECPF, there is also a large requirement for Civil Society Organizations (CS to be involved in the conflict prevention process. Paragraph 114 of the ECPF provides an avenue for civil society in ECOWAS nations to engage equitably. This is reinforced on a continental level by the AU, following the creation of the West Africa Civil Society Forum in 2003. This forum  has become an institutionalised platform, with the intent for civil society to efficiently contribute to policy process.

Civil societies at the Abuja discussion are concerned with the state of the ECPF ‘action plans’, which are decided schematics and instructions for how the ECPF should proceed with its goals. The current action plan is situated in a 2018-2020 time frame. FOSDA believes that this an unfeasible expectation. Instead, the ECPF should broaden its scope by about 5 years, and insist on attainable and realistic goals.

 The ability of CSOs to work on both regional and judicial levels is vital to the continued success of West African peacebuilding. It is commendable that CSOs are able to contribute to processes at a multinational level. Continued transparency and collaboration between CSOs and government will be vital to maintaining these accomplishments.

[1]Thelma Ekiyor, ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework; A New Approach to an Old Challenge. P. 6. West Africa Civil Society Institute, 2008. http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ECOWAS%20ECPF%20Ekiyor.pdf

[2]Ekiyor, Thelma.P. 7.

 

Written by Joshua Marker

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